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Quality of the Russian River Valley Chardonnay grapes being harvested looks to be outstanding, as shown in this photo by George Rose.
By Sean Carroll, Sonoma County Winegrowers
Sonoma County’s 2013 harvest season has turned the corner and headed down the home stretch. Current reports are showing that the region is approximately 85%-90% complete, with mostly Zinfandel and some Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Pinot Noir, and Syrah still on the vines. Winegrowers anticipate harvest finishing up within the next week or two, which would put this year’s harvest about 3 weeks ahead of schedule compared to previous vintages.
Reports from winemakers and winegrowers about fruit quality continue to be positive, despite the recent rainstorm that had minimal influence on picking schedules and was characterized by one winegrower as “washing off the dust on the leaves.” In fact, several regions around Sonoma County reported that the rain storm was accompanied by some high winds that helped dry out moisture. This year’s grape crop continues to come in at average to above-average size with excellent flavor profiles that are lush, balanced, and consistent. Overall, winegrowers and winemakers are thrilled about this year’s harvest and the potential of these 2013 wines.
“If you’ve driven through Sonoma County these past few weeks, it’s obvious that winegrowers and winemakers are working at lightning speed to bring in the last remaining fruit off the vines. In most of our regions throughout the county, we’re picking a lot of different red varieties at the same time, creating some challenges for tank space. We’ve heard some growers comment about the unique timing of this vintage where a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon was picked before Zinfandel. Everyone is still very pleased with fruit quality and excitement is building for the end of harvest when everyone can sleep again. When all is said and done, this year’s harvest is shaping up to be another great vintage for Sonoma County and its possible tonnage could come close to last year’s totals.” - Karissa Kruse, President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers.
Here are some quotes from the “front vines” of several of our AVA’s: “Great year for the grower and winemaker. Nice sized crop. Whites and reds are all wonderful quality — winemakers are talking about it already.” – Duff Bevill, Founder & Partner at Bevill Vineyard Management Alexander Valley
“We finished harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon on Monday with some Zinfandel left that we’re aiming to pick next week. It’s been a condensed harvest season with so many varietals, whites and reds, all coming in at the same time. Fruit quality and flavors are excellent. The recent rainstorm had little to no impact on our vines, and it actually helped bolster our cover crop that we seeded several weeks ago.” – Brad Petersen, Vineyard Manager at Silver Oak Cellars & Twomey Cellars, and Sonoma County Winegrowers Chairman
“Wow, we are really in the thick of it. Our tank space is tight, our white barrels are almost filled. We are about 75% in and wishing we were further. This is when the carb loading pays off. We’re heading towards the finish line and hoping our experience and planning are paying off. We have all of our whites and Pinot Noir in and they are showing so well, it makes you proud to taste the delicacy and vibrancy they are showing so early. The Sauvignon Blancs are finishing and showing great concentration and edginess of young wines. Bordeaux varietals are still hanging out there becoming perfectly ripened in this glorious fall weather, promising great flavors in the field.” – Susan Lueker, Director of Winemaking at Simi Winery
Dry Creek Valley Everyone at Dutcher Crossing is enthusiastic about the 2013 Harvest. Though the threat of rain became a reality in the last couple of weeks, we have yet to see any real damage to quality. We continue to see excellent wine grapes come our way and have benefited immensely from the close working relationships we have fostered with all of our growers here in Sonoma County. Without them, we would be unable to produce all the unique Single Vineyard Designates for which we are known. The winemaking team here is especially excited as we look forward to harvesting our Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignons. These long weeks of hang time have developed complex flavors and promise to produce some excellent wines. Should things continue this way, we are set to have two solid years to offset the difficulties that the 2010 and 2011 vintages presented. – Matt Ward, Winemaker’s Assistant at Dutcher Crossing Winery.
Moon Mountain District “Hot, dry and windy weather shrank berry size across many varietals. This led to lower than anticipated yields in small berry varietals like Caberne, but with varietals like Grenache and Zinfandel, the decreased berry size has resulted in increased intensity of flavors. A lot of clusters are some of the smallest berries I’ve ever seen, but they’re a minefield of flavor.” –Phil Coturri, Vineyard Manager of many vineyards within Moon Mountain District and Sonoma Valley. Russian River Valley “After a five and half weeks picking window in Russian River Valley we completed the 2013 Chardonnay harvest last week with a record tonnage coming into Sonoma-Cutrer. It’s rare to have back-to-back large harvests & even rarer to have back-to-back great quality years but with the incredible season we are having that’s what it’s looking like. We are always concerned about rain during harvest, but the two recent storms caused us only minor issues. We have also completed the Pinot Noir harvest & indications here are for an even better year than last. The early wines are showing great promise of elegant structure with really nice concentration.” – Mick Schroeter, Sonoma-Cutrer Winemaking Director Sonoma Valley
“Great harvest! It’s been early, with good tonnage, and balanced sugar and acid ratios. It’s our largest tonnage ever, at 4.25 T/acre. Quality should be excellent and sugar levels reached maturity without dehydration- minimal shrivel. Should be a very good vintage.” – Brian Shepard, Jack London Vineyard
“The 2013 Harvest has been going remarkably well. Color & tannins are easily extractable, and with the warm days and cooler nights fruit has been coming in at a steady pace. While in 2012 we harvest everything in about 3.5 weeks, this 2013 Vintage is already going on 6 weeks with many vineyards being picked a block at a time instead of the whole vineyard. This has given St. Francis more of an opportunity to craft some exceptional wines. Crop size is similar to last year, but our grape growers have really been diligent about taking extra measure to ensure that quality is also present” – Katie Madigan, Winemaker at St Francis Winery & Vineyards
The Sonoma County Winegrowers and Sonoma County Vintners will continue to send out periodic updates on harvest. You can also follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #sonomaharvest2013