Useless California Vintage Reports: A Template

Vinted on March 11, 2010 binned in best of, California wine, commentary

I get my fair share of wine samples, with a large proportion coming from California.  This is due mostly to proximity (regional wines), as well as the fact that the CA makes the vast majority of U.S. wine, hence the large number of CA samples stopping on my doorstep.

Most of those CA samples come with some form of wine information / tech sheets, and when they do, those tech sheets almost invariably contain a vintage report.

An utterly useless vintage report.

The vintage report is often utterly useless because no one ever says anything except that the grapes ended the vintage with optimal ripeness.

It’s become a joke for me, a game almost, to see if any of these press release vintage reports would ever admit that the grapes absolutely fried on the vine this year, or that they ended up greener than an under-ripe banana. It will probably never happen.

So I decided to do CA wine PR folks a favor, and I’ve created a template below that can freely be used as the vintage report for any CA wine! I’ve taken some minor liberties, primarily to make the choices sexier, because let’s face it, sex sells even when it comes to vintage reports.  If you’re in PR, you can simply circle the appropriate response and not have to bother with the rest!  Anyway, you can thank me later!…

California Vintage Report Template
(free for public use!)

The [ insert vintage year here ] growing season started with surprisingly [ dry / wet / steamy / downright sexy ] weather, followed by a moderately [ dry / wet / sexier ] early Spring.  Ample [ rainfall / sunshine ] went well into the later Spring months, providing relatively [ early / late ] bloom and fruit set on the [tenderly- / impeccably- / passionately- ] kept vines.

[ Unseasonable / Seasonable ] [ precipitation / heat ] in the early Summer led to a [ cool / hot / sexy ] late Summer with a relatively [ small / large / enormous ] amount of hot days.

At first, there was serious concern in the early Autumn [ Note: do NOT use the term “Fall” – “Autumn” sounds much sexier ] that [ cool / cold / hot / sexy ] weather wouldn’t provide adequate [ maturation / yields / sexy vineyard encounters ].  However, a long and sturdy spell of [ warm / hot / cool / sexy ] weather, coming a bit [ earlier / later ] than normal provided [ ideal / ideal / ideal ] conditions for our grapes to achieve [ optimal / optimal / optimal ] ripeness.

The long growing season teased out the development of [ ideal / ideal / ideal ] sugar and acid levels, resulting in a fruity, sublime, and balanced wine – we knew that we had something special on our hands, and we’re pleased to be sharing it with you shipped in environmentally unfriendly Styrofoam!






  • Sue Guerra


    Your template is great but where do they insert the part about all the technological spoofulation needed to produce all these perfect vintages year after year?

    • 1WineDude

      Oh, it's implied…

  • Winethropology

    Well, as with practices good and bad, we got this one from the French – who seem to have "The vintage of the century" about every third year. Love the template, though. Wineries should consider using it in their marketing. You could get really carried away with it. Think of what you could say about high pressure systems…

    As a side note, (and this shocked the crap out of me) I heard a marketing guy at Duckhorn say something refreshingly honest about the 08 vintage in Anderson Valley. I had just tased their Decoy Pinot (which reminded me of a smooth Cohiba) and I guess the look on my face said it all. In reply, he said, "Yeah. Oh-eight was awful. Mendocino fires. But wait for the 09's – they're much better." Not that their label is going to say "With notes of singed pine sap and flame retardant, this conversation piece goes well with aloe vera and volunteer fire department fundraisers" but at least there's a glimmer of honesty out there.

    Keep the comedy coming!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks. Actually, don't the Bordelais have a vintage of the Century every 2nd year now? :)

  • drinknectar

    Oooh, this is fun! Kind of like a wino version of MadLibs.

    • 1WineDude


  • 1WineDude

    Thanks – just send me a % of sales, please…

  • Ron McFarland

    I was out and about this morning and overhead a conversation by some wine PR people – do expect to get a pair of moccasins in the near future – something about an old Indian saying ………….

    I did see this the other day and thought it was insightful for anyone with an interest in viticulture and how grapes do progress through the growing season – good photos displaying variations within the vineyard blocks.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks. I'm (really!) hoping that everyone takes this in the right spirit, which is just poking a bit of fun. Either that, or I should expect a lot fewer samples from some PR firms… ;-)

  • Scott

    Really funny. But I do think it highlights the need for bloggers to responsibly provide some reality to consumers. I love winery websites for a lot of information, but the ability to 'gloss' is usually a little transparent.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks. There's that, and also maybe there's an opportunity for some really creative marketing types to do it a bit differently and take a unique perspective on the vintage report thing…

  • Greg Brumley



    Your affront requires me to take a stand! I WILL NO LONGER SUBMIT WINES FOR YOUR REVIEW….all of this week.

    It is unfortunate your post made this drastic action necessary. I hope it teaches you that we p.r. types are not to be trifled with.

    • 1WineDude

      HA!! Excellent response! :-)

      • Tim

        OK it was not that funny…it was hilarious. I have often wondered why bother misleading the witness so to speak. late spring, frost, irregular bloom and set, 5 days of 100 degree weather, bad or good bugs, mildew, fires, blah blah blah. Still it always seems to end with the word optimal. all in all things ended up pretty darn perfect. Keep em coming Joe.

        • 1winedude5036

          Thanks – finally, my contribution to the world of humor has been recognized! :-)

  • Jon Bjork

    This is a classic, Joe! I could see this converted into the old fill-in-the-blanks madlib format onto slips that could be left on tasting room bars for an entertaining game! I may just do that and give you credit!

  • Lorne Mews

    While I will not admit guilt, I will admit that SOME of the vintage reports I have authored would (inadvertantly) fit this formula. However, why point it out and state the obvious? What’s next, an insightful piece on how car salesmen do their job… pointing out their similar tactics? Or how media professionals are actually biased? Most of us need to earn a living… And does anyone expect pr materials to be completely without a modicum of “gloss”? It was a retailer who once told me that “the best vintage is the CURRENT one”. And, it was a blogger who once told me that “those who cannot do,teach (or coach), and those who cannot teach, blog”.

    • 1winedude5036

      I don't know whether to respond "of course you're right" or "and those that cannot blog right press materials."

      That was a joke, by the way! :-)

  • Gary Stewart

    We can make fun of the California Wineries but the weather is optimal. Just look at what the Golden State produces for the rest of the USA.

    Crop: Percent of US Crop Grown in California in 2007*
    Pomegranates: 100% 

    Artichokes: 99%
Kiwi: 97% 

    Olives: 96%
Figs: 96%
Pluots: 95%
Plums and Prunes: 94%
Brussel Sprouts: 93% 

    Avocados: 90%
Nectarines: 89%
Garlic: 85% 

    Celery: 83% 

    Grapes: 83%
Dates: 82% 

    Apricots: 82% 

    Cauliflower: 82% 

    Broccoli: 81% 

    Lemons: 79%
Persimmons: 77%
Honeydew: 77%
Tomatoes: 76%
Lettuce: 73% 

    Nuts: 65%
Carrots: 62%
Strawberries: 59%
Spinach: 59%
Tangerines: 58%
Chinese Cabbage: 49%
Asparagus: 47%
Cantaloupes: 46%
Peaches: 44%
Limes: 42% 

    Non-Valencia Oranges: 37%

    About the orange, valencias are one of two major Florida varieties used for orange juice. Navel oranges, which are the preferred variety to eat as oranges (and not as juice), primarily grow in California, not Florida. While Florida out-grows California for oranges, Florida's oranges go into juice. It's the Cali oranges that you eat as oranges if you like to eat navels.
    *All of this data comes from the 2007 Census of Agriculture

    Weather forecast for this weekend in Venutra County California 83 and Sunny – Optimal!

    • 1winedude5036

      C'mon now… if you keep rubbing it in how perfect CA weather is (and I'd agree that it is), then I'm gonna have to keep poking fun at the vintage reports…

  • Misha Wilkinson

    Hi there 1 Wine Dude. Well down here in Central Otago, New Zealand, we do like to keep things real. Our friend Ron McFarland from Colorado already responded on this blog saying there was one company trying to give some real details of the season – and I thank him for mentioning us.

    I certainly agree about the mind numbingly similar vintage reports I see so we try and keep our updates regular and real – and include lots of pictures. Hope our report on veraison shows you that some vineyards are happy to give the facts! See our latest Misha’s Vineyard update on

    • 1winedude5036

      I applaud your honesty (and courage)!

  • EaglesNestWine

    It’s rained the last [email protected]#%!$# four weekends in a row, our vineyards are soaked.

    We’re behind on Winter pruning because of the [email protected]#%#$^% rain and bud break is weeks away!

    So there you have it – the weather is NOT perfect in California!!!

    That said here’s why we grow Optimum – no GREAT wine in the Ramona Valley AVA!

    Cheers to you Joe! ;-)


  • 1WineDude

    Thanks for the awesome [email protected]#%!$# comment, Dennis! :-)

  • El Jefe

    hi Joe – That’s not bad, but if you’d really like to be accurate, you’ll need to sex it up a little.

  • 1WineDude

    Jefe – I could add pictures of girls in bikinis…

  • Tom

    Girls? Knowing El Jefe, no – rubber chickens, however, and I think you’ve got something…

  • Richard

    I’ve only seen ONE that was honest about what happened to the wines, specifically regarding Pinot Noir in California in 2008. Basically, it talked about all the problems they had, and how much juice was de-classified from single vineyard bottling. It wasn’t written in flowery, optimistic language. It reflected the reality of that vintage (some wines weren’t even offered for sale because they didn’t pass muster). It’s this kind of honesty that has kept me as a repeat customer.

  • Nick

    Awesome! I think you can do this with wine reviews too.

  • 1WineDude

    Richard – are you *sure* the grapes didn’t end up with optimal ripeness in that scenario? :-)

    Nick – wine reviews… man, that is fodder for another post entirely! (you’re right of course, the same paradigm could be used there… especially for wine bottle back-label taste descriptors…).


  • Richard

    Nope, I’m sure of it, because I remember them saying that they had to do a bunch of sorting to get rid of the grapes that didn’t ripen, and a bunch of filtering to get rid of the smoke. Even after, that, there were a bunch of barrels that didn’t make the cut.

  • Ryan O'Connell

    My first year producing, one of my Syrah parcels stayed out a little too long and had a lot of rot. Not the noble kind. We had to sort like crazy and vinify it separately. Ended up losing a lot of the production. So you know, OPTIMAL.

    But it’s easy to talk about that now because the wine turned out great. But it’s hard to say it straight up in the harvest report, because you don’t know that you’ve reprieved yourself or not.

    My first try at making rosé came out about 14% alc… so you know, really optimal.

    • 1winedude5036

      Ryan – love it… Optimal does sound better than "capable of producing massive abv." :-)

  • Alfonso Cevola

    Thanks Joe-

    I have been waiting all my life for something like this.

    • 1winedude5036

      I am to please. Often I miss.

  • Donn Rutkoff

    Dehlinger does say a few things in their newsletter about bad weather and decisions on what to bottle and what not. One of the few that I know who deals with the real conditions rather than make-believe. My pet peeve, I want to start a ruckus, is all the wasted baloney on back labels. What a great opportunity to educate the consumer, but most labels make Elmer Fudd look like a Harvard grad. in comparison.

    • 1winedude5036

      Thanks, Donn – couldn't agree more on those back-labels.

  • David Schmidt

    Love your attitude. Too many people in this hobby get too full of themselves.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, David – you don’t know the half of it, my man (actually, if you’re in the industry then you know the whole of it, but otherwise… :-).


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