LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The 2014 winegrape harvest in Lake County is under way, and growers are optimistic about the quality and yields despite an early ripening season.
Vineyard owners and managers are reporting the start of harvest up to 10 days earlier than last year due to dry, warm conditions, Lake County Winegrape Commission President Debra Sommerfield reported Monday.
In some vineyards, picking started last week and will continue the next few weeks.
“It’s probably our earliest season ever,” said Randy Krag of Beckstoffer Vineyards, a producer of winegrapes in Lake County during the last 15 years. “A warm spring and early summer pushed the crop to develop early.”
Quality and yield appear to be much like that of 2013, which was “an excellent year at Beckstoffer Vineyards, Red Hills,” Krag added. He said that picking began last Wednesday with approximately 80 tons picked.
According to Clay Shannon of Shannon Ridge Vineyards & Winery, crews in his vineyards also started picking Sauvignon Blanc grapes last week.
He noted that while the crop was about 20 percent lighter than anticipated, the winegrape quality looked to be good.
Eric Stine of Langtry Estates characterized the 2014 growing season as “dry but good … a warm spring got everything moving faster than normal but the mild summer has been nice for ripening.”
Noting that there will be very little time between the harvest of whites and reds this year, Stine added that he did not expect any issues with the quality of the grapes.
“It should be a very nice vintage if things continue,” he said. “Yield is average at best – another good California vintage.”
“Quality potential looks great right now,” said Jeff Lyon of Robin Hill Vineyard, which is located in the Clear Lake AVA. “The fruit is clean; and as the weather cools, ripening is moving ahead quickly.”
He added the warmer growing season has not been a negative issue for the vineyards. “We applied irrigation in anticipation of the heat waves, and the vines and fruit were not impacted in a negative way.”
Vineyards at Brassfield Estate in the High Valley AVA are also producing good quality fruit with an earlier harvest, according to Vineyard Manager Jonathan Walters.
He anticipated picking Sauvignon Blanc last weekend, which would then be followed by Syrah and Pinot by the end of this week.
While noting the crop may be slightly lighter than last year, “quality should be to our standards,” Walters said, adding that the growing season had been unusual. He described it as “dry with an early bud break” resulting in a shortened time between vine flowering and bunch closure.
Some vineyard representatives reported very few impacts due to the drought and dry soil conditions, Sommerfield stated.
In the Guenoc Valley near Middletown, where Langtry Estates Winery and Vineyards is located, Stine indicated the drought necessitated moving more water and nutrients through drip lines.
At Beckstoffer Vineyards, dry soil conditions prompted grasses to be aggressively mowed to reduce moisture demand, and fertilizer and herbicide applications were reduced, according to Krag.
Lyon said, “As we slide toward fall and harvest, we maintain the vines, lightly irrigated to prevent stress that could negatively affect fruit quality.”
Lake County growers are continually monitoring quality, yields, and water use with many growers using the latest technology to monitor water holding capacity in the soils with special tools like probes to allow for very targeted, timely irrigation only when it’s needed, Sommerfield said.