“In most years, having those vineyards spread out across multiple different regions was a real benefit for us,” Wallace said. “2020 was a completely different story because the fires were everywhere.”
Some North Bay wineries like Wallace’s have chosen to compensate for the 2020 harvest by leaning upon backlogs of 2019 wines, according to Glenn Proctor, partner with the bulk wine and grape brokerage firm Ciatti Company. As the pandemic set in and restaurants and tasting rooms closed, both off- and on-premise sales were shaken, he said. The smaller 2020 harvest has actually balanced things for some producers, Proctor said, who might have been unintentionally sitting on stockpiles of wine from 2018 and 2019, both of which proved larger-than-average crop years.
Dirty & Rowdy, though, spent the pandemic cultivating its direct-to-consumer (DTC) relationships, according to Wallace. It held more than 30 virtual tastings with customers between spring and fall of 2020, he said. The winery has released a handful of white wines and rosés earlier this month, Wallace said; 90% of that inventory sold out “within the first day and a half,” he said. As a result, there is no backlog of 2019 wines for the winery to lean on, and Dirty & Rowdy is having to prioritize some sales channels over others.
“We just don’t have the wine for restaurants and retailers,” Wallace said, adding Dirty & Rowdy was expecting to do “very little wholesale” with its 2020 wines. “It’s not a conscious thing to cut (them) out, but it’s just not possible. We’re making sure that DTC goes first, because that’s economically much more beneficial for us.”