It was the coldest July on record in Santa Barbara and was paired with daily marine layer fogs that growers, winemakers and residents alike usually experience only in May (“May Gray”) and June (“June gloom”).
While there has been some nail-biting amongst the wine-growing community, smiles have broken through with the warm, sun filled August and September weather. “The cool summer has delayed harvest a few weeks, but we’re now starting to pick the early whites and sparkling wines,” notes Jim Fiolek, Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association Executive Director. “The longer time on the vine and lower temperatures during the growing and ripening season has led to beautiful varietal flavors and balanced sugars. Those who have picked are stoked with the quality of the grapes.”
Most reports into the Vintners’ Association report first harvests of Pinot Gris/Grigio and both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir destined for sparkling wines. Grapes for “bubbles” have been picked by Flying Goat Cellars, Fiddlehead Cellars, Foxen and Riverbench, among others. And the beautiful russet hued Pinot Grigio/Gris grapes are being pressed at Costa de Oro, Longoria, and Palmina.
“We’re about 10 days later than last year”, says Marilyn Honea of the Honea Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. “But the fruit is stellar, so I guess that worrying paid off!” In Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, in the far eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley, winemaker Kathy Joseph has started her Sauvignon Blanc harvest. “We’re picking in nice, manageable waves as each block and vineyard ripens. Great flavors and zesty acidity. We’re thrilled.”
Santa Barbara’s wine country boasts transverse east-to-west valleys rather than the normal north-to-south orientation. This provides multitudes of micro-climates and allows area winegrowers to craft quality wines of dozens of varietals. “We are the epitome of wine diversity here” says Fiolek. “Really, something for just about everyone and all of the highest caliber.” With warm and moderate temperatures forecast in the region for the next few weeks, many vintners expect to begin harvest in earnest within the next few weeks. “October is going to be a busy month!” Fiolek forecasts.
For more information, call the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association office at (805) 688-0881.