California Central Coast wine grape growers are hoping to get their late crop off the vines before autumn rains.
This year’s cool temperatures have delayed maturity of the grapes by about a week on the Central Coast, according to vineyard consultant Lowell Zelinski, Precision Ag., Inc., Paso Robles.
“If the weather cooperates and we don’t get any rain or early frost, the harvest this year should be fine — just late,” he says.
Starting with Sauvignon Blanc Sept. 10, growers have moved into other white grapes varieties, including Pinot Gris and Viognier.They’ll finish the whites with Chardonnay.
Look for harvesting of the red varieties to begin with Syrah and Pinot Noir in the first week of October, followed by Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, Zelinski says. The last red picked will be Zinfandel.
“Earlier in summer, some growers were worried that harvest might last through Thanksgiving, but we should be finished before then. Based on the latest forecasts, I’m cautiously optimistic that we will get the grapes harvested before bad weather moves in.”
Production is likely to better than in the past few years, he says. “Most growers expect good yields — maybe a little above average.”
Central Coast growers are also encouraged that, after last year’s poor economy left many grape buyers on the sidelines, buyers are coming back. As of mid-September, prices for wine grapes were ranging from about $300 to $1,000 per ton, Zelinski says.
“Although those are low prices for Central Coast grapes, at least some growers are selling their grapes again. In June, July, and the first part of August, no one was buying grapes at any price.”
Higher-priced wines are not moving much better than in the past 18 months, but wines in the $10 to $20 per bottle range are selling more briskly. These lower-priced wines can’t support grape prices much higher than about $500 to $600 a ton, Zelinski says. That’s not enough to keep growers in business over the long term, but for right now growers are glad to get anything close to a reasonable price.
It’s the large wineries that are now buying. “We like seeing the big guys in the market,” Zelinski says. “Usually, that means the other wineries will show up eventually to buy the grapes at little better prices.”