Updated 2010-09-15 17:36:15 ID=623:0

© 2010 The Romantic Table
©2009 The Romantic Table 2009-02-17 09:52:55:123
©2009 The Romantic Table

Larry McGourty writes about wine and food

2010 Central Coast Grape Harvest Shaping Up To Be A Mellow One.

A moderate Summer and a slow extended ripening season is creating a good harvest and a potential for a "mellow" 2010 vintage.

What a difference between the 2009 and 2010 grape growing seasons! In 2009, our vineyard was completely harvested by the end of August, and most of the Central Coast was well into the harvest season by the middle of September. This year on the Paso Robles West Side where we mostly dry farm, we don't even expect to begin harvest until close to the end of September.

Last year harvest season was the personification of the Chinese backhanded complement "May you live in interesting times." It was certainly "interesting" to those of us who lived through it!

Last year's harvest was light and what was harvested first struggled to grow properly with little rainfall to start and an extended late heat wave at the end caused an uneven ripening process. Then to top it all off, a sudden unexpected rainfall in the middle of the 2009 harvest hurt some of the more sensitive varieties like Zinfandel - the signature grape of the Paso Robles region. Damage and unripe fruit cost Zinfandel specialist Peachy Canyon Winery half of the production of its 2009 Old School House Zinfandel according to head winemaker Josh Beckett.

This year's growing season is turning out to be down right "mellow" compared to last years roller-coaster ride. But will a mellow growing season lead to "mellow" wines?

"Yes!" says UCCE farm advisor Glenn McGourty. He expects the slow ripening season to improve overall quality. "The lower more moderate temperatures, especially at the end of the season, cause the ripening processes to slow down. This gives time for the grapes to mature in a more balanced state, allowing the tannins to soften as the sugar levels peak. The only danger is an early frost."

Local grape expert Richard Sauret, president of the IGGPRA agrees. Sauret also expects this to be an excellent grape quality year. Paso Robles harvest levels are expected to up 15% or more in comparison to the 2009 harvest. Sauret says this is a good-news bad news scenario. While harvest levels and quality may be up, the bad economy is causing local wineries to proceed cautiously when making buying commitments. A lot of good fruit is being dropped by vineyard owners to bring the supply into balance with demand. Whether wineries are waiting on the sidelines or sitting out the season is yet to be determined.

Well, so far the extended weather forecast is more of the same for the next couple of weeks. God willing, let's hope this harvest season will be a lot less "interesting" than last year's.

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A tip from Sue!

Get a Black Pepper Mill

There's nothing that substitutes for freshly cracked black pepper. You can find pepper mills in all price ranges. Just get one that looks like it will hold up well over continual use. Freshly cracked black pepper can really enhance the smell and final taste of a recipe!