Home Industry News Releases Harvest Is Underway in the Mountain Vineyards of the El Dorado AVA

Harvest Is Underway in the Mountain Vineyards of the El Dorado AVA

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Weather coddled the vineyards in 2023; natural disasters are at bay.

Placerville, El Dorado County, CA (September 14, 2023) – The harvest in El Dorado’s mountain terroir, with elevations from 1,100 to more than 3,500 feet, is always later than it is in other noted North Coast AVAs. Unlike other wine regions within the larger Sierra Foothills AVA, El Dorado has some of the highest-elevation vineyards in California, resulting in successful cultivation of numerous white and red varietals. Delayed budbreak pushes the growing cycle later in the season, when fall temperatures are milder and ripening slows. But in 2023, a long winter without unseasonable warmth and a very cool spring led to even later budbreak, and mild summer temperatures have gently pushed the fruit to ripeness. Reports from the El Dorado Eight, a profile-raising group of El Dorado growers and winemakers indicate that 2023, without spring frost and barring wildfires, will be a standout vintage.

In late August, vintners started to pick for sparkling, and by numerous reports, the harvest for sparkling was about two weeks later than recent normal harvest dates. Paul Bush of Madroña Vineyards, located in the northern part of the El Dorado AVA, recalls, “This year reminds me more of what we were seeing in the ’90s and early 2000s, when harvest was starting around mid-September and going into November.”

Tom Sinton, owner/vintner of Starfield Vineyards, also in the northern reaches of the AVA, identified another anomaly for the vintage. For the first time his reds finished veraison before the white varietals. He explains, “Possibly because the white varietals were affected by frost in 2022, they may have suffered some tissue damage in the cordons, which set their development back a couple of weeks this spring.” 

Labor Day weekend brought an unusual cool rainfall of approximately 0.5 inches, further slowing harvest. Bush, who farms his Madroña Vineyards organically, says, “The biggest concern was bunch rots, with Botrytis being at the top of the list, and without the arsenal of chemicals to spray, we did a lot of hand work opening vines, allowing breezes to flow through the canopy.” Sinton says, “The rain slowed everything down about one week. Along with about half an inch of rain, it was overcast weather for about three days, yet we’ve had very little damage from the rains.” Bush adds, “The rain did rinse off the leaves, potentially making them more efficient for photosynthesis and [giving] more breathing room in terms of moisture in case of wildfires.” 

The week following Labor Day, some varietals have finally made their way to crush-pads.  Edio at Delfino Farms, a Rhone-style wine house started their pick for still wines on September 6th receiving Mourvèdre, Grenache, Syrah for Rosé and Viognier coming in with yields low but full of character, according to GM, Christine Delfino Noonan. 

Les Heinsen, owner of Element 79 Vineyards producers of Zinfandel, classic Red Blends and Sparkling wines in Fair Play, the southern part of the AVA, says, “The growing season has given us excellent conditions for producing outstanding fruit.” It is to be expected that the El Dorado harvest of more than 70 varietals—Rhone, Italian, Spanish, and classic French—will showcase what the region’s winemakers and those from other North Coast AVAs who vie for this mountain fruit, have come to expect: bracing natural acidity, brightness, and liveliness with a conifer sensibility. 

About The El Dorado Eight

The El Dorado Eight are a collaboration of eight El Dorado AVA winery owners and principles putting resources to work to position the El Dorado wine region among top quality US wine producing regions.  All eight distinctive wineries share a common goal of promoting the unique and compelling character of wines from the El Dorado AVA which has the distinction of being one of the few US appellations defined by elevation which ranges from 1,200ft. – 3,500ft.

The El Dorado Eight are:  Boeger WineryEdio at Delfino FarmsElement 79 VineyardsGwinllan EstateLava Cap Winery, Madroña VineyardsMiraflores Vineyards & Winery, and Starfield Vineyards.

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