Winemakers anticipating early grape harvest

NAPA, Calif.

The French word "verasian" describes when grapes turn from green to purple and signals ripening. It's happening now in the Napa Valley. According to Tom Davies, who runs V. Sattui Winery, this is the warning bell, or the start of a countdown to a harvest that may begin three weeks earlier, this year

It's all due to the weather. The dry spring kick started the grape growing season.

"If we were an earlier harvest for the north coast, it's a good thing, because this is a cooler climate area," Davies said. "If we can get the grapes in sooner, then we're not backed up into late October, early November and that is when bad things happen."

An early harvest is not unprecedented, but hardly normal. It happens about 10 percent of the time.

In reality, every wine from every season, even from the same vineyard, is different. Early wines from warmer seasons may be bolder, with more alcohol.

If the reds seem to be ripening fast, they're nothing compared with the whites. They don't change color, they just get softer and those grapes are almost ready now. Champagne grape growers say they could be picking by the first week of August.

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