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|Hungary Sees Mixed Vintage for Sweet Tokay Aszú|
|Loire Valley Producers Have Low Yields, High Expectations|
|2002 Harvest in Spain Marked by Cool Weather and Low Yields|
|2002 Reds and Whites Show Promise in New York's Finger Lakes|
|Hot Summer and Early Harvest Bode Well for Long Island|
|With a Near-Perfect Harvest, Burgundy May Have Its Long-Awaited Vintage|
|Despite August Floods, Austrian Winemakers Are Optimistic About 2002|
|Alsace Begins Harvest With Warm Weather and High Hopes|
|Pacific Northwest Harvest Shows Promise|
|2002 Champagne Harvest May Be Vintage Quality|
|Deluge Hits Southern Rhône, Languedoc at Start of Harvest|
|After Assessing Hail Damage, Few Barolo Producers Expect to Harvest Crop This Year|
|Hail in Piedmont Dashes Hopes of 2002 Barolo|
|Austrian Growers Suffer Heavy Rain, Floods|
|California's Bittersweet 2002 Harvest|
|Hailstorms Wreak Havoc in Italy's Vineyards|
With nature running amok in many of Europe's prime wine regions -- hail shredding vineyards in Piedmont and floods swamping parts of Austria and southern France -- the harvest in California's North Coast seems mundane by comparison.
"Boring is wonderful. I'll take boring any day," said George Bursick, winemaker for Ferrari-Carano Winery in Sonoma County. "I can do without the spectacular show of Mother Nature's force."
Boring in this case means a balanced growing season, a season that was generally cooler than usual but had a number of spikes of warm weather near July 4 and Labor Day. Harvest is generally a week or two behind last year, but a wave of 90-plus degree weather last week set picking into high gear.
"We're just moving along," said Joel Aiken, vice president of winemaking for Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa Valley. "We're a good one-fourth of the way through harvest."
Most of the whites in the North Coast have already been picked, and many early-ripening reds, such as Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, are nearly in. The last of the Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons aren't expected to arrive for at least a month.
"This hang-time has been awesome," said Bob Cabral, winemaker for Williams Selyem Winery in Sonoma County. "I shouldn't be excited this early, but the flavors coming from the Russian River are great."
Because the cool growing season was laced with periods of heat, winemakers say the grapes seem to have the best of both worlds: good acidity, with intensely ripe flavors.
If harvest 2002 has a negative, it's demand. There isn't enough of it. The slowdown in the economy means sales are flat and the last thing anyone really needs right now is more wine. "Even before crush began, there were tanks all over the state that were already full of wine," said Bob Smiley, dean of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis, and an expert on wine economics.
Glenn McGourty of the U.C. Cooperative Extension in Mendocino County said grapes that sold for $1,500 a ton on the spot market in 1998 are now bringing in only $400 a ton. That means that in Sonoma and Mendocino counties some vineyards will go unpicked. McGourty predicts that 5 percent to 6 percent of the crop in Mendocino will rot on the vine. "It's getting to be a little alarming," McGourty said. "Of course, some wineries are just waiting until the last minute to get the best price."
The fact that 2002 has all the early indications of being a first-rate vintage only adds salt to the wounds of those growers with unsold grapes.
"It's really an injustice to some vineyards," Bursick said. "You know there will be some incredibly high-quality vineyards that just won't get picked."
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