Monterey County wine grape growers are in a much brighter mood than they’ve been at this point in the season for at least two years. Both the weather and the market have turned in their favor.
“Growers are pretty pleased with development of their crop this year,” says Larry Bettiga, University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor for the county. “Ripening patterns have been more normal this season. Right now things look OK. And, compared to the last few years, OK is OK.”
Fog has been more prevalent closer to the coast this year, with the number of growing degree days a little below average. Farther inland, however, the season has probably been a bit warmer, he notes.
The harvest is expected to get underway in the southern part of Monterey County soon as growers pick Pinot Noir for sparkling wines. By the second half of the month, growers there and elsewhere in the county should be harvesting the first grapes of the season for the still wine market, Bettiga notes.
“It’s hard to tell for sure until the harvest actually begins, but, yield-wise, the crop looks like it will be about average,” he says.
The threats to Monterey County vineyards from diseases and insects have been lower than normal this year. Monterey growers spend more money to control powdery mildew than any other disease. It was especially challenging the past two seasons.
“Because we didn’t have any heat spikes to wipe infections that developed earlier in the season, I thought we’d have more of a problem with powdery mildew than we had this year,” Bettiga says. “But, most growers have developed very good programs to control it and don’t have serious problems with the disease.”
Botrytis can also be a big concern to the county’s grape growers if the weather is wet just before or during harvest. Fall storms that can cause botrytis outbreaks in North Coast vineyards and Central Coast grapes farther to the south often fade by the time they reach Monterey County, Bettiga points out. “If that holds this year, botrytis should be less of a concern for our growers,” he says.
Pressure from mites and orange tortrix has been low this season, as well, he adds.
The county’s growers also expect to reap more money for their 2012 crop than they have in the past several years.
“Growers haven’t had any problem selling grapes this season, and wineries are offering contracts again,” he says. “There has been a lot of hesitation in expanding vineyards acreage in the past few years. But, locally this year, some sizeable vineyard developments have gone in. The market is looking up.”