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Central Coast wine industry sees late harvest after cool, wet winter

Posted at 6:42 AM, Sep 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-30 09:52:12-04

For San Luis Obispo County vineyards, harvest is taking place about two to three weeks later than in recent years due to the cold, rainy winter and minimal summertime heat streaks.

"It's been a cool growing season so that means our harvest is later than average," Stephen Ross Wine Cellars Owner and Winemaker Stephen Dooley said. "Cool but that usually means high quality as far as flavors and quality of wine and good acidity. So things look really good this year."

Dooley said about 180 tons of grapes are being plucked from the vine and processed before they're eventually served to customers.

Though the process is just getting started, Dooley remembers a season about four years ago when harvest was already wrapping up by the end of September.

A report from Solterra Strategies, which represents Central Coast wineries and vineyards, finds this year's harvest is reminiscent of the early 2000s, a time some winemakers called the "old normal."

That's when cooler, wetter weather pushed harvest's end to Thanksgiving.

"Usually the amount of rain we get two years before the growing season impacts the yields, so last year we got a lot of rain, but it's really the rain we got two years ago that impacts the yields this year," Dooley said. "So the yields are off a little bit but just a little below average, so that's good for wine quality."

The Solterra Strategies report does point out that higher humidity and more moisture are creating extra work for some Central Coast wineries, which are experiencing lower yields and high levels of mildew.

Dooley said his harvesters report seeing mildew on vines, which means more money spent on fungicides.

The report states Arroyo Grande vineyards are the exception to most of these findings.

Overall, winemakers say the outlook for this harvest season is overwhelmingly positive.

In 2017, San Luis Obispo County's wine industry generated $276 million.