Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties were the regions most affected by the wildfires and together grow 12% of California’s winegrapes. By the time the wildfires hit those regions, however, 90% of the harvest in Napa and Sonoma and 85% in Mendocino were already picked and in production at various wineries.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture estimated in early August that the state’s overall crop size would reach 4 million tons, down slightly from 4.03 million in 2016 and above the historical average of 3.9 million tons. Last month's wildfires will likely lower 2017 production as some fruit was discarded due to fire damage, according to the Wine Institute.
"The vast majority of California's 2017 winegrape harvest was unaffected by the wildfires and the vintage promises to be of excellent quality," Robert (Bobby) P. Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute, said.
“The outpouring of support locally and from around the world for people in the impacted communities has been phenomenal. We are saddened by the loss of lives and homes and this will truly be remembered as a harvest of the heart.”
Koch added that wineries are working on their 2017 wines and are encouraging tourism to the area.
Heatwave spurs early harvest
Leading up to harvest season Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma counties experienced heavy rainfall through the winter months which fortified vineyards resulting in robust, healthy vines, the Wine Institute said.
However, a late August heatwave triggered premature ripening for white grape varieties, but a normal ripening progression for reds once temperatures cooled in September.
Increased rainfall also brought its challenges for wineries like Duckhorn Wine Co. located in Napa Valley.
“It required special focus on cover crops and tillage and closely managing canopies. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Napa Valley and Alexander Valley look especially healthy,” vice president of winemaking at Duckhorn Wine, Neil Bernardi, said.
"Ripeness was accelerated and a lot of fruit became ready all at once. Flavors across the board look good," David Hayman, vice president of winegrowing for Delicato Family Vineyards, added.
According to the Wine Institute, most winemakers from the affected regions have a positive outlook on wine quality for the 2017 vintage particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.