WARNING: If you’re in the wine business, this is only VIT 101. This blog story has been created for people just learning about vineyards. Please judge accordingly.

VIT 101 ~ Sour Grapes

It all began with updating the cluster photograph for the VIT 101 story. This one right here. When I looked at it the day before, I could see a problem beginning to manifest. So, when I put the cluster on Facebook, I wrote the following, with more than a bit of desperation:

Over the weekend, I began to watch this cluster that we’ve been watching since bloom, begin to have a problem. Help, VIT people. Tell us what’s happening, It’s great for a lesson, but it’s also breaking my heart. Sean Piper, Jeff Stai, Marty Johnson, Dan Kleck, Miro Tcholakov, anyone else who might know?

I was calling out everyone I knew who has taken an interest in this VIT 101 series. While everyone was busy in their vineyards, we found a new voice with the project – Josh Stein.

Josh wears many hats: Owner at Napa Valley writing Services, owner/winemaker at Same Sex Meritage (Stein Family Wines), winemaker/partner at YeS Wines (not a typo on the YeS). And, he’s been an educator at Napa Valley College and Solano College. He’s a busy guy, let’s just say. To have him chime in, well, it’s a good thing.

Marty Johnson jumped in and liked what we were doing a bit late in the stream. Josh was handling this one.

Josh Stein: wrote and shared a link:

Looks like sour rot, Jo. Very common and built into most harvesting numbers: https://www.google.com/search?q=sour%20rot%20in%20grapes…

I think to myself, “That will alter Brix a bit,” and write back:


Well, that’s “sour grapes” and a great (sorta) topic for my next VIT 101. Thanks for taking the time to share.

Josh Stein:

No worries. Lots to discuss on vineyard management practices, corporate versus individual owners/managers, absentee owners, workers’ rights, fruit allowed to shrivel instead of being picked, etc. Unless you spend day in and day out time in a vineyard for an extended amount of time, you won’t even be aware of what to look for.


We have one client whose vineyard manager has been with the company for over 25 years, and all he does is comb the vineyard daily. The Rubin Family of Wines, Alvaro Zamora is the man dedicated to his vines, knowing every single one, because he’s planted them all. I had the honor of writing his biography. I learned a lot in the process, even though I’ve been in this business for well over 20 years and taken enology and viticulture.


A wealth of wisdom on how the natural world works, but also a lot of insight into how commerce influences it. Almost no wine drinkers seem to care, however. Tried it. Not a selling point *sigh*


Jose, should I pull the sour ones, so they don’t influence their neighbors?

Josh liked my question, so I knew what I had to do, then I added this photo.

Josh responds:

Couple more in the lower left there, too. Some SO2 might be do for a pass, too. Lots of weather-induced vine pressures this year: nature’s way of pushing back against yet another bumper crop…


Aha… the tell tale sigh of “pink.” What I thought was cool turns out to be cruel.

Valerie Reichel Moberg (Vintelligent Marketing):

I love it! Viticultural help by Facebook!

Josh Stein:

Nature is cruel in the sense of non-human feeling, but it’s not wantonly cruel, which is a human trait. Others in the bunch will survive–that’s why the plant evolved this beautiful system of partial surrender–“fail soft” (pun intended) is hundreds of millions of years old. Personally, I take a lot of comfort in that.   smile emoticon