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VIDEO: Grape harvest gets going early in Napa

  • Vineyard workers Felix Guzman, left, and Armando Mesa dump pinot noir grapes into a bin at Game Farm Vineyard in Napa , California on Thursday, August 1, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

In Carneros, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards plans to begin its harvest for sparkling wine next week, about 10 to 12 days earlier than usual, winemaker Steven Urberg said. That's putting pressure on winery staff this week to bottle about 40,000 gallons of the 2012 vintage before this year's grapes start to arrive, he said.

"We may end up harvesting and hand bottling at the same time," Urberg said. "For us, it will be difficult because we use the same crew for harvesting that we do for bottling. There will not be a dull moment around here."

Cooperative weather

Napa Grape Harvest

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Growers have faced a few minor weather issues but none that have caused serious problems, they said. Temperatures topped 100 in late June, causing sunburn on some of the grapes, but that impacted only about 1 in 1,000 clusters, said George Rose, spokesman for J Vineyards & Winery.

"The grapes are just looking fantastic," Rose said. "We got over that little hiccup in June with the heat, and the weather has just settled in perfectly. If that's the only thing that happens during this harvest, then that's extraordinary. I'm knocking on wood."

Those hot days sped up the ripening process, setting the clock ahead for some growers who typically begin picking grapes for still wine on or a few weeks after Labor Day.

J Vineyards & Winery will begin picking chardonnay and pinot noir about two weeks earlier than normal, Rose said.

In recent weeks the weather cooled, slowing the pace of ripening in the Russian River Valley, said John Balletto, president of Balletto Vineyards & Winery.

"We thought we'd be ahead but, with things cooling down, I think we're going to be back to normal," Balletto said.

Still wines weeks away


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