The calendar has barely turned to August but activity is well under way in the region's wine grape vineyards. The annual harvest has arrived about two weeks early compared with a typical year, because of significant summer heat spikes and the dry overall growing season.
In Lodi, which is home to 100,000 acres of wine grapes, varietals grown for sparkling wine production are already being picked. Red grapes are also expected to be picked at least one to two weeks earlier than normal.
"They're starting to move the tractors around, and you'll see more of that next week and over the next two weeks with earlier white varieties," said Stuart Spencer, program manager for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. "I wouldn't be surprised if we saw early reds and older vineyards getting picked around Labor Day."
While 2012 produced a monster-sized crop with 3.89 million tons of crushed wine grapes the second-largest harvest in California history Spencer expects an "average" to "above average" size crop for 2013.
This early harvest rings as good news for growers. With grapes getting picked earlier in the summer, there's less chance for crops to be damaged by fall rains.
"A whole crop can be ruined in one day by Mother Nature," said Spencer. "You'll never see a grower complain about picking grapes early. They're happy to get some off the vines earlier rather than later."
Of course, growers aren't out of the woods yet.
There's plenty of time for the weather to throw some whammies before mid-October, when harvest usually concludes. But so far, growers are optimistic.
"The sugars are coming along nicely and the vines look healthy," said Spencer. "We have a little ways to go but it looks good at this point."
Summer of Riesling
Watch this space for information soon on Summer of Riesling Sacramento, a September-long celebration of this much- loved white grape.
Summer of Riesling Sacramento is being organized by Matthew Lewis, a local wine educator and sommelier, and is modeled after the "Summer of Riesling" program designed by wine bar entrepreneur Paul Grieco.
Enotria, Kru and Capital Dime are already down as participants, and we'll have more scoop soon.
Call The Bee's Chris Macias (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.