Harvest at vineyard would double Nevada County’s grape production | TheUnion.com

Harvest at vineyard would double Nevada County’s grape production

Harvest season came and went last year at the former Indian Springs Vineyards in Penn Valley, and the grapes stayed on their vines. About 240 acres of harvest at what is now called the Penn Valley Vineyard – roughly half of Nevada County’s wine grape output – were lost when owner Catlin Properties was foreclosed on in July.

This year, though, a harvest is planned, and local wine and agriculture officials are thankful. S&L vineyards, a Lodi-based vintner, took out a lease on the property with Stokes Brothers Farms from Catlin and will harvest the grapes this year.

“It will be excellent to have them harvest,” said Jeff Pylman, Nevada County Agriculture Commissioner. “We’d be back to where we were as a county in terms of production. I hate to see that vineyard go unmanaged.”

Bill Stokes, owner of S&L and Stokes Brothers, said workers have been pruning the vines since they took out the lease in December. He declined to release the lease details other than saying it was a multi-year agreement. The vineyard is up for sale at a trustee auction on March 19.

Catlin bought the Indian Springs Property in 2006 and renamed it Pendagio Vineyard Estates until the property was foreclosed on last year.

The plan is to bottle and sell the wines as a Nevada County/Sierra Foothills appellation, meaning they will be marketed as originating in Nevada County. That’s good news, said local wine expert and The Union columnist Rod Byers.

“Every label that states Nevada County as the origin of the grapes is like a little advertisement for our county and wine industry,” Byers said in an e-mail. “We are still fighting the battle of ‘where in Nevada is Nevada County’ and ‘I didn’t know they grew grapes in Nevada,’ so anything that draws attention to our vineyards is good.”

The alternative, Byers said, is a practice employed by very large wineries that buy vineyards and mix the grapes from other regions at a centralized location, thus dropping any regional identity from the final label.

Stokes said he does plan to use some of the grapes for non-regional labels, but said a majority will go toward a label with Nevada County listed as the region.

Farms left untended for a harvest season, as the Penn Valley Vineyard was in 2009, can develop some problems, Pylman said.

“The main concern is that if a grape pest could get established that could become the source of the problem for a lot of the county’s other vineyards,” Pylman said.

He also said vines that weren’t pruned regularly could become unruly and take severe trimming to continue to produce high-quality grapes.

The farm has only experienced some moderate problems with the irrigation system after the missed harvest last year, Stokes said.

“The major thing for us is just to get some work done on the irrigation system,” Stokes said. “We’ve got a plan for that, though. It was no secret what we were getting into.”

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail kmagin@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4239.

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