Heat speeding San Joaquin County harvest

It has been almost balmy across most of California this season. Not too hot, not too cold (after January anyway) — and the grapes are reflecting it.

“We’re slightly ahead of normal right now, and probably 10-14 days ahead of last year,” says Paul Verdegaal, San Joaquin County UCCE farm advisor. “With the latest heat, we’re picking up speed. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are starting to wrap up and the reds are coming on fast.”

Even the recent heat spike isn’t having too much of a negative impact.

“The impact is mostly the inconvenience for people, not so much for the grapes,” says Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission. “We had a pretty mild summer, so the vines are in good shape to take a few days of heat.”

The persistent buzz in the industry is vintage.

“That’s the upside for a year when yields are down,” Verdegaal says. “I’d say, overall, that yields are lighter than average, but even that is hit-and-miss. Some of the old vine Zin is off as much as 25 percent. On the other hand, we’re seeing good acids, flavor and very nice colors in the reds.”

In the meantime, it’s an ongoing effort to maintain what is shaping up to be a very good year for a wine connoisseur.

“The heat can tend to cause sugars to rise, either from extra ripening or desiccation,” Chandler says. “Many of the whites are already harvested, which is a good thing. We can also mitigate the heat by upping irrigation to cool the vineyard environment and handle any additional vine water demand.”

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