Grape crop now seen as smaller than once feared

NORTH COAST - The 2009 winegrape crop in the region now is thought to be not as big as had been feared earlier in the growing season, but it is big enough for grapes still awaiting a home.

"In general, the crop will be bigger than last year but close to average because last year was so poor," said Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission. "Early on, we saw potential for a big crop but we're backing off that because there seems to be a lot of shatter and the clusters are not sizing up."

Though this year started with warm temperatures and little rain, showers in February and May filled vineyard reservoirs and soil, according to Mr. Frey. The late rains have called for more vine canopy management, but cool temperatures through June, combined with new water-management procedures instituted with new state regulations for protected fish, have helped to stretch water reserves. 

The cool weather, however, came as vine flowering was beginning in May and prolonged that stage, impairing pollination and grape cluster development, which is called "shatter."

 Major winegrape varieties most affected appear to be merlot, cabernet sauvignon and some pinot noir, according to Glenn Proctor, a partner of San Rafael-based grape and wine brokerage Ciatti Co. Chardonnay appears to have the most consistent yield this far in the season.

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