2020 On the Vineyard – A Look Back at the Challenges of This Year

2020 vineyard challenges wine

The end of 2020 is finally upon us. This year presented a lot of new and unique challenges at the vineyard, and around the world.

Across the world the COVID-19 virus forced a lot of people to upend their lives and put things on hold. Businesses were forced to close down and people were told to stay at home as much as possible to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

In addition to COVID closures, California had one of their worst wildfire seasons on record. With fires ravaging the state, the air quality deteriorated and the smoke was so dense it affected states 1000’s of miles East of the fires.

These fires have been more intense during recent years because of the weather and drought that has stricken the area. Drier climate leads to more fires, and fires that spread more easily. This deadly combination in California this year has led to a great deal of damage in the form of property burning, business closures, and loss of homes.

All of these elements have combined to make 2020 are very difficult and stressful year for us on the vineyard. It’s lead to unexpected closures, slower production, and less crops. But it hasn’t stopped us from working together, safely and efficiently, to continue to produce some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world.

Let’s take a closer look at the unexpected challenges we faced at Hope Family Wines this year, and how we continue to think positive as we move into 2021.

Winery Challenges of 2020

COVID Safety Precautions and Shutdowns

One of the biggest, unexpected, challenges that we faced at Hope Family Wines this year was the COVID-19 pandemic.

While our grape growing and winemaking production weren’t disrupted too much by the COVID pandemic, our tasting room and our ability to host events were greatly impacted.

We were required to shut down our tasting room in the spring but were then allowed to open back up our outdoor space as long as we adhered to strict guidelines set forth by the state of California. This meant that we were still not allowed to host large events, but we could invite people back to the tasting room to enjoy our wine in a safe and friendly environment.

We implemented many safety precautions like mask requirements when not eating or drinking, spacing tables out at least 6-feet apart, not allowing guests into the interior tasting room areas, and a rigorous cleaning and sanitizing procedure.

As 2020 comes to a close, and the COVID vaccines are beginning to make their way to the people of the world, we hope that soon we will be able to open up our tasting room doors to all.


This year the weather was a large obstacle to deal with when it came to the crops. The state of California has been dealing with drought and excessive heat that has made it difficult to grow the grapes needed to produce our wines.

The high temperatures in the area can speed up the maturing process of the grapes, which in turn can change the taste and flavor of the finished wine. This change in weather and climate can have a serious effect on the delicious wines that have been coming out of California for decades now. And it can even lead to less area of land being suitable for growing the grapes needed to produce the wines.

In addition to the soaring temperatures and lack of water in the region, California was also hit with a number of wildfires which can have a negative effect on the flavor of wine.


California usually experiences wildfires every year, but this year was exceptionally bad. With the drier air, and lack of rain, this year was a perfect storm for wildfires and it affected our crops and harvesting.

While we weren’t directly affected by the fire itself, the smoke billowing into the air and blanketing our region, caused many hardships when it came to the air quality.

It was harder to breathe and work out in the fields, it impacted the crops themselves, and it affects the overall taste of the wine if the smoke becomes too powerful.

In short, smoke can cause damage to the grapes on the vine while they are starting to ripen. The damage may not always be known by tasting the grapes themselves, but after the fermentation process begins to work, the smokey flavor that the grapes picked up can become much more apparent. This has lead to some wineries cutting back production entirely if they feel their crop was impacted by the smoke.

Wineries in the Paso Robles area have been sending grapes for the various vineyards out to be tested by 3rds party labs in order to determine the extent of the smoke damage of the grapes this year.

Crop Shortages

All of the things combined have led to a harvest that is less than ideal. Between the heat, wildfires, and smoke, the number of harvestable crops dropped this year overall. And because of this, we aren’t able to produce as much wine for 2020 as we have in the past, but we’re doing the best we can.

As 2020 comes to an end, we’re just grateful for those that have stuck with us and helped us do the best we possibly could this year with all the challenges we faced.

We’re hopeful that 2021 will bring a new light to the world and we’ll be able to leave this year in the past as we move forward on our winemaking journey. We hope that our tasting cellar can open back up so that friends and family can come enjoy our wines together. We hope that the spread of COVID slows down to ensure the health and safety of our staff and our guests. And we hope that the world starts to take climate change a little more seriously, so that we don’t endanger our way of life and our planet.

This year was definitely full of unexpected challenges, but we feel better prepared moving into the new year as we continue to create some of the best wine in the world.