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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

California Wine Grape Crop Looks Light

It’s early in the game but as harvest kicks into gear with grapes for white wines coming in, some varieties are picking out light, particularly along the North Coast and even more so in certain specific vineyards.

With a lighter crop of whites, growers have been able to move through fields fairly quickly, and with inventory relatively balanced, scheduling and deliveries have been smooth so far.

Earlier this month, the National Agricultural Statistics Service released its Pacific Region Crop Production Forecast, estimating California is on track to harvest approximately 3.6 million tons of wine grapes in 2021. A more typical California harvest would yield close to 4 million tons of wine grapes.

“Overall, it’s going to be on the lite side from what we can see,” Allied Grape Growers president Jeff Bitter said.

Nearly three quarters of wine grape tonnage in California comes from the Central Valley, which skews the numbers. The total includes big varieties producing a few hundred thousand tons in the interior alone.

Yields in the Central Valley on the whole appear about average this year, but are lighter in the Southern Central Valley.

Some varieties are looking average in size along the coast, but some North Coast vineyards are way, way off in tonnage according to anecdotal reports. Some of that is being attributed to the drought. There are early reports of some North Coast vineyards with yields down as much as fifty percent.

A lack of winter rainfall led to dry soils, which led to an uneven budbreak and uneven growth early in the season.“You had the early uneven growth and that led to uneven maturation, and some people had to drop crop to even it up,” Mark Greenspan, with wine-growing, consulting and vineyard management firm Advanced Viticulture said.

The drought may have positive consequences in terms of better quality this year, Greenspan said, but that could be offset by the uneven development. “It's not a slam dunk that the drought is going to yield better quality, but it could have a benefit.”

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