Warm, dry harvest weather has propelled the harvest of Kautz Family Vineyards wine grapes in California’s Lodi region past the halfway point by the first of October.
“Overall, it’s been a good steady year for us with no big glitches,” says Kurt Kautz, who manages the family’s 5,000 acres of vineyards in the Lodi appellation.
“Yields are pretty good,” he says. “Quality of the grapes has been very good. And, prices have been good. As long as we can finish harvest without any adverse weather, this will be an OK year for us.”
The family’s Lodi vineyards are located in four of the region’s seven sub-appellations: Alta Mesa in the north-central part of the region; Sloughouse in the gently rolling hills of the northeast and the warmest area; Clements Hills along the Sierra Foothills in the southeast, and the Mokelumne River in the south-central Lodi area. The Kautz family’s 17 varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir to Petite Verdot, Riesling, Tempranillo and Viognier.
Last year, Kautz started harvesting grapes Aug. 25. This year, he began on the Sept. 1, with Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. A month later, crews were still picking Chardonnay grapes as well as Merlot and had begun harvesting some of the Cabernet Sauvignon fields. His goal is to wrap up the season by the end of October when he finishes the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
“So far, the weather has been perfect,” Kautz says. “The warm days contribute to good acidity levels and solid Brix development, while the cool temperatures at night aid in coloring the grapes.”
Following two straight years of lower than usual production, yields are up from what he had expected earlier in the season. For one thing, he’s had no disease or pest concerns. “This has been a very clean year in our vineyards,” Kautz adds. “Also, because of the favorable weather, the berries sized up well.”
He reports yields have been average to a little above average.
Kautz credits this year’s good growing conditions with boosting grape quality, too. “We like to harvest our Pinot Gris at 21° to 22° Brix and our Chardonnay at 22° to 24° Brix,” he says. “We got to those levels just fine this year. And, we’ve been able to harvest about all the grapes we want at above 24° Brix with no problems.”
However, the season hasn’t been completely trouble-free.
About 5 percent of his grapes, all Zinfandel, are harvested by hand. “We definitely had a shortage of labor,” Kautz says. “As a result, instead of one week, it took two weeks to pick those grapes.”
Extending the harvest runs the risk of weather delays and lower quality due to too much sugar. “We want to harvest these particular grapes at 21° to 22° Brix,” he explains. “That’s an ideal Brix window for white Zinfandel. If it gets any higher, we could have quality issues.”