Upcoming wet forecast speeds up grape harvest in NorCal's wine country

ByCornell Barnard KGO logo
Monday, September 25, 2023
Upcoming wet forecast speeds up harvest in NorCal's wine country
With the potential of rain returning to Northern California this week, many vineyards are moving to pick some varieties quicker.

KENWOOD, Calif. (KGO) -- In the North Bay, the wine grape harvest is off to a late start due to a cold, wet spring, which delayed ripening.

Now, with the potential of rain returning to Northern California this week, many vineyards are moving to pick some varieties quicker. Despite weather roadblocks, many are optimistic 2023 will be a good vintage.

It's a busy week for Steve Ledson, a fifth-generation winemaker at Ledson Vineyards in Kenwood.

"I'm up at 3 o'clock in the morning, and I'm out in the vineyards getting people organized, checking fruit and stuff," Ledson said.

RELATED: Sonoma Valley winemakers expect delay in harvest season due to wet winter

It's harvest season for many white grape varieties. Most of the picking happens during overnight hours to keep the fruit cool.

"We picked Vinet last week, now we're looking at Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc," Ledson said.

He says the 2023 harvest has been delayed two-to-three weeks due to a cool, wet spring which slowed grape ripening and now there are more weather challenges ahead.

Smoke in the air from wildfires up north is not a huge concern for Steve and his crew because it's so high in the atmosphere but rain in the forecast is a concern for grapes still on the vine.

RELATED: Napa Valley's 2023 grape harvest may be delayed by weeks due to cool spring, summer

"Our red grapes, Cab, Merlot it won't really bother them. But the white grapes, what can happen if you have tight clusters, it gets botrytis, mildew and bunch rot," Ledson said.

The approaching rain is accelerating the picking of the grapes.

"Normally, this time of year we're in the 80s or 90s in mid-September, that's my concern. It's stalled the ripening process," said Brooks Painter, winemaking director at V. Sattui Vineyards in St. Helena.

Painter from V. Sattui Winery says his priority is harvesting white grape varieties at the label's vineyard in the Anderson Valley, which could see three-quarters of an inch of rain in the coming days.

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"The last thing you want is a heavy rain at the end of the harvest when we're ready to pick them," Painter said.

"I've been doing this my whole life, since I was a little kid," Ledson said.

Ledson says as farmers, you have to pivot with changing weather conditions. He believes when the harvest is done, they'll be something worth toasting to.

"As far as vintage quality, it's going to be some of the best, just incredible," he said.

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