2013 proves to be a good year for California grape harvest

Feb 20, 2014 7:57 PM

While the dry weather is not so good for some crops, it's turning out to be helpful for California vineyards. Wine grapes are one of the state's top commodities. The crop netted more than $3 billion last year, according to the California Association of Wine Grape Growers. For vineyards in the North State, the mild weather is producing positive results.

Toby Leonard, co-owner of Long Creek Vineyards & Ranch says, "This year we experienced higher yields, almost double our yields, and we also had quality that we're very pleased with. I think that's something all of our neighboring vineyards are experiencing."

Preliminary figures from the Department of Food and Agriculture show that red and white varieties combined weighed in at 4.23 million tons. That's up 5% from 2012. The moderate conditions not only helped with production, but it was good for plant health as well.

"We had less powdery mildew, less botrytis, and we had less pest pressure as well," says Leonard.

A lot of vineyards have had to harvest early and some are even pruning early after seeing the vines start to bud. The drought conditions have been good for the vines, but because they haven't had a chance to go dormant, which they normally do, growers are going to have to keep a close eye on them in case of a deep freeze which could negatively affect future yields. While some places harvested early others, like Hickman Family Vineyards in Bangor, waited to try and get the best flavor possible out of their grapes.

"We usually dry farm and so last year we actually had to water about 4 times, but because of the dry weather we were able to get the grapes to have an intense flavor out of it. They were able to stay on the vines longer," says Alyse Hickman.

Local vineyard owners say if the mild conditions continue it will be good for the 2014 crop, but if temperatures drop below freezing it could mean a much smaller yield than 2013.


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