Foothill Growers Happy With ‘Normal’ Vintage

Sierra Foothills wine growers anticipate a 'normal' harvest in 2018.While labor remains a challenge, relief at a lack vintage “drama” and hopes for normal yields

by L. M. Archer

Placerville, Calif—Several growers in the Sierra Nevada foothills, a sprawling wine region ranging in microclimates, soil types and elevations, say they are cautiously optimistic about the 2018 vintage.

Amador County

“The season started out on the cool side, but we’ve seen some heat spikes this past month,” said Ann Kraemer, owner and vineyard manager of Shake Ridge Vineyards in Amador County. She added the haze from fires in the Yosemite Valley and Mendocino, Lake and Shasta counties have influenced temperatures since early August and night time temps remain low.

After a completely dry January and February, “consistent” rain totaling almost 26 inches arrived in early spring. Kraemer reports a slightly late, somewhat staggered bud break this year due to a few late frost events in April, but a great flowering that resulted in “very good” set for most varieties, “to the point of worrying about too tight of clusters.” She added she’s held off on irrigation to keep the berry size as small as possible.

With veraison starting the first full week of August, Kraemer says this puts Amador about a week later than last year, which she considers “normal” after earlier drought years. She said she expects harvest to start in September. “By mid-September, we should be going full steam,” she said.

Amador County is home to 56 wineries according to the Wines Vines Analytics database, and Jack Gorman, executive director of the Amador Vintners Association said, “I continue to hear that labor, both for harvesting and crushing, is a growing concern.”

He said most of the vineyards in Amador County are not suitable for mechanized harvesting, “therefore, we are heavily depending on people.”

Lack of a broad labor pool, and a competitive labor environment during harvest, continues to make finding sufficient workers for vineyards a challenge. Read more here,
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