Traveling through wine country during harvest is always a magical time. The sounds of crushers and fermenters and the intoxicating aromas of freshly crushed grapes fill the air. It can also be tense and nerve-racking as winemakers wait for the optimum moment to harvest their precious grapes. Last week, September 7-10, as our group of ABC wine consultants traveled from Clarksburg to Lodi and then on to Napa and Sonoma we heard a similar story just about everywhere….hurry up and wait.
It has been an unusually cool growing season in Northern California. This, in turn, has forced most wine makers to delay the harvest until the fruit reaches maturity. This is always a gamble for the winery, because typically the deeper into the fall season we get, the greater the chance for rain. Rain in turn can dilute the finished wine and cause rot damage in the vineyard. Almost across the board the yields will be smaller as winemakers have been dropping fruit to encourage ripening. In financial terms this is a very expensive practice for the wineries.
It is not all doom and gloom just yet for 2010. If the rest of September and into October provide enough dry sunny days this could still turn out to be a terrific vintage for California wine.
Stay tuned for our reports on specific wineries we visited as well as an update on the 2010 vintage.