The 2012 El Dorado County wine grape crush has begun. A wide variety of microclimates throughout the county and a warm summer have vineyards and wineries gearing up with different start times for their crush, but all agree that it looks like a good year.
During the last week of August, Lava Cap Winery, 2221 Fruitridge Road, just east of Placerville, began their crush with sauvignon blanc grapes picked from a local vineyard.
“Every year the harvest is different and it’s mostly weather-related,” said Lava Cap winemaker Tom Jones. “Last year a lot of our whites got wiped out, but this year they look great. The acids are high and the sugars are keeping pace with them. We’re having a longer “hang” time and that adds flavor.”
Jones said one sign of a good sauvignon blanc wine is that it tastes like apple cider while in the juice stage.” And this year’s juice tastes like fresh cider. It’s a promising year.”
“We had a good spring, a good growing season and the grapes are ripening well, ” said Charles Mitchell of Charles B. Mitchell Winery, 8221 Stoney Creek Road, Fair Play, in the south of the county. “We had a sea of wine in 2009, late rain and frost in 2010, cold and a late crush in 2011 and, this year with these last few weeks of hot days and very warm nights, we’re going to be ready a month earlier than usual. We’ll start our crush with sauvingon blanc the first week in September.”
Mitchell said he waits for the grapes to properly ripen before picking.
“The glut of grapes is gone and it’s a grower’s market this year,” said Mitchell. “Grape prices are up and it looks like a good size harvest.”
Another Fair Play winery, dk Cellars, 7380 Vineyard View, appreciated having a normal growing year after two tough years.
“It’s been less challenging and easier. We’re right on schedule with our picking around Sept. 12. It’s a little hard to tell yet, but the quantity looks a little light,” said Dave Pratt. dk will be picking chardonnay grapes first and then semillion. “We expect things to move right along this year,”
“We’re looking at a great harvest — good set, good quantity — an exceptional year, ” said Paul Bush at Madrona Winery, 2560 High Hill Road, Camino. The elevation at Madrona is 3,000 feet.
“We worked a lot harder in the field last year and this year it’s like God felt sorry for us and gave us a straight-forward, easy year with a good harvest and great quality,” Bush said.
Madrona will start its crush mid-September with yellow muscat, gewurtztraminer and then Dijon clone chardonnay grapes.
At the 1,300-1,500 elevation, Gold Hill Vineyard and Brewery, 5660 Vineyard Lane, Coloma, has the benefits of the nearby American River to create the perfect micro climate said Bryna Dacus, president and CEO.
“We don’t get too hot or too cold. Last year’s weather created a lot of mildew for certain varietals and the yields were lower than normal, but this year’s warm weather has helped mature the fruit beautifully. The yield should be fantastic.”Gold Hill will start picking Chardonnay grapes in mid-September.
In the west part of the county, the micro climate at Chevalier Winery, 5220 French Creek Road in the French Creek Valley, produced warm, but not hot days and cool nights this summer.
“We’ll be picking our cabernet grapes at the end of October instead of mid-October,” said Pierre Chevalier. “We’re about two weeks behind. Even the blackberries are still red.”
Chevalier said his grapes grow in an area 10-12 degrees cooler than in the Fair Play and Camino areas and aren’t exposed to all-day sun. “You need at least 55 degrees at night for the grapes to continue to mature and we’ve already been in the 40s and 30s.”
The cooler weather allows for cabernet and Bordeaux varieties to develop intense flavor and this year, the quantity is good, although an accurate estimation won’t be available until after the harvest begins. Rain late in the season, during the harvest, is not usually a problem for Chevalier.
“It lasts only a short time and then it dries up,” said Chevalier. “Right now it is very dry, drier than I’ve ever seen.”
Guy Herriot of Fenton-Herriot Winery, 120 Jacquier Way, Placerville said they are picking chardonnay grapes at Walker Vineyards in Diamond Springs for their first crush. “Our own crop looks like a good one, but we’re a little behind our normal picking time. We’ll be picking chardonnay first and then gewurtztraminer.”
El Dorado’s wine grapes brought in more than $5 million in 2011 and according to growers, 2012 could be an even better year.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or email@example.com. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.