(Monterey, CA) August 21, 2015 – After several years of bumper crops, the 2015 wine grape harvest in Monterey County is moving about 2 weeks early and may be anywhere from 20% – 40% smaller than past large vintages. Unusual weather patterns and ongoing effects of the drought are mostly to blame. However, smaller crop yields aren’t seen as adverse to winemakers, because the quality remains, if not making flavors more complex.
In general, the northern most AVA’s (American Viticulture Areas) in Monterey harvest first. Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH), off River Road, began the 2015 harvest on July 28 with sparkling wine grapes at Caraccioli’s Escolle Vineyard. Additional vineyards in SLH are now or soon to be harvesting their world renowned Pinot Noir. Wine Spectator recently rated SLH’s 2013 vintage of Pinot Noir “outstanding”, making it the highest rated vintage compared to the other California Pinot Noir regions.
Other areas are also actively or soon to be harvesting. The Chalone AVA (near the Pinnacles) has started harvesting its grapes and will be the first to end the process by the beginning of September.
The Arroyo Seco AVA also seems to be bustling with pre-harvest excitement according to Michael Griva, Owner F&G Vineyard and President of the Arroyo Seco Winegrape Growers. “Many wine grape growers in Arroyo Seco started harvesting as early as August 10, picking Pinot Noir grapes for sparkling wine. The weather this vintage has been variable and unpredictable. We had warm weather early in the season that had bud break occurring earlier than normal, cool winds and rain during bloom only made this harvest more anticipated.”
Making harvest time even more erratic is the order in which some varieties are ready for harvest. “At Bernardus we’re picking 2 weeks earlier than we’ve ever picked,” relays Matt Shea, Grower at Bernardus Vineyards. “This is the first time we’re bringing in Pinot Noir before Sauvignon Blanc. Not all of the Pinot – just here and there. It makes things difficult on the crush pad because we have different varietals being crushed at the same time and on top of that we’re also bottling.”
While lack of rain continues to stress the vines throughout the county, it isn’t perceived as much of a negative. Grapes are typically a low water usage crop, but when stressed they yield less and conserve flavors, resulting in rich, concentrated wines.
Sabrine Rodems, winemaker for Wrath Wines resonates a positive tone, “Hopefully we’ll have a bit of a cooling trend and restore a normal progression of varieties. But for now, all numbers and flavors look really good.” Sabrine is also owner of her own brand Scratch and wine consultant for several other Monterey brands.