If the wine grape- growing season had a theme song this year, it might as well be "Touch and Go" by the Cars.
Mother Nature's been especially moody this spring, with unseasonably cool and wet weather that's left grape growers wondering how this will all play out in terms of crop size and quality.
With warmer weather setting in, and the rain clouds seemingly shooed away for the season, grape growers are getting a handle on how harvest 2011 might shape up.
Some vineyards of barbera and sangiovese in the Sierra foothills were damaged during an April frost, and most regional growers are predicting a smaller harvest once 2011 is in the books.
In the Lodi area, home to more than 100,000 acres of vineyards, wine grapes are about two weeks behind their typical maturity for late spring.
Growers just hope that Sacramento Valley sun stays consistent.
"A reasonably warm summer would catch us up in a matter of weeks," said Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi Woodbridge Winegrape Commission. "In about a month, we'll know for sure. We'll be through the bloom-and-set process, and have a good estimate of what we're going to see this fall."
The upside of a longer growing season is that the grapes have a solid chance to develop full flavors without excess sugar. That can often mean wines that result in better balance but without some of the higher alcohol levels that can be off-putting.
"The vines look healthy, and there's lots of foliage," said Chandler. "The potential's there for a nice season, but Mother Nature holds all the cards."
Dine with top sommelier
If you're serious about wine-food pairings and are willing to pay $150 for dinner, then make a reservation for June 26 at Ella Dining Room & Bar.
The 5:30 p.m. dinner will be hosted by Larry Stone, one of the country's best-known master sommeliers who's now president of Evening Land Vineyards, which produces some especially fine pinot noir.
Chef Kelly McCown will present four courses, plus amuse-bouche and dessert, which will be paired with Evening Land's pinot noir and chardonnay.
Information: (916) 443-3772 or www.elladiningroomandbar.com.