Mendocino Growers Optimistic for 2018 Harvest

Conditions a return to normal, several growers report resorting to H2A process for labor  

by L.M. Archer

The winemaker and vineyard manager for Bonterra report 2018 has brough excellent conditions in the company's organic vineyards that include Butler Ranch, seen here, located north east of Anderson Valley.
Bonterra Organic Vineyards, Butler Ranch, Anderson Valley.

Ukiah, Calif.—From ideal flowering and “nearly normal” bud break, to favorable fruit set and encouraging cluster counts, Mendocino County growers and vintners are optimistic for “a great vintage” in 2018.

Stuart Bewley of Alder Springs Vineyard near Laytonville, Calif., has been growing grapes in remote northern Mendocino since 1993. He reports a nearly ideal flowering and somewhat early but “nearly normal” bud break due to mild, almost cool temperatures, adequate rainfall, a lack of wind events, and minimal frost. “Overall, the weather has been really excellent,” he said. Bewley estimates a veraison date of Aug. 5, sparkling wine harvest on Sept. 1, and still wine harvest Sept. 10-15.

Alder Springs Vineyard boasts 57 grape varieties, 153 clonal selections and 13 to 15 root selections. Crop averages vary according to cultivar, with a preference for lower yields. “We’re seeing fairly good set in most blocks,” Bewley said. “I’m not hearing about above-average yields.” He said it appears Chardonnay will be the first variety harvested, and added he’s seen only minimal pest pressure. The grower relies on natural predators and applications of non-aggressive, “soft” products such as stylet oil only when needed. He also notes no wildfire smoke impact this year. But Bewley does say that labor continues to be a problem, leading to his involvement in the H2A worker program. “Our situation with labor is okay, but it’s also super cumbersome and expensive,” he said. “At least we can get our work done in a timely manner.“

Bonterra Organic Vineyards’ winemaker Jeff Cichocki and vineyard director Joseph Brinkley offered equally favorable reports from their inland Mendocino vineyards in the Sanel and Ukiah valley areas. “By all indications so far, 2018 is on track to be a great vintage. We’ve gotten a fair amount of rain—not quite to average levels but certainly superior to the drought years — and very little frost,” Cichocki said. “We’re already seeing better fruit set in terms of cluster counts. Overall, we’re highly optimistic this vintage will deliver excellent quality.” Read more here. Copyright ©Wines and Vines Magazine.

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