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Saturday, July 7, 2012

2012 Grape-growing season as of early July

Currently things look great in Northern California. This, of course, just means nothing has gone wrong--no long heat waves, no long cool, foggy spells, no rain or high winds at the wrong time.

The first stages are Bud Break in early spring then Bloom in late spring. Both were a bit ahead of schedule and uneventful (farmers like "uneventful"). Also, good-sized crops are being reported making the folks who will be selling their grapes in the fall very happy.

With early summer comes the formation of the grape clusters. Vineyard workers are training the vines on the trellises then removing leaves to allow the proper amount of sunshine in. They are getting ready for when the grapes start to ripen later in the summer (producing sugar - called Veraison). This usually happens in early August, but with the other stages being early the ripening may start a bit ahead of schedule. There are already reports of some ripening happening in the warmer Central Valley.

The growers also like it when things happen ahead of schedule rather than behind. The later you go into the autumn to pick grapes the bigger the chance of rain that could damage the crop. So will harvest be early this year? Too early to tell. It depends on the weather and on crop size (larger crops take longer as the vine has only so much energy to spread around).

So far the year has been as good as can be hoped for. Definitely better than the last couple years. Does this mean better wine then most years? That's way too early to say, but I'd guess the growers and winemakers would say 2012 looks more like 2007 (a highly-rated vintage) than any season since then--at this point.

Late June cluster formation in Sonoma Valley
And it's not just northern California that's optimistic this year. An article on the Washington state season.