Industry heavyweight, the Wine Institute just released their annual report on the California Harvest. While wildfires dominated the deadlines in 2017, the end of drought and a late summer heatwave were more significant factors on the harvest according to the winemakers’ advocacy group. The 2017 vintage will be marked by a lower yield, but higher quality predicted the Institute.
First and foremost, the report stressed that the the wine country wildfires were not catastrophic for yield. “The vast majority of California’s 2017 winegrape harvest was unaffected by the wild res and the vintage promises to be of excellent quality,” stated Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, president and CEO of Wine Institute. “The outpouring of support locally and from around the world for people in the impacted communities has been phenomenal. We are saddened by the loss of lives and homes and this will truly be remembered as a harvest of the heart.”
The report notes that Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, the regions hit by the fires, grow only 12 percent of California’s winegrapes. Further, 90% of Napa and Sonoma’s harvest and 85% Mendocino of Mendicino’s harvest was complete before the fires hit.
In 2017, California finally was spared from drought. Most of the state saw heavy rainfall in late winter and early spring. Likewise, a heat wave swept through the Golden State sparking early harvest for many varietals. Those grapes that remained on the vines into September enjoyed cooler temperatures making for a nice final, ripening period.
Overall, yield is expected to be down, but the quality is looking exceptional. Wine whisperers are betting that the 2017 will be legend.
Check out the highlights by region.
Amador County/ Sierra Foothills – Harvest was not easy this year. The heat wave resulted in an early and fast harvest before a cool front slowed down the process. The heat also resulted in raisining and later in the season, rains caused mildew problems. Although, the final yield was down, growers are bullish about the quality of Zinfandel, Barbera, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre grapes.
Lake Country – This region reported an excellent year escaping climate issues and actually bouncing back from wildfires in previous years. Growers reported a late harvest stretching throughout October. Yields are up.
Livermore Valley – This southern region also reported a great year with minimal heat damage. Yields are average except for Chardonnay, which is down as much as 20% in some vineyards. Petite Sirah is showing very well and Cabernet Sauvignon quality is exceptional,” noted the report. “This year’s grapes generally have higher acids and lower pH at desired sugar levels.”
Lodi – “Thing got bad things got worse; I guess you will know the tune.” Rain, mildew, and heat made 2017 rough for the region. Yields are down between 10% and 20%. On positive note, the Wine Institute reported, “Early season whites came in bright and fresh with good levels of acidity. Reds are showing good intensity and concentration.”
Madera – 55 plus inches of rain and hailstorms presented some challenges for the growers in Madera. Still, the fruit escaped any major damage and yields were actually up.
Mendocino – Chardonnay quantities are going to be down. “A late August heat wave caused major concern for white grape varieties, triggering premature ripening, rushing picks and necessitating triage on the crush pad,” explained the official summary. However, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are at normal levels and quality is looking good.
Monterey – Despite one scare from spiking temps in September, harvest proceeded well. Levels are about normal for the area. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were named as standouts.
Napa Valley – As extensively reported, Napa took a beating from severe weather and wildfires this year. Yet, growers hustled and managed to get the harvest in early. Consequently, yields are down, but the buzz is that Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandels are all looking pretty, pretty, pretty nice.
Paso Robles – Shatter, heat-damage, and mildew all plagued the grapes of this central region over the past six months. Industry watchers are keeping their fingers crossed that the loosen quantity will be offset by an increase in quality.
San Diego – The oft overlooked vineyards of far south Cali reported a solid year. Output is up 25% from 1016.
San Luis Obispo – SLO suffered the effects of heavy rain—mildew and boytritis threats—but were spared from the heat wave. Chardonnay will be slightly up and Pinot Noir will be slightly down.
Santa Barbara – Severe weather did not play much of a role in Santa Barbara. Still, small berries and clusters were prevalent causing a yields sizes spanning from “average to nearly 50% of normal.”
Santa Clara Valley – Growth was out of control in Santa Clara due to excessive winter rains. So, we’re looking at plenty of bottles from the area ready for release next year. Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah both got plenty of hang time with November harvests at many wineries. Insiders are excited about these varietals from SCV in 2017.
Santa Cruz Mountains – The highlands also experienced extreme winter rainfall, over 100! inches. Not surprisingly, the result was a robust crop along with some added canopying weed control challenges. There is a little less info available from the Mountains, but the harvest appears to be consistent with average years.
Sonoma County – The heat wave sparked an early harvest, likely sparing Sonoma’s vineyards from the worst of the wildfires. However, the berries were a little bit smaller due to the high temperatures creating a smaller yield. Optimistic vintners are already comparing the 2017 to years such as 2003, 2013 and 2014.
Temecula Valley – Yields jumped nearly a quarter over the last two years returning levels to average. The report states, “Rhone, Italian and Portuguese varieties fared well, and quality was solid for the vintage overall.”