Rain causes concern among wine growers

October 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the wine making business, harvest season is about crushing and squeezing, not getting squeezed. But, that is what an unusual year of weather has done to Sonoma County grape growers. A cool summer forced a longer growing season, prompting a shorter, more intense harvest, with growers trying to do eight weeks of picking in four.

Now comes a mid-October rain, and depending on the intensity, the clouds could signal curtains for the rest of the harvest, particularly for some of the more fragile crops.

"Farming is never easy," said Ryan Petersen, who manages vineyards for several growers. "This year, the zinfandel grapes have been hit especially hard."

The zinfandels fared well through most of the cool summer, but suffered during 10 consecutive days of 100 degree weather in August. Some vineyards lost as much as 60 percent of their crops. Now, rain threatens the unpicked rest with a possibility of rot.

"It's not the rain that hurts us, it's what happens after the rain," said Petersen. "The first couple of days after the rains leave will tell the story."

Petersen spent Friday rushing from one vineyard to another.

"We did get most of the grapes," he said. "Winemakers make the best of what nature deals them, every year. I think we still have the makings of a very good vintage."

Albeit, a smaller one.


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