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Grape harvest kicks off in Sonoma County

  • Martha Flores puts sauvignon blanc grapes into a crate at the David Coffaro Estate Vineyard in Geyserville, California on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

Catarino Flores reached above his head, gritting his teeth as he cut cluster after cluster of sauvignon blanc grapes from the leafy vines.

A longtime employee of David Coffaro Winery, Flores managed a small crew of workers picking sauvignon blanc grapes in Dry Creek Valley on Wednesday morning, bringing in the winery's first grapes of the season to be used in still wine.

“This year we're doing harvest two weeks early because of the weather,” Flores said. “I'm happy to pick early this year, because I can finish up before it rains. ... Nobody likes picking when it's raining.”

Harvest Begins In Sonoma County

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The North Coast grape harvest, which began Aug. 1 in Napa Valley with fruit for sparkling wines, has now progressed into grapes destined for still wines, the vast majority of the region's grape crop. Fruit is ripening faster in warm regions like Dry Creek Valley, leading to an unusually early start to harvest in hot spots.

In his 35 years harvesting grapes from the same vineyard, David Coffaro, owner of the Geyserville winery that bears his name, said crush has started this early only four or five times.

“I think we're a little heavier than normal,” Coffaro said, indicating that he thought the harvest would be larger than normal. “I think the bunches are sizing up very good.”

Grape growers and vineyard managers said they are expecting a crop that's perhaps a little larger than normal, but probably not as bountiful as the bumper crop of 2012.

“We are excited about the start of harvest 2013,” said Honore Comfort, executive director of the Sonoma County Vintners. “We're looking forward to a good year. The report so far is that the yields will be solid, and the quality very high, from across Sonoma County.”

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