“We’re getting consistent reports from all regions that this year’s crop is light,” says Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) at Sacramento.

“Sonoma is down as much as 10 percent to 17 percent. But the Central Valley seemed to be close to average, which could mean the overall tonnage is only slightly down from last year.”

Labor was adequate for the harvest.

“Fortunately, there has been less strain on the labor force than in the last several years,” says Peterangelo Vallis, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association at Fresno.

Central Valley yields this year, with the exception of Thompson Seedless, have been surprisingly lighter than expected, he says. “This, combined with the weather, leads one to anticipate that the wines should be of a pleasing quality.”

A light crop and growing demand for wine are expected to result in more acreage n 2009.

“We expect there to be plenty of planting contracts offered from the wineries,” Vallis says. “But since they are not out yet, we have no way to know if they are going to entice growers to plant until the industry sees what is offered. If the per acre net back to the ranch does not compare favorably with other permanent crop options, we could see another year of light plantings.”