I started this post in JUNE. My writing has just been blocked, and it was a struggle to say all of this. It felt a bit too much like a rant, as one good friend said, “…like a grumpy old man telling the kids to get off his lawn.” So I sat on it. Considered his input. Tried to come up with a good call to action. In the end, maybe I created that, maybe it is still just a rant. So for the sake of my own sanity, for the sake of getting the blog back on track, I am posting this, raw as it may be. I titled this ‘Post marked’ because of the input from trusted advisors, because of my own redline edits on this post, because this year has marked us, for better or worse, because I needed to post.
Can you believe it is the mid point of 2020? [ed. note: I wrote this on 30 June with the intention of posting it then. So I am only 61 days behind. I have updated this note with current-as-of 30 August data]. This year has been an exercise in lunacy. For us, the year actually started just a little slow, with January and February tasting room visits just a little below what we had expected for that period of the year, but then March started off strong. We were on track to exceed our forecast of both traffic and revenue, and then it all came to a crashing halt. COVID-19 has had an impact on all aspects of global life, and that especially impacts the tourism industry.
The financial impact of the pandemic really can not be overstated. Revenue to forecast for the first half of the year is an alarmingly small number. From the second half of March through the last weekend of May, our revenue, while not zero, was way under expected numbers for a ‘normal’ year. This business, much like a restaurant or music venue, is cash-flow sensitive. The sale we make today pays for the bottles we had to buy yesterday, or the electric bill, or labor for this week, or diesel for the tractor, or any one of the other thousands of expenses that make this machine operate. Without visitors to the tasting room doing tastings and buying bottles, we find ourselves financially adrift with lots of obligations and no way to fund them. [ed. note: July and August were better than we had forecast, giving us hope.]
If you find value in this conversation, here’s how you can help, and this applies to any small business out there that is important to you. Buy a gift card. Order products from the online store. If they are open, visit, even if it is just to pick something up curbside. This applies to us, of course, but it also applies to your favorite restaurant. It applies to your favorite artist. Musician. Watering hole. If it is important to you, support them today.
So let’s talk about the weather because if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have become old-man-obsessed with the weather. Through 30 June, heat accumulation [Growing Degree Days, or GDD] is 1224.5 GDD. That is the lowest total to this point that we have seen in the 12 years we have had a vineyard. And the practical value is even worse since we had the devastating frost on 10 May, Mother’s Day. We actually have more fruit on the vines than what I thought we would see in my previous post, but it is all over the place phenologically. Rainfall is at 30.94″ as of 30 June, and that is 134% of ‘normal’ for this point of the year. Cool and wet is a good way to describe the first half, and it is worth noting that we are just shy of 2″ less rainfall at this same point in 2019. So ‘wet’ is a relative term; this is the third year in a row where the rainfall total as of 30 June is well over the historical norm. We have seen a slight warming in July and August, with GDD as of 30 August 2020 at 2819.5 GDD, moving this year to number 9 of 12 in terms of heat accumulation, and rainfall totals of 43.82″, putting us at 139% of normal and getting very close to our average annual total of 45.57″.
What does all of that mean? I don’t really know. In the vineyard, it is really hard to see how we can have a harvest this year. We are about five weeks behind in the development of the fruit; veraison really just started late last week. While we are planning to harvest, we still have a long way to go before any fruit is actually ready. Will we have another fall with almost no rain, no threats from hurricanes? It is unlikely, but who knows? Like my previous posts have noted, this year has been completely crazy, so while it is unlikely that we will see less than 3″ of rain from now until mid October, it could happen, but that is what we probably are going to have to have in order to be able to get the fruit ripe enough to harvest.