A crew gets equipment ready for a night harvest at Doffo Winery in Temecula, Calif.
Harvest is under way in most parts of California, and it’s well along in Temecula, a grapegrowing region north of San Diego and one of the southernmost American Viticultural Areas in the state.
David Bradley, the owner and winemaker of boutique Vindemia Vineyards & Winery
, said harvest is about 10 days early on most fruit this year.
“We picked Syrah about six to 10 days early, on average, and got 75% of normal yield. But we have great color and 0.75º Brix higher than average. So all in all we are pleased and OK so far.”
Bradley added, “We got very little rain this past winter, and it was warmer. Bud break was a week early and very vigorous to start but yielded a smaller canopy.”
Nicholas Palumbo is the owner and winemaker of 17-acre Palumbo Family Vineyards and Winery
. He’s also president of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association
He makes about 2,000 cases per year and sells most of it directly to consumers. Most is estate red, but he also makes Viognier.
Palumbo picked small amounts of Sangiovese and Zinfandel yesterday, but he expects his biggest blocks to come in next week.
“Yield has been good, though the Viognier is down a little bit and Sangiovese (is) up.”
He noted a difficult weather pattern this season, with rainstorms and flash floods in some parts of Southern California. “It’s been an unfortunate monsoon condition, and sugar has been creeping up faster than ripening.”
Palumbo said that some growers picked anyway, but he found vegetal flavors even at 24º Brix. “We found that if you give the vines a little water, Brix drops and pH and acid get back in balance with sugars. This buys us some time to let the green flavors dissipate.”
Phil Baily is the owner and winemaker of Baily Vineyard & Winery
, one of the oldest vineyards and wineries in the Temecula AVA. He said 2013 has been a great vintage so far. “While yields are markedly down on some varieties, the sugar/acid ratios in all of our estate vineyards are the best I’ve seen in 27 years of making wine here—especially in the Bordeaux varieties.”
He added that pH levels have been perfect, with no need for adjustment. “Berry size is smaller than normal, resulting in very deep color in the reds. It has the promise of producing some great wines.”
Another local grower is Ben Drake, president of Drake Enterprises
, a vineyard management company for the Temecula AVA. He manages 350 acres including 5 acres of his own land.
“It was going well until it got hot last week,” he said. “We’ve worked 30 days straight.”
Drake started picking Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay for sparkling wine early, on Aug. 8, with Merlot and Vermentino coming in now and Barbera and Sangiovese yet to come. He expects to be finished by the end of September, again early. “We usually go until late October or even into early November.”
He said that yields were up about 10% for white wines, but reds are a mixed bag. “Some are up, some down and some about the same.” Overall, he said that yields for reds are normal or a little higher than usual.
Restaurants and lodging
Drake noted that not many growers are planting grapes. “The economics aren’t there for independent growers,” he said. Many wineries in the area depend on events, restaurants and lodging.
The minimum lot to build a winery is now 10 acres, but there’s discussion of raising the minimum acreage. In fact, a new county regulation requires wineries to devote at least 75% of their land to vineyards. “This is to keep the owners from turning the land into resorts, restaurants, B&Bs and wedding or conference sites,” Drake said.
The county allows two rooms per acre, so a 100-acre property could apply for a permit to have a 200-room hotel.