Light rain, the first of the season, stopped the wine grape harvest in the Paso Robles area of California’s Central Coast in late October. While inconvenient it wasn’t expected to threaten the grapes still on the vines – primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, and a few Bordeaux varieties, including Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
“It’s been a great harvest,” says Dana Merrill. “We’ve had very good weather, and the yields have been good.
Merrill’s company, Mesa Vineyard Management, Templeton, Calif., owns and manages 6,000 acres of vineyards in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties.
“We’re pretty optimistic,” he continued. “With a little over a week left in October, we’re about 80 percent done with harvest.”
With the forecast of clearing and cool weather, John Crossland was expecting growers in the area would finish this year’s harvest close to the first of November.
Crossland’s company, Vineyard Professional Services, Templeton, Calif., provides management and consulting services for vineyards in the Paso Robles area of San Luis Obispo and southern Monterey counties.
This year’s harvest started as usual with Sauvignon Blanc the week before Labor Day. Yields have been about average or, in some cases, a little less, Crossland notes. Freezing conditions in low-lying districts right before bud break and near-freezing temperatures after that may have limited production of some varieties by disrupting the fruit set.
However, excellent weather throughout much of the season contributed to the above average quality of the grapes, Crossland adds. Even three weeks of hot weather in late August and early September, which caused a moderate amount of sunburn, didn’t seem to have hurt the overall quality of the grapes.
“Fruit maturity progressed well and evenly,” Crossland says. “We saw a little heavier production in the white varieties. But, the chemistry and quality of both the whites and the reds across the different varieties was very good this year. The winemakers are very happy with the grapes they’ve received.”
Crossland ranks the white Rhone varieties among the top in quality this year. “Grenache Blanc, Vigonier, Roussanne and Marsanne look terrific,” he says. “And, just about all the red varieties are looking very good.”
Crews were more readily available for picking the grapes than they were for thinning shoots and suckering earlier in the season. “There’s not an overabundance of labor here,” Crossland says.” We compete for workers with vegetable growers in the area and their needs are much higher in late spring than in early fall.”
This year Central Coast growers have been able to sell grapes for substantially higher prices than in the past few years. “If you did have any extra tons to sell (above contract), the spot market got a little soft at the end because the wineries were full,” Merrill says. “But, it’s hard to complain this year.”