As wine grape harvest begins in some areas, most growers are expecting somewhat lower yields than normal. The real question is the price for grapes that aren’t locked into contract.

“Wine grape harvest is just beginning with the low sugar programs,” says Don Cameron, manager of Terranova Ranch at Helm. “I haven’t heard of any yields yet, but I’ve heard Gallo is paying $175 per ton for French Colombard and Grenache. That’s the first I’ve heard of prices.”

Grapes, in general, have had a pretty good skate in the San Joaquin Valley this year, even as harvest commences. “Disease pressure has been light,” Cameron says. “Although, there are some Thompson vineyards that were burned from earlier sulfur applications and then suffered the few really hot days that transpired in July.”

The mostly rosy situation is similar further north in the San Joaquin Valley as growers also prepare for harvest. “White Zinfandel harvest has just started in this area,” says Maxwell Norton, Merced County farm advisor. “We haven’t noted any significant quality problems, and there are still no major pest problems to report.”

Water continues to escalate in price in some areas as growers finish their crops. Some growers have had to make tough choices to abandon row crops in favor of keeping permanent crops viable. “Westside water traded for as high as $700 per acre foot a few weeks ago,” Cameron says.