John Holland, The Modesto Bee (MCT)
Nov. 11—California wineries brought in a solid grape crop despite drought, heat spikes and wildfire smoke in 2021.
Tuesday’s report from the Wine Institute bodes well for the Modesto-area companies that produce much of the wine volume and employ several thousand people.
The industry group, based in San Francisco, did not report this year’s volume in its news release. It did say the quality was high, in part because smaller grapes tend to make better wine.
“We source grapes from up and down the state, and the most consistent item of note this year is how good the fruit looked and tasted,” said John Kane, vice president of winemaking and winery operations at Fetzer Vineyards in Mendocino County.
California accounts for about 80% of the nation’s wine volume. Much of it is lower-priced bottles from the San Joaquin Valley. Some comes from Napa, Sonoma, Lodi and other premium regions.
The largest company, E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto, has operations in both the Valley and premium regions. So do The Wine Group, whose holdings include the Franzia plant near Ripon; Bronco Wine Co., south of Ceres; and Delicato Family Wines, based in Napa and Manteca.
The harvest happened amid the second year of a drought that reduced water for some growers. They reported practices that can stretch the supplies, such as removing some of the grape leaves to get more moisture to the berries.
Wildfire smoke can taint the grapes, but it was not as much of a problem as in recent years in Napa and other regions. This year also had more days than usual when the temperature topped 100 degrees, but the weather overall was favorable.
Winemakers value smaller grapes because the higher ratio of skin to pulp enhances flavor and texture.
“We had to deal with drought conditions across Napa and Sonoma County, leading to lower cluster weights,” said Corey Beck, executive vice president of production and chief winemaker at Delicato. “The good news is that we see a fantastic concentration of flavors and color in our reds.”
The report covers regions ranging from the north coast to the Temecula region in Southern California. Those close to Modesto include Livermore, the Sierra Nevada foothills and Madera County.
“I can say with confidence that our 2021 vintage is shaping up to be one of the best in the past decade,” said Marty Spate, vice president of winemaking and winegrowing at O’Neill Vintners & Distillers in Parlier, Fresno County.
This story was originally published November 11, 2021 6:00 AM.
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