Posted: Aug 9, 2012 11:21 PM by Keli Moore
The wine grape growers of Santa Barbara County have reason to toast the upcoming harvest. After two years of low yields from bad weather conditions vineyards in the Santa Maria valley and outside of Lompoc all report normal growth patterns this year.
However, vintners in northern San Luis Obispo County aren't breathing so easy, just yet.
"It's kind of fun to check out how the heat has been affecting the grapes with a spectrometer," said Jason Joyce, the wine maker at Calcareous Vineyard in Paso Robles. "It measures how much sugar is in the grape."
Joyce was a chemist, but turned to making wine in 2007.
"The only way I know how to make wine is by tasting the grapes," he said as he popped one into his mouth Thursday.
The taste, he described, bitter.
"When you get the big jumps in sugar you know it's not because the grape is really ripe, it's high because of dehydration," he explained. And the heat was to blame.
One week ago almost all the grapes at Calcareous Vineyard were green, but after a week of steady temps, the grapes turned purple.
Purple does not mean that it's time to pick, explained Joyce.
"These grapes are designed to be in heat," he said. "North county wine makers are grinning."
Triple digits don't slow things down or speed them up, he explained. Once temps are above 90 degrees, the vines go into a safety mode.
But what if the heat continued to rise?
"One week of high temps is okay, but if it went on for another week - there would be less smiles on my face," said Joyce.
That's because he said the grapes can produce too much sugar, and this would affect the taste of the wine.
The ideal temperature for grapes grown in Paso Robles is mid-90s.
Vintners expect harvest to begin the first week in September.
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