Grape Market Field Reports as of 8/14/2013
Brian Clements, Mike Needham & Alicia Kump
The North Coast in general is looking to be a little ahead of where we were last year at this time physiologically. The abnormally cool weather lately has slowed down the ripening considerably. Winemakers are not complaining though; the slower the rate of maturity should help with hang time and flavor development. Crop estimates are all over the board but most lean toward average to above average, for all varieties. The grizzled veterans, however, seem skeptical of back to back record crops after a dry spring. This is especially true for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Not many tons are still available in the North Coast at this late date and the few growers with uncommitted fruit are generally holding out for county average or better. We also have had some winery-owned or controlled fruit, including some Napa Valley fruit, which in some cases could be more negotiable.
North Coast growers are having to be very proactive in their spray programs due to the higher disease pressure from the late rains in June and the subsequent higher humidity.
Another problem is labor. If you want ten men, you’re lucky to get five, and it does not look like that is going to change soon. A lot of growers have had to increase pay or risk losing their already inadequate work force. Labor issues have caused some growers to fall behind on cultural practices.
Erica Moyer (Northern Monterey) & Audra Cooper (Southern Monterey, San Luis Obispo Co., Santa Barbara)
Monterey Chardonnay looks strong but Monterey Pinot Noir is much lighter than last year.
In Paso Robles and Santa Barbara, the crop is mostly average and mostly committed, with some Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Aromatic Whites and some Paso Robles Merlot still for sale. A few buyers are still active.
INTERIOR – Erica Moyer
With maturities running a week to ten days ahead of last year, Interior growers are finding that some facilities are not quite ready to swing open their gates for grape deliveries even as some vineyards reach target sugar levels. When those gates do open, the trucks will flood in.
Some wineries, of course, have been open a couple of weeks already and have crushed a lot of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Muscat varieties and Pinot Noir are not far behind.
The crop size is all over the board. There are so many factors that are influencing yields that even the “seasoned” folks are scratching their heads. Much of the variation is due to water (who has it and who used it), mildew (who has it, who doesn’t) and heat impact.
The only variety that seems consistent across the Interior is Zinfandel, looking big, again.
The whites seem to have been impacted by the heat.
Maybe we will see some sizing in reds with the recent temperate weather.