|Mark’s Video Intro for This Wine: https://youtu.be/y8Xs5sZm7zw|
Ok, so yeah…..this is an interesting combination.
So first, the winemaker is Andrew Jones, who is perhaps best known down in Paso Robles for making Field Recordings, but he has a few other labels that he makes as well.
Winemakers will sometimes offer second, or even third, fourth etc labels to keep product categories separate. Some find it easier to sell wine that way.
So Field Recordings is the wider brand name, although certain groups of wines don’t get specifically labeled with that name. One such example, Barter and Trade.
So what’s Barter and Trade?
Barter and Trade is Jones’ label for fruit grown in Washington State. It’s a sign of the times so to speak. There’s a few things that go into making outstanding wine. First, you need fruit. Second, you need facilities. Last, you need winemaking talent.
Given the history of winemaking and grape growing in California and Washington respectively, we’re at different points in the winemaking cycle. California has expensive fruit that’s hard to access because of a number of factors and cheap fruit that you can buy tomorrow, many built out vineyard locations, but outstanding facilities and a bevy of winemaking talent being provided through educational opportunities, as well as, mentorship.
Washington has cheaper fruit, easy access to it, facilities that are only now coming online and winemaking talent that is readily available.
Really, there’s a lot to be said for a logical transfer of some Washington fruit to California custom crush and facilities. After all, there’s a ton of fruit in Washington and in spots like Paso Robles, there’s an opportunity to do some work there.
Plus, when you open this wine, what do you find? I have a bit of a theory on where Washington wine is headed. At the beginning, many folks in Washington or the wider wine industry thought that Washington would settle into being America’s foremost spot for Merlot. They’d be a bit player to California and Oregon, but it would create jobs and that would be fine. Then people noticed that the Syrah they were growing was AWFULLY good. Maybe they’d focus on Syrah and be a bit player compared to California and Oregon. History tells us though, that being a bit player doesn’t often happen. Oregon might be one in terms of production, but they sell their wine for a lot more than does California on average. Here’s some of what I’m talking about.
Production for the 3 states I cover for Uncorked Ventures:
Here’s the other part of this equation though:
So there you go. It’s a hell of a lot easier to build your state wide wine business, by focusing on higher priced fruit. Higher prices per bottle are better than lower ones and those higher prices allow you to put in the investment into facilities, which for winemaking can be outrageously expensive.
What Washington did, instead of following common advice, was to follow what they saw Oregon doing well. Don’t fight California on the lower end of the price spectrum and really, don’t worry about fighting for the absolute top end sales either. Instead, where’s the sweet spot?
Interestingly, for many red wine sales, it’s about $20 to maximize profit margin. That’s the point where a winemaker can sell these either directly to consumers, or into the wine trade without the epic cost of middlemen etc.
In many ways, moving Washington fruit that’s literally made for this type of wine project, into established facilities may be one of the smarter business moves I’ve seen in some time. Plus, if Washington logically follows Oregon’s model, they aren’t going to be growing more Merlot and Syrah, they’re going to look into middle of the road (in terms of pricing) Cabernet Sauvignon.
So why is this working for Washington? People like the Cabernet they grow. It’s generally, middle of the pack in terms of both tannins and acidity. It’s more acidic than much of what’s grown in California, yet not as much as what comes from France. It’s more tannic than France, but not nearly as tannic as what comes north from Chile.
It just generally fits and it’s cool to see a Paso Robles based winemaker getting into this so early in the process. It’s something to watch, especially as we see some Napa based wineries looking at vineyard purchases in Washington State. There’s also something to be said for Paso Robles joining a more established set of winemaking regions, that’s a topic for another day though.
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I’m considering a Kickstarter.
Growth can be hard, impossible even. There’s some stuff I can do better and being self funded has a wide range of drawbacks.
It would be nice to speed up the process a bit.