Mild, dry weather that has encouraged good vine growth and canopy development aren’t the only reasons wine grape growers in Lake and Mendocino counties are in high spirits these days.
“Grape prices are up, and the wine industry needs wine,” says Glenn McGourty, University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor for the two counties. “This is a good year to be a grower.”
“It’s nice to see people planting new vines again,” he says. “After the market began to slump in 2002, we had a lot of open ground where growers pulled out. There was very little planting after that. Now, nursery stock for establishing new vineyards is in short supply for at least the next year or two.”
He describes this year’s crop as average to good, and estimates it is developing about 7 days to 8 days later than usual — although nowhere near as late as in 2011.
“Last year, we could see a disaster in the making in terms of having a late harvest,” McGourty says.
He expects veraison around the first week of August, which is typical. This year’s harvest also should get under way at the usual time, beginning about the third week of August with sparkling varieties. The last to mature will probably be Cabernet Sauvignon, which should be ready to pick by the last week of October.
In early July, McGourty hadn’t received any reports of insect problems.
“Typically, growers here don’t have to treat for mites because various biological agents take care of them,” he says. “However, a few growers have had to spray for leafhoppers.
Currently, doubts concerning the use of water from the Russian River and its tributaries for frost control next spring are a top concern for many growers in the area.
This stems from rules adopted last year by the California Water Resources Control Board to maintain enough water in the streams for survival of salmon and steelhead when growers use the water to protect their crops from freezing. Among other things, it requires farmers to measure and report how much water they divert for frost protection and to develop a program for monitoring flow. Also, farmers must evaluate the possibility of fish becoming stranded as a result of such water diversions.
The rules were put on hold in January after farmers had filed a lawsuit challenging the requirements. A court hearing was held in Mendocino County the last week of June in which both regulators and farmers presented their sides of the case. The judge has 90 days to decide if the rules can be implemented.