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Sonoma growers face nervous wait

Wine growers on the Sonoma Coast and in the Russian River Valley face a nail-biting wait to discover if 2010 will be a great vintage – or ruined by rain.

A low pressure system sitting off California’s north coast has created highly unusual weather conditions in the area this summer, with coastal fogs and temperatures in the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit, rather than the more normal 80s and 90s.

As a result, grapes have ripened slowly, giving the potential for exceptional quality – but growers are concerned that they might not be able to finish the harvest before the onset of October rain.

‘We pride ourselves on growing grapes in the cool climate of the Russian River Valley,’ said John Erbe, viticulturalist at J Vineyards & Winery, which farms throughout the Russian River Valley.

‘But this cold summer weather has put the brakes on a harvest that typically would have already started.’

Speaking last week, Erbe said veraison was only now taking place in most of the company’s Pinot Noir vineyards, leaving another 30-45 days before a likely harvest date, some 2-3 weeks later than usual.

But he added: ‘Our concerns will ease should a warmer summer weather pattern arrive.’

Written by Richard Woodard

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