Warm weather a boon to farmers, vintners of Apple Hill

The Sacramento region’s recent spate of warm weather has not only been a boon to cyclists, runners and others who love the outdoors – but to the farms and wineries of Apple Hill as well.

“We’ve been busy, busy,” said Debbie Lane, who described herself as a “fixture” at Abel’s Apple Acres in Placerville. “The weather has agreed with us. Everyone wants to get out in the sunshine and get apple pies for picnics. A lot of people don’t want to come up here when it’s raining.”

Forecasters are calling for sunny skies throughout this week in the Sacramento area, with slight changes in daytime temperatures.

Monday and Tuesday are expected to be the warmest days of the week, with highs reaching up to 84 degrees, about 10 degrees above normal.

Daytime highs on Wednesday and Thursday will drop to the low 80, and once the weekend starts, it will cool off even more, with highs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to be up to 80 degrees.

“We have a high pressure over us, and the high pressure will slightly weaken through the week,” said Brooke Bingaman, forecast meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

Overnight lows will be fairly constant throughout the week, with temperatures dropping to the upper 40s to 50 degrees. The normal low for this time of year is 50 degrees.

“We have mild autumn weather – people should enjoy it while they can,” Bingaman said.

Scott Larsen, owner of Larsen Apple Barn in Camino, said the warm weather has prompted an early harvest this year.

“The colors of the trees change faster,” he said. “It makes it easier for people to get around.”

Vintners say a lack of early rain this year also means that wineries will do well.

“This year would be a great year for wine in terms of quality and flavors,” said Charlie Jones, owner of Lava Cap Winery in Placerville. “It will be a great vintage. We had the heat spell in July and a long cooldown to normal temperatures. Everything ripens slow and evenly.”

He expects the winery’s cabernet for the year will be “spectacular.” Zinfandels should be very good as well, he said.

“The berries were very small, and you get a lot of concentration of flavors,” he said. “The wines are denser and have more complexity.”

Lava Cap Winery will be releasing some of its white wines – a sauvignon blanc – in January, and a rosé in midwinter.

The red wines won’t be ready for another year and a half.

Jones said this week would be a great time to visit Apple Hill, about an hour east of Sacramento along Highway 50, where many farms have harvested their crops two weeks early.

“All the vineyards and trees are turning color, and the since we’re in a little higher elevation, the air is clean and it’s crisper,” he said. “It feels like fall and it’s nice to enjoy it right now. The rain and snow is going to come soon enough.”