California’s 2007 wine grape harvest began early, stalled mid-way due to cool weather, and finished in late October to vintner accolades.
A mild winter with below-normal rainfall, coupled with a dry spring, led to early bud break. Although cluster counts were high in most locations, a sparse berry set in spring resulted in loose grape bunches. Additionally, berries were small, creating a greater skin to juice ratio, enhancing quality. The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s latest wine grape crop forecast was 3.2 million tons, up less than 1 percent from 2006.
“The 2007 year is one of the better vintages in recent history,” said Vince Bonotto, Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines Vice President of Vineyard Operations, overseeing vineyards in Napa and Monterey. “There was a lighter crop and yields were down from the past few years, but quality is extremely good,” he enthused.
Mark Gabrielli, Woodbridge Winery Vice President/General Manager in Woodbridge, was also excited about the vintage. “The good news is that we are extremely pleased with the quality of the 2007 harvest. Berry size was small — smaller than we have seen in more than 10 years — and the fruit developed intense varietal flavors with rich, mouth-filling tannins.”
Winemaker Ted Seghesio of Seghesio Family Vineyards in Sonoma also noted a crop smaller than previous vintages. “Overall quality at this point appears to be excellent,” he said. “Deeply colored and dark-fruited young wines possessing balanced acidities promise a successful vintage.”
A cool, moderate growing season heated up the latter part of August, causing multiple varieties to ripen at the same time. “At first it was run, run, get the grapes in before the sugars get too high,” commented Glenn Proctor of Ciatti Company in San Rafael. When the weather turned cool the second week in September, harvest went on hold in many locations, allowing for a less hectic pace. “The cooler weather and rainfall affected the entire state, although the North Coast saw the most significant precipitation,” said Proctor. “It was like two crushes. Everyone was running in the beginning, waiting in the middle, then running at the end to get the grapes off before the rains in October.”
“Around the first week in October, the jet stream dropped into Northern California, and we began experiencing periodic rain events every several days,” said Hal Huffsmith, Trinchero Family Estates Senior Vice President of Vineyard Operations. “Between the first of September and the first of October, the majority of our vineyards were harvested, while several properties in the Napa Valley were still being evaluated for flavor development in mid-October.”
“About 90 percent of the white grapes were in by the time it rained on the North Coast,” said Bill Turrentine of Turrentine Brokerage in Novato. The thicker-skinned Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties are less susceptible to moisture and remained on the vine until late October, developing mature, intense flavors. “Approximately 98 percent of the grapes were harvested by October 25.”
“In the interior Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, the crop was average in size and above average in quality,” added Turrentine. “In the Central Coast, it was about 35 percent below average in quantity, and the quality is very promising. The North Coast quality also looks very good, and the quantity is about 10-15 percent below average. 2007 promises to be a good year with concentrated fruit. Harvest started early, but cool harvest temperatures delayed maturation, and ripe, luscious flavors developed, often at lower sugar levels than usual.”
Accounting for two-thirds of all wine sold in the U.S., California wine sales in the U.S. reached another all-time high of 449 million gallons in 2006, with a retail value of $17.8 billion, according to wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson, publisher of the Gomberg-Fredrikson Report.
“California wines are benefiting from the growing U.S. wine culture,” said Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, President and CEO of the Wine Institute. “More Americans are enjoying wine than ever before. They can look forward to the exceptional quality of the 2007 vintage.”