As the vines go dormant, winemakers are eyeing the crush and assessing the creative possibilities. They won’t have as much to work with this year, since yields were down. But quality is still the buzz.

“Yield was 15 percent to 30 percent below normal in most varieties,” says Jason Smith, with Paraiso Vineyards at Soledad. “Pinot Noir was down more, but Chardonnay not as bad.

“Quality everywhere was very good. I know Pinots for sure are getting some rave reviews out of our own winery as well as others I have talked to. But other varieties did well, too. I’ve heard good things about Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet — it was a nice year.”

“We’re in our normal post-harvest routine, which includes some winter ripping and some needed rest. Pruning will be right around the corner and we’re looking forward to what should be a very active off-season for our industry. Wine consumption is up and non-bearing acres are down. It should be a very interesting winter for wineries and growers.”

Sierra Nevada foothill growers are also reporting somewhat lower yields, with optimistic expectations for quality.

“It became a challenge late in the season due to the cold weather and rain we had in September,” says Matt Hatcher, owner of Hatcher Winery at Murphys. “I think it’s going to be a good vintage, but it certainly wasn’t easy at the end.”

Some of the last Zinfindel grapes were harvested a couple of weeks ago, according to Hatcher. “After that spell of September weather, Mother Nature started cooperating again and now things are nice.

“We’re now into post-harvest activities in the vineyard. We started rototilling last week and doing some pre-pruning. We’ve got a lot of fairly young vineyards up here in Calaveras County. I think the quality is only going to improve going forward. For the most part, this is not an area that grows grapes for bulk wines. We make it on quality alone.”