In June, sun-baked vineyards in Northern California waited ... and waited ... and waited for Mother Nature to shower their crops.
When the wet weather never materialized, winemakers were left to wonder about the health of this year’s grapes and the wines they would produce.
One thing is certain: Their patience has been rewarded with one of the earliest harvests in recent memory.
Winemakers began picking the luscious berry that will produce sparkling and still wines as early as July 29, according to some reports.
Napa Valley growers followed suit just a few days later, pulling about 15 tons off the vines along the Silverado Trail, a scenic route that traces the valley’s eastern edge.
Closer to the 209, harvest began on schedule for Delicato Family Vineyards, which has private and partnered vineyards in Monterey County and Lodi.
Delicato is one of the state’s largest producers, and its barrel-shaped building in north Manteca has become an iconic landmark for those traveling Highway 99.
The real interest, however, lies on the vines scattered throughout the Central and Northern California.
The Indelicato family purchased the San Bernabe Vineyard in Monterey in 1988, launching an aggressive 10-year replanting program shortly after assuming ownership. The program focused on specific varieties and clones, rootstock selection and trellising methods.
Officials trumpet the vineyard as one of the world’s most diverse, and it’s easy to see why. Nearly half of San Bernabe Vineyard’s 12,640 acres are planted for 21 grape varieties.
A few years later, in the mid-1990s, the family found gold in their own backyard, purchasing Clay Station Vineyard – aptly named for a historic stagecoach stop during the Gold Rush.
Delicato doesn’t believe the heat wave that dominated the spring and early summer months will have much an effect on its wine grapes.
“It has been a relief to have varieties not stacking up as in the last couple of years,” said Holly Evans, Delicato’s director of public relations.
Delicato has picked 23,000 tons thus far, focusing on the Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes. Evans said those varieties will be used in Delicato’s Bota Box, Gnarly Head and HandCraft brands.
Zinfandel and Cabernet grapes will be allowed more hang time – a term that references the length of time a grape remains on the vine.
“Canopy still looks good and we have good berry development,” Evans said.
“Quality looks fantastic. Intense flavors and good acidity. We had a heat wave early on, but didn’t to seem to affect berry development.”