Sonoma County grape growers eager to end 'worst season of lifetime'

  • Joaquin Ramirez brings in the last of a meager syrah harvest in a estate block at Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa on Monday. Winemaker Dan Barwick says he lost 80% of the grapes in the block due to the strange weather this season.

Mother Nature may deliver one last gut punch to grape growers before this historically dismal season comes to an end.

Wet weather is bearing down on Sonoma County, and the rain expected to start Friday could deliver a fatal blow to grapes still hanging on the vine.

Growers reacted Monday by kicking harvest into overdrive.

"We are going to be beyond max capacity until the rain starts," said Glenn Alexander, owner of Bacchus Vineyard Management. "We'll basically be going around the clock."

Any moisture at this point brings the threat of a mold outbreak, and with the harvest season already delayed by a cool summer, some growers have decided now is the time to bring it all in.

"Grapes aren't going to ripen much more in this weather," Alexander said. "A lot of growers are saying, &‘Let's end this thing.'"

On Monday, vineyard managers across the county were calling around to see if anyone might have an extra tractor, or an unused forklift, or even an entire crew to help them finish picking before the rain arrives. But with the harvest only about two-thirds complete, few vineyards had resources to spare.

The rain's impact depends on several factors, not least of which is the amount of precipitation that actually falls.

Ken Clark, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com, forecast a light sprinkling on either Thursday night or Friday morning.

"It's not going to be a big rain event," he said. "Let's not overplay it."

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