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Food & Wine

Foothill winemakers anticipate vintage haul in 2013

With the crush all but over, wineries look to the holiday season
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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By all accounts, it was a pretty good year for the wine industry in the foothills. Between the relative lack of rain in the first few months of the year and the overall even temperatures throughout spring and summer, the season’s early harvest left many winemakers predicting good things from the 2013 crop.
“I think it’s going to be a good vintage,” said Stewart Perry, owner and winemaker at Fawnridge Winery in Auburn. “We’ve had really even temperatures this year. A couple of bouts of hot weather, but overall, a long, even growing season. Made for good ripening on the vine.”
Perry and company just got finished pressing their last batch of wine, five tons of Sangiovese, an Italian red varietal that does particularly well in Placer County.
“I was a little worried at first,” said Mark Foster, winemaker and part owner of Nevada City Winery. “Everything was coming in fast. But everything slowed down beautifully.”
And the wineries in turn have slowed down, a little. While harvest and crush may be their busiest times of the year, there is still a lot to do when it comes to barreling this year’s yield and bottling wines from vintages past. But at least this year they are getting an earlier start than usual.
“The harvest is earlier, but the crops were also light,” said Mike Naggiar, co-owner of Naggiar Vineyards and Winery in Grass Valley. “Clusters were small. Small clusters and small berries mean a lower yield but a much better quality grape, which leads to a much better wine. For a grower like us, the low yield hurts because we sell grapes as well. But we are looking at a very, very good wine two years down the road. Dark, small berries make very intense wine.”
Nobody experienced quite so low a yield as the folks at Mt. Vernon Winery in Auburn.
“Apparently every deer in the county decided to come to Mt. Vernon and eat grapes,” said owner Lynda Taylor. “It had never happened to us like this year. They ate them all. It’s just a horrible situation. We buy some grapes anyway, but this made it more difficult financially.”
While the deer population had best steer clear of Mt. Vernon Winery if they know what’s good for them, everyone else is welcome to hit the foothills for some autumn wine tasting and early holiday shopping. Or just take in the splendor of the vineyards as you drive through the countryside.
“The vines never looked as good as they did this year,” said Phil Starr, owner and winemaker at Sierra Starr Vineyards in Grass Valley. “I’m not one who says that every year, but you get a sense of the flavors you have when you start taking the grapes. I found the quality to be very good.”
Something to look forward to down the road.