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Mendocino and Sonoma wine growers may have lucked out. With a cold, wet winter and a spring that looked like more of the same, it could have been a catastrophe for wine grape growers. Instead it looks like a pretty good year.
Said Allan Green, owner and winemaker at Greenwood Ridge Vineyards in Mendocino county, "Although the yields were down, the quality was excellent."
Most of the harvest is now in.
The wet winter and the storms in spring were the reasons for the lower yield.
In Anderson Valley, said Green, "it was so cold this spring, or this so-called spring," that the bloom did not get a chance to set properly for some wine grapes.
For Gewurztraminer, an early-bloomer, yields were down as much as 80%. "It was trying to bloom," said Green, "just when we had some really unnaturally cold and rainy weather." Green calls the flowering stage a "critical point" when relatively warm, dry weather is required.
Jim Sallee, deputy agricultural commissioner in Sonoma county, said some Sonoma growers were down as much as 60% on "some small blocks, but most growers were in the 85 to 90% range." Percentages are comparisons to a twenty-year average.
Merlot and Chardonnay yields were down the most in Sonoma county, said Sallee.
While the wet, cold winter hurt the bloom and reduced the yield, the lack of rain during the fall harvest season has been a blessing. "We didn't have our typical bunch rots and problems with funguses. In that way I think we got out unscathed."
On another positive note, Sallee said that some of the problems anticipated because of the winter flooding did not materialize. "Things seemed to dry out."
Sonoma runs neck and neck with Napa county in total wine grape production. Thirty-four thousand acres are under cultivation, and in 1994 the harvest yielded total revenues of $152,280,00. 1995 revenues are likely to be a little less this year, according to Sallee.
Even though this year's yield is down, Green said, "Generally, everybody's real happy with the grapes we do have."
He's also very optimistic about Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Merlot. "What you really want is grapes that get nice and ripe but take a long time to do it, and that's what we had with the Merlot this year."
He's picking cabernet sauvignon this week. "We're usually one of the last," said Green. In Sonoma county 98% of the grapes have been harvested.
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