Well, what a difference a year can make, that is the one constant I am always reminded of is no two growing years are the same they may be alike in some ways but never the same. Last year the widespread fires throughout the western states were the defining factor, leading to short grape tonnage. This year we had some fires but not to the extent of last year, however we had limiting rainfall and that resulted in lower tonnage from 5 to 20 percent in some regions. Together these back to back grape shortages dried up excess bulk inventory in California and beyond.
Central Valley being the largest grape producing region depends on rainfall but really depends on irrigation and water allocations to make up the late season water needs, which just were not available preliminary talk is 10 – 15 percent tonnage reduction, this was a surprise to some growers as they were seeing bunch counts at normal rates but at harvest grapes were not sizing up, quality is there overall. Harvest started one to two weeks early and everyone thought we were going to wrap-up in September, but the vineyards stalled out for a few weeks then slowly ripened dragging out the harvest till end of October. The upshot of all this was there were no grapes left to buy at the end of the season.
Central Coast had a similar pattern of except starting later and stalling out harvest did not end until the wineries screamed uncle around Thanksgiving, some ranches did not make minimum brix requirements. Overall quality was good, but tonnage was down 15 percent and it took forever to get the grapes in the winery due to tank space limitations in some wineries.
Northern Central region was the only one that had a close to normal year water was not so much a issue in the Lodi, delta area although that may change in the future. Chardonnay ended up historically normal although overall whites varieties seem to be a little short vs red varieties, quality is also very good for reds and whites.
North Coast region was very short volume in the order of 20 – 25% overall, some vineyards reported up to 50% reduction all this was related to the short rainfall season specifically the lack of late season rain. Especially hard hit were vineyards along the rivers that could not draw water out to irrigate. Quality was very good as fruit did not size-up and skin to juice ratio was high, with the low yields all the vineyards were in high demand. Some late season heat pushed fruit from stagnant to ripe in 3 to 4 days catching some wineries flatfooted. All this was exacerbated by the pandemic shipping issue, as you are thinking how will that effect the harvest, well some to most wineries had a backlog of bottling demands that were keeping barrels and tanks full, creating a very full winery with no place to crush fruit, in a sense we were lucky it was not a normal crop year.
So to recap, overall we made out OK, quality was good to excellent, weather cooperated other than the rain almost all got the fruit in the winery even with a short year in time to take a break for the holidays. With that being said I say if you need wine you better buy it now, don’t delay otherwise it will be gone until next year.
Happy Holidays!

Harry Parducci