Could Harvest Be Just Six Weeks Away in California?

Early signs of veraison point to an unusual start for crush in 2014
Jun 18, 2014

Take your vacation soon, California winemakers. Early signs of veraison are already upon us. Veraison—when grapes begin ripening, turn softer and change color—rarely starts this early. It usually doesn't get going until the Fourth of July.

Veraison is significant for many reasons, but it's a big indicator of when harvest could begin: about six weeks later is the general rule. A lot depends on the region, grape variety, how a vineyard is farmed and, of course, the weather, but it boggles the mind that harvest could begin before Aug. 1, and not just for sparkling wine.

Because of warm weather in the spring and the continuing drought, the 2014 growing season has run early since the beginning.

Bedrock winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson this week spotted veraison on 109-year-old Zinfandel vines in Pato Vineyard and with Mourvèdre in Evangelho Vineyard; both are located in Contra Costa County northeast of San Francisco Bay.

Siduri winemaker Adam Lee reported that Pinot Noir vines are beginning to ripen along the Santa Lucia Highlands, which often sees an early pick.

Central Coast grower Peter Cargasacchi said Pinot Noir in Santa Maria Valley and Syrah in Paso Robles planted in light, sandy soils and with good sun exposure are getting started. As for his vineyards in cooler Sta. Rita Hills, Cargasacchi said, "I normally start [veraison] the first week of August, but expect to see it in early to mid-July."

Most regions in Napa and Sonoma counties are a few weeks away, as is much of Paso Robles. Jason Haas 
Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso hasn't spotted veraison yet but expects harvest to begin by the end of August, two weeks earlier than normal but about the same time as last year.

When Saxum winemaker Justin Smith in Paso Robles heard that some areas were beginning veraison, he asked, "Whoa, are you serious? We aren't close at all—still pea-sized berries."

Yes, it's going to be an interesting year. Look for updates here on vintage 2014 in California. What about other winemakers and growers: What are you seeing in your vineyards?

United States California Carneros Mendocino Napa Santa Barbara County Sonoma 2014

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