This should go down as an excellent year for North Coast wine grapes — at least for those picked before a big storm hit the area in mid-October.

Sam Turner, vineyard manager, T and Agricultural Services, Calistoga, Calif., works mostly with Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir varietals in Napa County, and says, “They all look to be above-average in quality. The weather has been pretty much ideal this year, one of the best we’ve even seen. We had a hot spell in June, but by and large, the bloom was good and weather in July and August was cooler than normal, without any heat spikes. “If the quality of the wine isn’t among the best ever, then all the theories about the influence of weather on quality have to be questioned.”

Loose grape clusters this year have contributed to what should be higher quality by allowing better penetration of air and light, Turner says. “The only glitch was the hot weather in September, which definitely moved up ripening of the grapes and harvest.”

Cabernet Sauvignon harvest began in early October, just after Zinfandels were finished. This follows the earlier picking of Merlot and Pinot Noir.

“Zinfandel yield was above average and yields of Cabernet Sauvignon, overall, look to be average,” Turner says.

The real challenge for some North Coast growers this year will be to find buyers for all of their grapes. “It will be a tough year for certain growers to sell all their fruit because of the current economic conditions,” Turner says.