Heard it through the grapevine | TheUnion.com

Heard it through the grapevine

The rows between western Nevada County’s grapevines, usually filled with harvesters this time of year, are empty at many local vineyards.

A stiff May frost, combined with an unusually cool summer, ensured a smaller than average, delayed harvest this year.

“It’s looking like our harvest is going to be later than we’ve ever had historically,” said Rob Chrisman of Avanguardia Wines, northwest of Nevada City.

Vineyard operators monitor sugar content in the fruit to determine when to harvest. “We’re at least a couple of weeks away still.”

Vineyards across the county reported harvests were running anywhere from one to four weeks behind schedule. They also reported smaller harvests than average, owing to a May 22 frost that killed off large portions of grapevines.

“We lost about 60 percent of our crop from the frost,” said Henry Coufos of Coufos Vineyards in Rough and Ready. “Whatever was flowering at that point is gone.”

Smith Vineyards reported losing 80 percent of its fruit from the frost, but the grapes still hanging on are of very good quality, said vineyard owner Chris Smith.

Workers recently harvested Smith’s five acres of chardonnay grapes, gathering 2.3 tons of fruit at the property on Dog Bar Road south of Grass Valley. On a good year, each acre will produce three tons, Smith said.

The Double Oak Vineyard, on the San Juan Ridge, lost all of its chardonnay grapes to the May frost, said owner Bob Hilsman.

“That’s farming,” he said.

The late harvest has a silver lining for wine enthusiasts, though.

“I’ve heard the quality is going to be excellent this year because of the late ripening,” said Nevada County Agriculture Commissioner Jeff Pylman. “It should have better quality and flavor.”

The major worry for growers facing late harvest is the potential for rain to fall before their grapes are ready to pick.

“The reds will take a little bit of rain, but for the whites, it’s really bad” said Bill Stokes, who operates the S&L Vineyard in Penn Valley. “We’re very wary of rain at this time of year.”

Saturday night’s showers weren’t enough to damage the grapes extensively, said Mike Naggiar, owner of the 60-acre Naggiar Vineyards outside of Grass Valley.

“The showers don’t matter much, we’re not rushing out to pick everything,” he said. “In general, it’s worrisome if you’re getting the big downpours.”

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

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