Quality is another question. Clay Mauritson of Mauritson Family Winery said he's confident this will prove to be a good year. Great California vintages are generally marked by a long hang time, he said, and growers have certainly had that.

The next challenge for growers may prove to be "traffic jams" at wineries. By compressing their harvest, growers face the chance wineries will be overwhelmed with deliveries and have to turn down grapes because their fermentation tanks are full, Frey said.

"A compressed harvest creates a logistical nightmare in the vineyard and in the winery," Alexander agreed.

Still for some, the ups and downs are all part of the business's appeal.

"Harvest is meant to be crazy and overwhelming and exciting," said Christopher Silva, president of St. Francis Winery and Vineyards, which had its first crush Monday, the latest in its 40-year history. "That is why we're in wine and not toothpaste."