A month or so back, my wine club members received this Myka Cellars Pinot Noir Central Coast 2014
I’ve worked with winemaker Mica Ross a few times over the past couple of years, so I’ll let you in on some of the background before going any further.
First, Myka is a negociant. That’s a label that’s really not thought of as a good thing often in California, which interestingly, is the opposite of what the general perception of it happens to be where the term was coined, in France.
I’ve talked about negociant style wines and how some vintages support their style of winemaking more so than others, but really it’s regionally focused as much as anything. One of the reasons we don’t have more negociants here in America is that our most famous wine region, doesn’t produce enough wine to create any real secondary market. Napa Valley has a series of rules and regulations that simply don’t allow for anyone to over produce.
Myka is a bit different than many negociants as well. Instead of looking for finished juice that cannot be sold, he looks for partially finished juice that he can blend.
That blending is a very, real skill. It’s also why you often end up with wines like this one from Myka Cellars: it’s labeled as the Central Coast AVA.
If you aren’t familiar, the Central Coast AVA is one of the largest in the state and in my opinion, tells you little about the wine in your glass. As an example, if you step foot one foot south of San Francisco Bay, that’s pretty much where the Central Coast AVA begins. It runs south through the Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, Monterey, San Luis Obispo and finally ending as you pass through Santa Barbara and end up in Ventura. If you’re scoring at home, driving that along the 101 takes about 5 hours in total, without traffic.
It’s a damn massive region.
In any case, if you’re interested in making wine from partially finished juice-you could theoretically grab some juice from Monterey for the acidity, some from Santa Barbara for the structure and finish with some from Santa Cruz for the broodishness. I don’t know where the component parts came from for this wine, but I do know that the Central Coast AVA designation does tell us something. That something basically is that multiple regions are being put together because if I’m being honest, no one uses the wider Central Coast AVA designation if they don’t need to.
One more interesting part to this story. If you happen to live in London, you’d likely be more able to find this wine than we are here in California. The story behind that is interesting and better told elsewhere than this space, but suffice to say that exporting wine has been good to the winery.
I’ve talked a lot in my blog space about the struggle for California vintners to hit that magical $15-$25 price point. I should delve into it a bit here, which also I think helps to explain why more negociants would be good for the wine industry here in California.
First, let’s assume that we’re going to receive 4 tons per acre. Some higher end vineyards get something closer to 2 tons (ancient vines, those over 100 years old might get a single ton) and the hot central valley likely gets 10 tons. But, 4 tons is a pretty good bet for a Central Coast vineyard from which people are trying to craft quality grapes.
To plant that vineyard, it’ll cost you about $50,000 per acre to get that done. That’s spread over the course of 5 years and as you might expect, is the heaviest in year 1 (approximately 40% of the total investment).
Moving forward, vintners assume that if they’re doing basically zero work, it’ll cost them $8,000 per acre to farm, at an absolute minimum. Unfortunately, that’s largely driven by the price for water these days-another notch in the belt for dry farming.
Those 4 tons of fruit being produced on the property, in essence gives you 240 cases, or 2,880 bottles of wine.
So just the single year farming costs adds $2.78 to start. Let’s call it a $1 per bottle to service the debt on the initial costs. The cost of the bottle, cork, some of the other winemaking tools and more adds another $1.50.
I know what you’re thinking: that’s not getting us anywhere toward $20 yet. I should also mention that the distributor that helps the winery sell the wine, pays only half of retail. So the winery is only bringing in $10 per bottle-but we already have $5.28 in costs.
We haven’t talked about that single largest impediment toward hitting our price point: the cost of the vineyard land in the first place.
To hit our price point here, we’d need the land to be under $100,000 per acre to even consider it. Again, that’s why we’re looking only at the Central Coast, you can’t touch anything in Napa or Sonoma for anything close to that.