Q&A, Tom Nemcik

Wine professionals and enthusiasts of Iowa are well aware of the existence of vast differences between the native wine industries of Iowa and California, but what specifically differentiates the wine industry in California from the wine industry in Iowa?

Iowa Decanted guest writer, Mallory Hughes, took it upon herself to find a few answers in the following piece:

Iowa in Comparison: California

Tom Nemcik was a horticulturist. He was interested in a wide range of plants, working closely with California native plants in a nursery in Napa County propagating native plants for restoration and creating native habitats for them.

While doing this, he was surrounded by California’s viniculture and eventually found his niche in grapevine nurseries. By applying some of the thinking of native plants to viniculture, he was able to bring new, useful tactics to the propagation of grapevines.

From Nemcik’s perspective, here is what the California industry has that separates it from the Iowa wine industry:

  • Micro climates: California wines can grow pretty much everything in the diverse climates across the state – thus, creating quirky, off-beat, regionally diverse wines
  • Industrial Scale Production: California produces 250 – 300 million cases of wine per year, providing the country with 90% of all of its wine consumption. In fact, if California were an independent country, it would be the fourth largest wine producer in the world.
  • Mechanization of the Harvest Process: Due to sheer quantity, most wineries in California are part of multinational corporations that cannot harvest grapes quick enough by hand. Thus, machines do the pruning and harvesting process.
  • Trade: California has a complex process of designations, and wineries exchange fruit and juice regularly. Some wineries may grow grapes for other wineries and trade the fruit to produce wines with county designation, state designation, or AVA designation as opposed to winery designated.
  • Pest Management: California is a leader in erosion control and pest management. The University of California has programs designated to establish the least toxic, best practice for fertilization.
  • Off-Season Techniques: While California experiences mild winters, post harvesting involves irrigation and light fertilizing. In fact, the state as a whole practices cover cropping, which is planting quick germinating crops, like oats, in rows to minimize erosion and protect wine grapevines from abundant spring moisture.
  • Rapid Globalization: Now, California’s wineries are rarely comprised of entrepreneurs and mavericks who are passionate about what they do. Instead, marketers and managers often run vineyards and wineries to accommodate a more professionalized industry.

Mallory Hughes is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and English with a particular interest in writing/editing for magazines.  She is available for freelance writing assignments and open to job offers starting in May 2014.