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Winemaker expects very early harvest 

Early harvest

Veraison is the term used for when grapes begin to ripen. For white varietals, the hard green berries begin to turn golden, the flesh softens, sugar levels increase and acid drops. For the red varietals, a similar process happens and the green berries turn to purple. For the average person, and certainly for photographers, viewing veraison is exciting. The individual berries in a cluster change at varying rates — the mix of color in a cluster and across a vine is like a piece of art. Photo by Lisa Pretty.

Grape clusters in Paso Robles are showing their color

Robert Hall Winery harvested the first grapes of the Paso Robles AVA last year on August 15 when their sauvignon blanc came in a week earlier than in past years. All indicators point to an even earlier harvest this year.

“We noticed veraison in our malbec on July 7th when we were doing cluster counts in the vineyard,” says Don Brady, winemaker at Robert Hall Winery.

In the vineyard, veraison visually signals development en route to harvest and the completion of another growth cycle. For the winery, veraison is a heart quickening indicator that the arrival of new crop and the start of another round of wine to craft is just around the corner.

“That puts us a good 7-10 days ahead of last year,” Brady says. “Unless the weather cools, it will be an extremely early harvest – as early as the first week in August. That could be a good thing since we will be able to get all the fruit in the winery prior to any rain. With predictions of an El Nino this year a late harvest would cause problems.”

Brady says he is anticipating a very good vintage. The fruit set well and clusters size is down, he says. For high quality red wine, a small berry is a good thing and with grapes ripening early they can be harvested long before any threatening weather arrives. On the flip side it does mean winemaking teams are now scrambling to complete bottling, make room in the cellar and finish all of the pre-harvest activities.

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