California’s 2018 harvest ‘played out like a dream’

California’s 2018 harvest “played out like a dream” for winegrowers across the state, according to the 2018 harvest report from California Wines, thanks to a long growing season and moderate temperatures throughout the spring and summer.

Generally, picking began around 10 days to three weeks later than in 2017, with vintners reporting “exceptional quality” thanks to “consistent growing conditions and cooler temperatures”, which allowed the grapes to mature slowly.

Like many wineries in the North Coast region, Napa’s Black Stallion Estate Winery began picking two weeks later than in 2017. “Fortunately, compared to previous years, we did not see any major heat waves in the early part of harvest, so the fruit ripened evenly and stress-free,” said winemaker Ralf Holdenried.

In Lodi, vintners began picking old-vine Zinfandel mid-September. “This year we’ve seen a later bud break, set and veraison, followed by a hot July and a cool August,” said Stuart Spencer of St. Amant Winery. “The cool temperatures in mid- to late-September led to gradual sugar accumulation and good flavor development. In general, we saw better flavors at lower sugars and the quality looks great.”

Overall, the United States Department of Agriculture forecast volumes of 4.1 million tons in 2018 in August, up 2% from 2017, and above the historical average of 3.9 million tons.

Mark Burningham, director of grower relations for Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, is equally optimistic about the 2018 vintage. “This is one of those years where everyone is happy,” he said. “Yields are up and quality is excellent, thanks to the moderate temperatures and dry conditions.”

A few regions, including Temecula, Paso Robles and San Diego County, experienced issues with heat spikes, but most reported even temperatures throughout the season with little-to-no frost damage, said California Wines. Drought continues to be a challenge, particularly in Santa Barbara County, however vintners in this region also reported a healthy crop for 2018.

“The vines produced a big, bountiful crop that we began harvesting in mid-September,” said Karen Steinwachs of Buttonwood Winery & Vineyard in Solvang. “The hottest July on record led to cool temperatures in August, continuing into September. Cold, crisp evenings kept our legendary Santa Barbara County acidity in the grapes, and the flavors are simply divine.”

Click through for a more detailed snapshot of the conditions seen across California during the 2018 harvest…

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