Some Rotten Luck in California

Oct 18, 2006

Most years, if you’re a farmer or winegrower or winemaker in California, you bet on the weather coming through.

Most of the time the weather delivers, as in the right mix of sunshine and dryness.

But this year is one of those years where the odds-makers would have handicapped this harvest as too close for comfort.

I’ve heard all kinds of conflicting reports. A few winemakers are thrilled by harvest 2006. Others say flatly that it’s a very mixed year.

The past few days, since I’ve been back in Napa and talking to more winemakers, the stories of woe focused on Sonoma County Chardonnay and some Napa Valley reds, such as Cabernet and Merlot.

Sonoma County is the most important Chardonnay-producing region in the state. Reports there of an unusually late season and severe rot problems will be definite factors in wine volume and likely quality.

In Napa Valley, it’s been cool, too, and many vineyards that are still hanging Cabernet and Merlot are starting to show signs of bunch rot, botrytis and other grape maladies.

I’ve seen some clusters where the berries are literally falling off the stems.

I’m headed to San Francisco on Thursday and will meet with many winemakers at the California Wine Experience.

The Napa Valley Vintners are holding a media event in San Francisco on Thursday, with a host of vintners who will share their insights and perspectives on harvest 2006. They’re even bringing along samples of their infant wines.

I’m curious about their take on the vintage.

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