More about being in the Wine Business

by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

jeff-smMy post last week got a comment that deserves repeating:

“Always nice to see commentary on the blogosphere from another grower who can actually speak to a REAL day in the life of a vineyard owner. I’m having so much “fun” going after wineries for $33,062.50 still owed to me on the “stuff” from 2012 and 2009 harvests while nervously chewing my nails and running the numbers on my 2013 operations budget - and at the same time working towards retrieving the $7,560 owed to me by my “neighbor” for the pressurized 6 inch mainline they broke and replaced with a cotter coupling only to be asked by my attorney for a retainer to fight the 6 inches my three olive trees extend over my “neighbors” property line, never you mind the 6 feet of french drain they’ve illegally run across the very same property line and into my drain tile. And then there’s the paperwork involved with the insurance claim(s) on the Ag theft that occurred two months ago and the 65 vines I lost 1 year ago to a lunatic who launched his truck into my reservoir because he was “having a bad day”. I am having so much “fun” I can barely stand it. Happy Tax Day Mr. Parsons. Jeff, tip of the hat to you this 2013 growing season.”

This came from Thomson Vineyards, which per their website produces wine grapes in the Carneros.  But the gist of it could have come from pretty much any real grower who has to deal with the day in day out problems of running a vineyard, which is similar to running all kinds of other businesses.

I can only add a note of sympathy.  I’d like to say misery loves company.  Only it doesn’t.  But I guess there’s something to be said at least for knowing that you’re not the only one.

As we struggle to pay our bills, I can only second Thomson’s comment about having to go after wineries who haven’t’ paid their bills.  We’d be so much better off right now if it weren’t for the tens of thousands of dollars we’ve had to write off from distributors that have gone belly up, or just not paid for reasons that are far from clear.  The ones that go belly up I can understand.  But the ones that are still actively in business that just never pay is harder to understand.

But what are you going to do about it?  Hire a lawyer in some far off state to try to collect a $10,000 bill.  Fat chance that’s going to end up being a cost effective move.

And then there’s the inevitability of the fact that when something goes not as planned, it’s always for the worse.  The unanticipated truck careening through your vineyard never turns out to be a good thing.

Following up on a recent post, and apropos to the above, we got a response from the county for our winery/tasting room application.  Three pages of “corrections”, most of them of the trivial variety, but I’m concerned about a few.  That followed another letter requiring an environmental review of our septic system.  Since our production is so small I know we comply, but that won’t save having to spend hundreds of dollars, and maybe more, to get a septic engineer to say that.  Which wouldn’t be all that big a deal if we were collecting all the money owed to us…

No matter what, you have to try to keep your eye on the ball, to focus on the big things that will advance your business.  But sometimes you get so consumed fighting rear guard actions that that becomes really hard to do.

So thanks to Thomson Vineyards for at least letting me know I’m not the only one.

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