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With hotter weather in the forecast, the Napa Valley’s winegrape harvest is expected to be moving into high gear by this weekend.

Crush is running 10 days to three weeks behind last year, but a run of warmer days should speed things up, reducing fears that early rains could damage the crop, grapegrowers say.

Most of the grapes for sparkling wines have been picked, with growers getting ready to harvest grapes for still wines, which are the valley’s dominate product.

“We really don’t want any showers right now. And humidity is not good because of the potential threat to quality,” said David Beckstoffer of Beckstoffer Vineyards and president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers. “If things remain dry, we can end up with a good harvest.” 

Grower Sam Turner said he expected the harvest to pick up later in the week as pinot, chardonnay and some zinfandel ripen. “By and large, things look pretty good,” he said. “It is not doom and gloom right now.”

“Everything out there is tasting very good. We are looking forward to a long and gentle growing season,” said Jennifer Putnam, executive director of Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

Winery owners and growers have been lamenting the cool summer. Temperatures have been mostly in the mid- to upper 70s, while the season normal would be in the upper 80s to low 90s, they said.

 The weather should be in hotter than normal this weekend and into next week, said Ken Clark, a senior meteorologist with Accuweather. Some forecasts call for Upvalley temperatures in the 90s.

“I don’t see any early season rain,” Clark said. “It could be a below-precipitation year.”

“We just have to wait and see. All and all, I think we should have some good hang time,” said Sam Turner of T & M Agricultural Services, which serves clients from Carneros to Calistoga.

Don Clark, co-owner of Nord Coast Vineyard Services, said most of the sparking wine varietals are finished. “We’re in a little bit of a lull right now, but expect to begin still wines by the end of week.”

He is expecting to see significant tonnage of pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. “There are a lot of grapes that are close and this weekend’s heat wave will kick them into gear,” he said.

Clark said he breathed a sigh of relief when last week’s forecast for rain fizzled. “There were some scattered drizzles, but there was nothing measurable here,” he said.

Clark said the harvest may last until November. “That is not all that unusual,” he said. “But everything changes if it rains.”

“Any early rainfall makes me nervous,” he said.

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