What is in this article?:
- Central Coast wine grape growers will not soon forget 2011, unfortunately, for mostly the wrong reasons.
- Growers saw improved prices without yields to cash in on a market turnaround.
- If there was a silver lining, the low yields seem to be offering promising intense flavors in the final wine.
- Weather was the story of 2011.
Grape grower Dana Merrill’s company of Templeton, Calif., reports coastal wine grape yields are very low in 2011. “Our yields will be very low this year. Even without the frost, we’d be looking at a lighter-than-normal crop. But throw in the frosted blocks and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re 40 percent off normal on our yields.”
While this year’s harvest started about two to three weeks later normal, it’s not as late as last year, he notes. Assuming the weather holds, he expects to be picking grapes through the second week of November.
As the last week of October began much of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes in the Paso Robles areas were still on the vines. “After that it’s a mixed bag,” he says. “There’s still some Syrah out there along with other varieties on a hit-and-miss basis.”
Despite the low yields, quality of the grapes this year has been holding up. “Most of what we’ve picked looks pretty nice, although in some places it’s only so-so,” Merrill says. “But the wineries want the fruit. So, they are being very accommodating.
That includes accepting lower Brix levels than usual. “This isn’t the year to go for ultra-high sugar,” he says. “Growers don’t want to risk losing fruit to another rain storm. They want to keep moving the harvest along,”
The desire for growers to get their grapes off the vine to minimize any rot problems is likely to complicate things for growers and wineries with specialty grapes.
“We’ve reached the point where the grapes are about as good as wineries are going to get this season,” Merrill says. “It will be a tough year for growers and small wineries with specialty grapes. Those with a few acres of a given variety for their own case good programs may not have much, if anything, to choose from.”