Home Industry News Releases California 2023 Winegrape Harvest Promises High Quality Despite the Late Start

California 2023 Winegrape Harvest Promises High Quality Despite the Late Start

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A long, cool growing season with plenty of rainfall has growers hopeful for a good vintage

August 31st – SAN FRANCISCO — The 2023 California winegrape harvest has gotten off to a late start, with vintners just beginning to pick in most regions. Due to cooler temperatures this spring and summer, which have allowed grapes to mature slowly and gradually, timing is anywhere from a week or two behind normal to nearly a month late. While it is still early in the harvest, California vintners are looking forward to a high-quality 2023 vintage.

Twomey Cellars in Napa Valley for example began picking Sauvignon Blanc grapes on Aug. 28, a week to 10 days later than normal. 

“It was just a drop in the bucket as far as volume, but it’s a start nonetheless,” noted Silver Oak Managing Director Nate Weis, who manages winemaking teams at Silver Oak, Twomey, OVID Napa Valley and Timeless Napa Valley. “This reminds me of when I started in this business — a more typical schedule.” 

Winter brought an unusual amount of rain in the Napa and Sonoma regions, he said, along with cool weather and wet soils that delayed and then extended the bloom period. Veraison began around late July and has proceeded slowly. Weis said the winery will likely start harvesting red varieties in approximately three weeks. 

“Phenology is kind of all over the place,” he said. “Pinot Noir seems to be very slow to finish veraison, so I think Bordeaux reds may start before Pinot in a lot of cases.” Although rain is always a concern with later-starting harvests, Weis noted that the slower development for Pinot Noir may be beneficial. “That could be a really good thing for quality as long as the weather holds.” 

Though the season’s humidity increased disease pressure, Weis hasn’t seen much mildew in the vineyards. “Because of the cool summer, everything’s looking pretty darn good,” he said. “I’m optimistic about that for sure.” 

At LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards in Lodi, harvest kicked off on Aug. 11 with grapes for sparkling wine. Co-founder Randy Lange estimated that vineyards are running two to three weeks behind the normal start of harvest, which typically begins in late July. 

“We had very cool weather all the way through spring,” Lange said. In response to the later start, he noted that LangeTwins’ vineyard crews dropped fruit for some late-ripening varieties that are unlikely to finish maturing before the season ends. 

Aaron Lange, vice president of vineyard operations, said heavy winter rains brought much-needed moisture to the vines after years of drought, yet the precipitation also increased the potential for mildew. 

“We’ve been working hard to mitigate those challenges and create the ideal ripening environment through shoot thinning, leaf removal and careful crop thinning,” he said. 

Aaron Lange estimated that Cabernet Sauvignon will be ready for picking around the first or second week of October rather than the typical timing of late September. “Overall, 2023 is shaping up to be a superior vintage,” he said. “We’re in a position to create one of the best crops ever in Lodi.” 

The situation appears similar in Paso Robles. As of late August, vintners in the region had not yet begun harvesting. 

“It’s been a slow-development year, despite some end of July and August heat. We are behind in our growing degree-day accumulation by two to three weeks,” said Stasi Seay, director of vineyards at Hope Family Wines. “What is clear is that harvest will be delayed as we move into a late veraison period.” 

Winter storms brought both benefits and challenges to the region, she added, from pushing down salts that had built up in the soils after years of drought to flooding in vineyards located near creeks and riverbeds. While wet and windy conditions during the spring bloom period caused some shatter and increased mildew pressure, berry growth has been good. 

“Overall, the increase in vine health from a wet winter is yielding more typically sized clusters in many varietals, which is great,” said Seay. “Late harvests can be tricky and nerve-wracking, but that said, they can also provide the much-needed hang time for natural maturation of berries, provided the fall weather is warm and steady. This will absolutely increase quality in red varietals.” 

For end-of-season details about the 2023 California winegrape harvest across the state, look for Wine Institute’s comprehensive annual report this fall. 

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