Rain to cut short this year's grape harvest

  • Leaves in a vineyard turn an array of colors, along Vine Hill Road near Guerneville Road, on Monday, October 26, 2009.

The North Coast's wine grape harvest winds down this week, whether grape pickers and vintners are ready or not.

That's because the weather is likely to call it quits on the remnants of the season. Rain is in the weekend forecast.

"This is the week to get it all done," Bob Anderson, executive director of the United Winegrowers for Sonoma County. "I think it has been a mad scramble ever since that big rain, but it looks in pretty good order now."

After serving up a surprise blast of rain on Oct. 13, Mother Nature gave wine grape harvesters a two-week breather of cool evenings and warm daytime temperatures to get their remaining crop into their processing operations.

At Buena Vista winery near Sonoma, crews have already started processing the chardonnay and pinot grapes that were largely pulled from vines even before the Oct. 13 rain storm.

Buena Vista winemaker Jeff Stewart said "we are 95 percent finished, maybe a little splash of merlot is left out there, so this week will be the clean up."

Stewart said the unseasonable rain storm "definitely woke everybody up and got us going."

Since then, vineyard operators have been rushing to bring in the harvest and are not waiting for another threat of rain.

"We will be wrapped up this week and most growers out there will be in the same boat," Stewart said. "The heat over this weekend was great, but there are too many vineyards ready to give up at this point."

Anderson said much of the grape crop in Sonoma has been harvested with the exception of some hearty reds, such as cabernet sauvignon and others that end up as dessert wine. However, he had reports that as much as 20 percent of the Mendocino County crop was still on the vine.

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