WineMaker News Page

Updated May 6, 2020

Winemaking Supply Shop Status During COVID-19

With the quickly evolving situation worldwide due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we thought the best way to serve both hobby winemakers and winemaking retail suppliers was to provide a list of current business status. We will continue to update the information on this page as the situation evolves. Please support your local winemaking supplier through these challenging times for everyone. Click here to find the supplier listing.

Working Together For Everyone

The current COVID-19 crisis can seem overwhelming at times. But despite all the pain and hardships that folks are going through, there are some bright spots that are sometimes not always reported. One such bright spot is the number of wineries, breweries, and distilleries that are mobilizing to craft sanitizer solution and hand sanitizers in order to help meet the growing demands for these products. Across the country, winemakers and brewers are creating the “wash” that the distillers can then concentrate through the distillation process to create an ethanol solution strong enough to kill the virus. It’s heart-warming to know that our friends in the alcohol industry are giving back in the best way they can in these challenging times. We at WineMaker magazine salute all those that are devoting their time and valuable resources towards this magnanimous effort. See page 16 of “Wine Wizard” for directions to make your own sanitizing agents at home.

New Kit Size, Process, and Look for Winexpert Kits

Winexpert has invested significantly in their processing facilities and the way in which they package their juices allowing them to create new, smaller kits. The smaller kits require less heat treatment, which means better color and better flavor — which leads to better wine. With the new process, Winexpert has also redesigned their packaging, kit portfolio, and logo. The new smaller-sized kits and packaging will be rolled out to retailers in the coming months. Learn more at

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.

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


Upcoming Events

June 1, 2020

The new entry deadline for the 2020 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition. Entries must be received by June 1. With our planned WineMaker Competition Awards Dinner no longer taking place on May 30 in San Luis Obispo, California, we will instead be only using email and social media to first announce the winners. All entrants will still be mailed their judging notes and any winners will also receive their medals and certificates by mail this year. For more information about entering your homemade wines, meads, or ciders in the world’s largest amateur competition, visit:

May 20-23, 2021

COVID-19 Update for WineMaker Conference San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles: Our upcoming sold-out 2020 WineMaker Conference has been postponed to 2021. The event will still be in the same exact location in San Luis Obispo, California. Our 2021 program will feature the same great lineup of workshops and seminars planned for late May 2020. We will be posting here the revised schedule of seminars, special events, workshops, and winery tours soon for 2021.