In ‘Grape’ Abundance

Francisco Rodrigues watches as a load of Cabernet Sauvignon

Most grape growers and vintners are excited about this year’s
bountiful harvest
Gilroy – Those who like to raise a glass and partake of the grape will be pleased with this year’s harvest as it could be one of the biggest in state history.

The California Agricultural Statistical Service (CASS) released new estimates Wednesday, putting this year’s crop of wine grapes at 3.2 million tons, up from the previous forecast of 2.95 million tons. Last year, 2.78 million tons of wine grapes were crushed, according to CASS. The largest year on record, which dates back to 1920, was 2000 when 3.36 million tons were harvested.

Local wineries are, for the most part, enjoying the abundance.

“We’ve just finished our harvest, and we were 20 percent above normal,” said Carlo Fortino of Hecker Pass Winery just outside of Gilroy. “As I walked through a few weeks ago, you could not see the vines for the grapes. It’s great. You always want more grapes.”

But Ed Pedrizzetti of Pedrizzetti Winery in Morgan Hill said there are “too many grapes.” Pedrizzetti buys grapes to produce his Merlots, Chardonnays, Cabernets and Zinfandels. He said central coast wineries particularly have an abundance, and therefore the prices of the grapes go down, but that might bring a drop in the price of wines next year. A similar trend occurred during the record harvest in 2000.

Locally it is too early to tell if Santa Clara County’s harvest will mirror the statewide trend, according to Kevin O’Day, deputy agricultural commissioner for the south county.

“Typically the vineyards we have here are well-established, with a higher-priced market, and an increase in grape production won’t be felt too much,” he said.

Mert Price, a deputy agriculture commissioner in the San Jose office, said he has talked to several vineyard owners and found variations among grape growers – some have larger than expected harvests, others say yields are down, and several more are just beginning their harvest.

“It really averages out, but it is still a little early here for us to tell for sure,” he said. “Grape prices in the Central Valley have been low, and almond prices are high, so you do see a movement in the state towards almonds. But you don’t see that type of movement here.”

Gino Fortino, of the Fortino Winery in Gilroy, said their harvest is up a bit from previous years. The quality of the grapes this year is very nice, he said.

“It has been nice and temperate, not too hot, not too cold,” he said. “The grapes have had a long hang time on the vine.”

Winemakers at Guglielmo Winery in Morgan Hill were unavailable for comment.

Most of the local wineries have finished harvesting or will within the next week or so. The grapes are crushed, and the winemaking process begins.

Hecker Pass’ Carlo Fortino, who is not related to Gino Fortino, also is excited about the potential of this year’s harvest.

“We had 43 inches of rain here this year, where we normally have 24 to 26,” he said. “We had a lot of rain early on, and when the buds were coming out, we had cool weather so they developed really nicely. Then when the foliage came in, it was hot, and the vines love the heat. But if you get it too early in the season, you can have burns. This season was just right.”

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