Wine grape harvest begins in Carneros region of Napa, Sonoma counties

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The 2017 grape harvest began early Monday morning in American Canyon as a crew of about 40 workers quickly and efficiently picked rows of pinot noir grapes that will go into premium sparkling wine that has driven the North Coast economy for generations.

In Sonoma County, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards in Sonoma also harvested its first crop Monday at the western edge of the Carneros wine region. Iron Horse Vineyards in Sebastopol will start its harvest on Tuesday.

This year’s season resembles more of the historical norm as opposed to the early harvests in recent years and should wrap up by early November. Last year, harvest kicked off on July 28.The crop also is expected to generate at least an average yield, growers said. Last year, 503,965 tons of wine grapes were harvested in the North Coast, which was a 25 percent increase over the dismal 2015 season.

“It is rewarding so far because it has been a challenging growing season,” said Mumm Napa winemaker Ludovic Dervin, who will take the five acres of grapes that were harvested and turn it into a sparkling wine blend that should be available for purchase in about three years. Mumm’s wines sell from $25 to $125 a bottle.

The season started with heavy winter rains that were welcome after five years of drought and helped rejuvenate the vines’ root system. In the spring, bud break occurred without any extreme temperature changes that could have threatened the setting of the fruit.

The summer has not featured any prolonged heat spikes that could cause problems such as grapes shriveling on the vine. Growers, however had to confront aggressive leaf growth on their canopies that triggered sporadic outbreaks of powdery mildew, a fungus that can lessen quality and quantity, if left unchecked.

“Mildew has been a challenge in some locations,” said Julie Nord, the vineyard manager overseeing the pick at the Green Island Vineyard, located where the Napa River meets San Pablo Bay.

Harvest is expected to kick off later this week in Sonoma County, said Karissa Kruse, executive director of the Sonoma County winegrowers trade group.

Check back later for more details.

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