WineMaker News Page

Updated March 4, 2020

UC-Davis Announces the Release of Five New Grape Varieties

Pierce’s Disease is a bacteria that was introduced to the US over 140 years ago and has been a scourge of grape growers in many warm, humid climates since. Photo courtesy of

For the first time since the 1980s, UC-Davis is releasing several new wine grape varieties to the public. Three of the new grapes are red while the remaining two are white varietals. All of them are highly resistant to Pierce’s Disease, which according to the Robert Mondavi Institute Center for Wine Economics, cost California wine grape growers an estimated $100 million a year. Taste tests from initial plantings have been encouraging. The new varieties are a native New World grapevine species Vitis arizonica, which carries a dominant gene resistance to Pierce’s Disease, that was cross bred with Vitis vinifera over multiple generations. The three red grape varietals are named: Camminare Noir, Paseante Noir, and Errante Noir. The two white grape varietals are named: Ambulo Blanc and Caminante Blanc. While only limited plant material will be released in 2020, a more widespread release is expected in 2021. To learn more visit:

Photo courtesy of Stone Hill Winery

2019 Grape Harvest Wrap-Ups

As we move into 2020, we wanted to pause to get a quick snapshot of the 2019 northern hemisphere wine grape harvest in both North America and Europe. The theme for North America was cooler temperatures and an overall great year for white wine fans, while Europe was much more varied.

Here in North America, the Wine Institute is reporting that a wet spring turned into a cool summer overall in California with an extended growing season; averaging 1–2 weeks longer than average. Lower sugar and higher acid grapes in general were the result, which is garnering a lot of praise for their balance. The California harvest was down about 2% compared to 2018. Further north in the Pacific Northwest, vineyards experienced decreased Growing Degree Days (GDD) compared to the last several years in almost all AVAs noted by Greg Jones, a professor at Southern Oregon University. Again, a later harvest with lower Brix and more balanced wines resulted. Further north in Canada, moderate heat during the summer yielded to a wetter than normal September with average yield overall. Winemakers and grape growers were striking an optimistic chord overall. Further east, the Finger Lakes and Niagara region’s grape growers are telling a similar tale. Late bud break and moderate heat during the summer transitioned to warm days and cool nights during ripening, extending their harvest dates about 10–14 days.

Photo courtesy of Ravenswood Winery

According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), the European Union production declined by an estimated 15% compared to 2018. A cool rainy spring yielded to record shattering heat waves that struck the EU multiple times during the summer months. France, Italy, and Spain were the hardest hit while further east, Germany Romania, Hungary, and Austria ended up at or even above average yields. Jancis Robinson noted that Germany is expecting high-quality wines from 2019 while the Rioja region in Spain was hit by torrential rains just prior to harvest, kicking grape growers there while they were already down from the summer heat.

Cabernet Sauvignon in a Changing Climate

A collaborative effort between UC Cooperative Extension, Beckstroffer Vineyards, and Duarte Nursery has begun to study the effects of various Cabernet Sauvignon clones grafted onto different rootstock. This study matches 10 Cabernet clone types grafted on 10 rootstock types, with a total of 3,600 total vines planted in Lake County, California. The goal of the study is to look at how the interactions between rootstock and clone can handle the changing climate where drought tolerance may be key to a successful harvest and simultaneously producing high-quality Cabernet grapes.

Ample Supply + Lower Demand = Good for Winemakers

The trend has been one that has been several years in the making . . . the 2019 California grape harvest is expected to leave a lot of fruit hanging. A combination of overly aggressive sales forecasts for the past several years combined with a bumper crop year in 2018, has had a synergistic effect that commercial demand for wine grapes in 2019 is much lower than usual. While this is not good news for some grape growers, hobby and small-scale winemakers may be able to find great prices on high-quality grapes.

New Products

The Everything Label

A new reusable label from Noontime Labels is perfect for home winemakers and brewers. Made of a flexible plastic that won’t rip or tear, you can take it off one bottle and place it on another. The label remains securely attached during long soaks or when cellaring, but peels right off when ready. You can leave the label on the bottle, wash, and sanitize as usual, then reuse the labeled bottle as is. It’s a gloss finish and permanent markers can be removed with rubbing alcohol. Learn more at

Orchard Breezin’ Blush Crush

Orchard Breezin’ Blush Crush is a new entry in this fruit-forward value brand line and is available only for a limited time. This is a rosé-based wine kit, light in alcohol, that features juicy berry flavors of strawberry and raspberry with a hint of grapefruit. This is a twist on a classic sangria wine cocktail perfectly timed for summer and ready to drink in four weeks. To find an RJS Craft Winemaking retailer near you, visit

Winexpert Limited Edition (LE19)

Now in their 30th year of Limited Edition kit production, Winexpert has announced their line up of five limited quantity kits to be released monthly, one per month between December 2019–April 2020, including three reds and two whites. Contact your Winexpert retailer for the latest details.

2020 RJS Restricted Quantities (RQ)

Celebrating their 20th anniversary of the RQ program, RJS Craft Winemaking is releasing five kits, four reds and one rosé. Each 18-L (4.75-gallon) kit comes with its own artistically designed labels and bottle dressings. Contact your RJS Craft Winemaking retailer for the latest details.

Upcoming Events

March 17, 2020

Entry deadline for the 2020 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition. Entries must be received by March 17. Join in the excitement as the awards dinner will be held May 30 at the WineMaker Magazine Conference in San Luis Obispo, California. For more information about entering your homemade wines, meads, or ciders in the world’s largest amateur competition, visit:

Entry Deadline for the California Mid-State Fair Home Winemaking Competition. The competition will take place in May and feature wines made from both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. The registration is $7 per entry. Register today at

Entry Deadline for the 2020 Orange County Fair Home Wine Competition. This competition is only open to amateur winemakers who live in California. The cost is $15 per entry and entries must be received by May 28. For more information about entering your homemade wines, visit:

May 28-31, 2020

The WineMaker Magazine Conference being held in San Luis Obispo, California is now sold out. If you are interested, please Jannell Kristiansen at (802) 362-3981 x106 to get your name on wait list.

The nearby Paso Robles wine region and the Central Coast region of California are just waiting for exploration. Conference will be held May 28–31, 2020. Register by March 16 to save $100. For more information: