Storm delays grape harvest in Napa

October 13, 2009 7:35:52 PM PDT
The rain has caused a different kind of delay for what may be California's most famous export -- wine.

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It is not unusual to have rain in October, but this much rain is threatening grapes dangling from the vines.

For all the problems the storm has caused, for most it probably did not threaten the outcome from one year's work. But that is exactly what grape growers in Napa County are afraid of.

"Historically, in the past 20 years, we have not had this much rain this early," Dave Mitchell said.

Mitchell grows upscale grapes for Beckstoffer Vineyards; 4,000 tons in the Napa Valley alone. He knows as well as anyone that grapes and rain do not always mix well at this time of year.

Cabernet grapes are sturdy enough to withstand some rain, but elsewhere in the valley some of the other grape varieties have not fared as well, but generally, wine makers do not see this storm as threatening a quality vintage.

"Maybe there is 10 percent of the harvest out there, 15 percent at most," Beaulieu Vineyard Chief Winemaker Jeffrey Stambor said.

At Beaulieu Vineyard, Stambor spent Tuesday hand sorting and casking the grapes for his George de la Tour cabernet.

"Right now it's a question of getting back in; this rain is not going to affect our vintage," Stambor said.

The frustration with rain at a time like this is that the grapes are perfect, rain delays their picking.

"Time is money, the longer we have to wait, the more we have to wonder if the quality will still be there before we get back to the field," Mitchell said.

They estimate later in the week a little sun a lot of drying will make up for the heavy rains.

"We'll be alright," Mitchell said.

FULL STORM COVERAGE:

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