Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ten Buck Chuck- The 2008 California Harvest

Its harvest time around my neighborhood on the California central coast. My wine maker friends, so far are happy with the results, and my grape growing friends are griping about the small crop.

It looks like there are less clusters on the vines this year, and the clusters and grapes themselves are smaller than prior harvests. After a wild spring with frosts and an odd summer of hot and cold weather plus wildfires, winemakers are glad to start crushing.

Yields in some of our favorite vineyards are down some 10% to 30% from last year. Carneros Chardonnay is off about a third due to those April frosts. In
Chiles Valley in Napa a Sauvignon Blanc vineyard was at 10% of their 2007 levels!

Mendocino is having low yields as well with some of those tricky cool weather Pinot Noir vineyards coming in 40% less than last year. Thunder was heard this week and there is up to a 50% chance of rain over the next couple of days.

On the central coast our recent cool weather has slowed the harvest, which makes the winemakers jobs almost leisurely. In southern California there are also low yields, good quality and plenty of demand.

Of course these small vineyard yields can make some great wines. With more skins and less grape meat I expect some rich, long lived reds to be made. Just be ready to pay for them.

Demand for quality fruit will exceed supply and we know what that means for prices. Even the Central Valley Thompson Seedless grapes are getting prices 50% higher than last year. That means my boxed Chablis is going to cost me another dollar. And what about Two Buck Chuck?

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris (the new varietal darling) are in high demand. Even Merlot, that was once left rotting on the vine due to some bad Hollywood press, is fetching good prices again.

Speaking of movies making or breaking wines and wineries,
Bottle Shock, the movie about the famous “Judgment in Paris” tasting is supposedly driving more tourist to that little known wine region north of San Francisco.

Yes it seems Calistoga, in the northern part of Napa Valley, is getting an increase in tourists looking for that famous Chateau (the one the French will soon own). Don’t tell anybody that most of the movie was shot in Sonoma and that the fruit for that famous
Mike Grgich, I mean Chateau Montelena wine, also came from Sonoma.

One more thing. With all the fires this year in the wine country some are worrying about smoke tainted grapes. Seems some winemakers have detected some odd odors in their musts (smoke salmon and fishy smells). I can predict some interesting labels for the 2008 vintages- Fishy Fume, Smoky the Barbera, Le Smoky Cigare Volant, Hot Coals Cabernet Franc, Fireside Charbono, Singed Cinsault, and Burnt Leaf Chardonnay.

If you’re going to visit the California wine country anytime soon be sure to visit for all kinds of tasting room and touring information. You can search for wineries by ambiance (dog friendly), amenities (food available), tasting fees, wine types and more. You can also create your own custom wine trail maps.

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