Drought, fire, smoke and the price of diesel aren’t keeping this year’s crop from performing at least close to average.

“The crop is coming along nicely,” says Jennifer Hashim-Buckey, Kern County farm advisor. “There’s good demand for early fruit and the berry quality is quite good. Color is developing well in the southern part of the county. Mite pressure is strong and managing the vine mealybug has been a challenge, but overall, it’s been a good year so far. We haven’t had any major problems.”

Further north, the story is essentially the same. “The crop is maturing,” says Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission in Santa Rosa, Calif. “Sparkling (wine) harvest will get under way in earnest next week. There will be some still wine in late August. This is about average for the start. Cabernet appears to be ahead of schedule so the crush may be compressed.”

As with many areas around the state, the earlier season frost is having lingering effects.

“Crop size is down due to frost and poor set in some vineyards,” Frey says. “I am hopeful that our harvest will be near 180,000 tons, down from 198,000 tons last year and 216,000 tons in 2006.”

In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, yields are also expected to be down somewhat, but growers and winemakers are optimistic about quality.

“We’re going through veraison now,” says Matt Hatcher, owner of Hatcher Winery in Murphys, Calif. “The crop is a little behind compared to normal, but it’s catching up fast. The weather has been favorable lately. We’re going to be down a little on yields because of the frost we had earlier in the season, but that just makes for better fruit.”