Vineyards

Some vineyard owners and managers are saying this year's lack of rain may bring an earlier harvest than usual. Grapes in parts of the valley have already begun to show color. J.L. Sousa/Register

J.L. Sousa/Register

The 2013 harvest may come early this fall, many vineyard owners and managers said this week, as grapes continue to mature in what has been an unusually dry year. Bloom came early this year after a dry, warm winter. And in some vineyards, veraison has begun, the first sign of ripening.

“It will be an early harvest season,” said Jim Lincoln, a vineyard manager for Beckstoffer Vineyards in Carneros, where some pinot noir grapes are starting to show color. “That’s fine,” added Lincoln, past president of the Napa County Farm Bureau.

The pond on that 280-acre ranch, which collects water runoffs is particularly low this year.

“The veraison coming early is a good thing because we’re limited on water,” Lincoln said. “This has been a very dry year,” he said. “I have no choice but to allocate my water accordingly,” he said Wednesday, as blocks of pinot noir blocks were being drip-irrigated.

Jon Ruel, chief operating officer at Trefethen Family Vineyards on Oak Knoll Avenue and president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, also said veraison has begun in a few blocks. “The quality so far looks very good,” he said.

The vineyards are doing fine and have weathered the recent hot days well, according to grape growers. Because of the recent rains, the air is a little more humid than usual, Ruel said.

The rains had minimal effect because the grapes were still green. It would have been much worse during bloom, Ruel said.

In the Spring Mountain District at the top of the Mayacamas, vintner Fred Schweiger of Schweiger Vineyards farms said veraison has not occurred in the vineyards at 2,000 feet. Yet he too expects an early harvest season, given the warm winter.

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So does Duane Wall who farms in the Mount Veeder appellation. Wall believes harvest could come 10 days to two weeks early this fall.

“The vineyard is going gangbusters,” said Wall, who farms 3 acres of cabernet sauvignon.

Chuck McMinn, who farms a mile north of St. Helena, said extreme heat this past week has probably shut down the vines for a few days. Still, the vines are about three weeks ahead of last year because of the early spring and very dry conditions. “The vines began to switch from shoot growth to fruit production sooner because of both,” he said in an email.

He has not seen veraison in the vineyards, though white grapes are starting to soften a little.

“So, for now we would say earlier harvest than last year for sure but not quite sure if it will be very early or just earlier than average,” he said.

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