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California 2015 wine harvest shrinks but ‘quality high’

There is a smaller crop in the California 2015 wine harvest, but producers in several regions are upbeat about quality and particulary for Cabernet Sauvignon, says the region's Wine Institute.

The California 2015 wine harvest is only the third since 1982 that has finished in September, said the US state’s Wine Institute today (15 October).

Yields are reported down by between 20% and 50% in some parts of California as a historically early harvest failed to match the bumper crops of the past three years.

‘This year was the earliest harvest in my 46 years as a winegrower,’ said Richard Sanford, owner of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards in Santa Barbara County, primarily producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

‘The California drought clearly had an effect in this 2015 vintage,’ Montse Reece, winemaker for Pedroncelli Winery in Sonoma County, told the Wine Institute.

‘This has been an early and light harvest, with smaller berries and concentrated fruit flavors. The high temperatures in August and early September accelerated maturity and picking times.’

But, Reece and other producers said healthy grapes meant the California 2015 vintage was likely to be of very high quality.

‘Though there isn’t a lot of it, the quality of the crop this year is exceptional,’ said Cameron Perry, winemaker for Groth Vineyards & Winery in Napa Valley.

‘All the Cabernet ferments are showing big, rich, ripe fruit in great balance with the tannins, and the colour metrics are off the chart this season.’

Some wineries were forced to harvest as some of the largest wildfires on record raged only a few miles away. In Lake County, where on winery was destroyed, Tracey Hawkins, co-founder of Hawk and Horse Vineyards, said fruit quality was still looking good.

‘Harvest was delayed for some when the Valley Fire struck, but harvest resumed in most areas within four days,’ she said.

Wine Institute president and CEO Robert Koch appeared unconcerned by lower yields in 2015. ‘After three record harvests, a lighter vintage will not impact our supply of California wines.’

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