Two items

First, the winter of 2014:

Canadians love to talk about the weather.  We always lament the lost weather we had last season when we are in the midst of whatever weather Mother Nature delivers this season.

Well, the winter of 2014 has given us plenty of cause for complaining this winter.  We are in the middle of the coldest winter Ontario has experienced in 20 years.  We have recorded 31 cold weather alerts to date since the beginning of December, more than all the alerts in the previous three winters combined.

We are all very tired of the unrelenting cold and yet, according to current weather forecasts, we face at least another two weeks of below-normal temperatures.

All this is to say the vineyards of Ontario have been under incredible cold stress this winter.  Many growers are reporting significant bud loss due to the cold weather and this will have a direct effect on yields in the upcoming growing season.  The buds are formed in the fall and lay dormant on the vines until the spring when pruning of the vines is done.  Depending on the pruning techniques used by the grower, more or less new growth will be enabled and this growth will determine the volume of grapes grown on the vines.

When bud damage occurs there is less freedom afforded the grower and pruning must be adapted to maximize the potential for an acceptable yield.  The damage in Ontario vineyards is widespread with Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County being hardest hit.  Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc seem to be the hardest hit varieties but all varieties have been affected to varying degrees. An enormous drop in yield is forecast for 2014.

The extreme cold may also trigger damage to the vines themselves but the degree of this damage will only be measured properly once the new growth starts in the spring.

There is a modest silver lining to this cloud: the cold came early with the right intensity to allow an early harvest of fruit for Icewine.

Second, California…again:

Following my recent rant about France I received an invitation to this year’s California Wine Fair which will take place in Toronto on Monday April 7 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. The invitation was unrelated to the rant.  I get this invitation every year.

The event has two components, the consumer event in the evening and the trade event in the afternoon.  Both events are huge; I think this is the biggest single day wine event on the calendar each year and is a testimony to the effective work done by the California Wine Institute and its local PR partner, Praxis.

The trade event is especially good as the media are able to taste in a private room which means we sit at tables, we pour our own wines, we are able to work at our own pace without being pushed around and we select which wines we choose to taste.

This is another way the industry can get its proper place in the consumer’s eye.  Give the centres of influence the tools and time and they will tell your story.

And it works.  California sent out recent data later in the week and US wine exports (90% of which are from California) reached a record high in 2013 to $1.15 billion (an increase from the previous year of over 16%). Volume also grew by 7.5% in 2013 from the previous year.

The EU is the largest market for California wines at just over $600 million (up 31% year-over-year) with Canada sitting in second place at $454 million (+12%).  Canada is a HUGE market for California, in both absolute and per capita terms

Clearly you will earn rewards if you spend your promotion dollars properly.

Is anybody watching California?  If not, you should be…

You can get more information and buy tickets for the California Wine Fair at

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2014.


Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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