2002 Harvest Report: California Vintners Praise 2002 Vintage, Consumers to Benefit from Abundant, High Quality Vintage
Consumers To Benefit From Abundant, High Quality Vintage
SAN FRANCISCO April 9, 2003 - California winegrowers harvested 3.1 million tons of wine type grapes in 2002, up three percent from the previous year and the second largest on record, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture in its recent Final Grape Crush Report. Red wine varieties accounted for 1.8 million tons, while white wine varieties amounted to 1.3 million tons. Average statewide price for wine varieties was $538, down 10 percent from 2001's $601 average price.
Total crush of wine, raisin and table varieties was 3.79 million tons, up 12 percent from 2001. Tons of raisin type grapes totaled 621,928, up 138 percent from 2001, while table grape varieties totaled 60,629 tons, down 40 percent from 2001. The report also estimated that 752,295 tons, about 20 percent of the total crush, would be marketed as grape concentrate, though no information is provided by district, type or variety for the concentrate.
The number of increased plantings that have come into production over the years had vintners anticipating an abundant harvest throughout the state. As a result, winegrape growers focused on quality by thinning their crops in early summer to concentrate the fruit flavors in the remaining grapes. Trimming the yields per acre will also help ease the plentiful wine inventories, which are undergoing another transition of the demand/supply cycle that the industry experiences every three to four years. Wine quality is expected to be very high because of the lower yields per acre and fortuitous weather during the year.
Beginning the year with average rainfall, the 2002 growing season was long, dry and mild, with only a few brief periods of high temperatures. The fruit was able to hang longer on the vine to develop intense, ripe berries, with deep color and complex flavors.
Consumers are benefiting from the estimated 10-15 percent oversupply of California wine. The wide selection of California wines has an excellent price/quality ratio, resulting in many good values for cost-conscious consumers.
Quotes From California Vintners
George Phelan, winemaker and general manager, Dunnewood Vineyards, Ukiah, Mendocino County
"The 2002 harvest was remarkable for its lack of complications. The spring was drier than usual and from late May through harvest it was completely dry. Drip irrigation kept the vines healthy and ripening through long, warm weather in September and early October. Harvest chugged along in very orderly fashion with consistently high-quality, good-flavored fruit. In the end, we received tremendous flavors without the sugar levels becoming too elevated. Even on the first pump over, when the juice is often pink, we were seeing excellent color. No question about it: 2002 is a winning vintage."
Tina Mitchell, winemaker, William Hill Winery, Napa Valley
"Temperatures have been ideal in all the Napa microclimates. The reds from our Silverado Bench estate vineyards are exhibiting loads of ripe, intense blackberry and plum flavors. This may be one of the finest growing seasons I've witnessed in my 12 years of making wine at William Hill Winery."
Lee Nesbitt, general manager, Chumeia Vineyards, Paso Robles
"The quality of this 2002 vintage from the Paso Robles viticultural area is exceptional. Bright fruit flavors, tasty tannins and great color. We expect a homerun!"
Kevin Willenborg, winemaker, Firestone Vineyard, Los Olivos, Santa Barbara County
"Firestone's later-ripening varieties benefited from an October cooling trend because of the extended hang time, encouraging physiological ripeness and overall balance. Light shatter during spring flowering resulted in reduced yields that are below normal, but wine quality will benefit. The fruit this year is concentrated, flavorful and well balanced. I already like what I am seeing and tasting from the 2002 vintage."
Paul Draper, winemaker/CEO, Ridge Vineyards, Cupertino, Santa Cruz Mountains
"The Sonoma Zinfandel vintage, judging by our Lytton Springs estate and Geyserville vineyards, looks to be one of the richest, yet best structured of recent years. The unusual characteristics of the vintage were the very rapid extraction of tannins during fermentation and the fact that virtually every block Ð young or old Ð produced excellent quality.
In the Santa Cruz Mountains, with the heat spikes moderated by the cool climate, the Bordeaux varieties have fully ripened flavors. Tannins are highly extractable and color is intense. Potentially a great vintage."
"Because of the cooler weather during the 2002 growing season, we picked out a little lighter than last year. There is a lot of talk about surplus, but I feel that if anything there will be a shortage of quality fruit grown in the cooler Region I areas. Both the clusters and berries are smaller. Because of this, we will have some beautiful intense flavors. The Chardonnay is tremendous with optimum ph and acid levels."
Dwayne Helmuth, Callaway Coastal Winery, Central and South Coast of California
"Our harvest on the Central and Southern Coasts of California typically begins a little earlier than on the North Coast. We were in full swing by August 22. Acid levels are high due to the cool evening temperatures. The overall quality of the fruit is what I would call excellent."
Judy Matulich-Weitz, winemaker, Buena Vista Winery, Carneros, Sonoma County
"The watchwords to describe the grapes coming into the winery are 'clean and bright.' The acid/pH ratios are excellent on the Carneros Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir."
George Unti, Unti Vineyards, Healdsburg, Sonoma County
"The winemakers are very enthusiastic about the colors, fruit intensity and depth of flavors. If the 2002 vintage reflects the quality of the grapes, it should be a very good year. The Syrah and Sangiovese are the best grapes we have had in the last few years."
Nick Goldschmidt, VP Winemaker, Simi Winery, Healdsburg, Sonoma County
"In the Alexander Valley and Russian River vineyards, we had incredible acids and extremely low yields. The crop projections were a lot higher, but with the long dry season leading up to harvest we saw the cluster weights dramatically lighten. The acids held up for our Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and the red wine colors were amazing. Tannins were ripe, but we had to wait for the flavor to develop. This was a very different but very good year due to low crops, good acid and perfect weather."
"Sauvignon Blanc is showing a lot of varietal character with moderate acidity. The crop size was a little lighter than projected. I haven't seen Zinfandel grapes this clean and healthy. The wines have intense, deep, magenta color with good tannins. Zinfandel tends to ripen at higher sugar levels and 2002 was no exception."
Don Wallace, general manager, Dry Creek Vineyard, Healdsburg, Sonoma County
"Northern Sonoma County had fortuitous growing conditions in 2002. The rainy season ended in January, with an average of 30 inches of rain, and the remainder of the very cool growing season saw only one significant rainfall. The general practice of aggressive crop thinning, originally intended to control crop levels in a stagnant market, produced lower tonnage yields and concentrated fruit. Average to below-average yields of fruit displayed concentrated, rich and highly extractive characteristics."
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