El Dorado AVA’s Harvest Benefits from Predictably Long Ripening Window
After near perfect weather conditions, the 2019 harvest heightens a typical trend in the region
El Dorado County, CA. (September 4, 2019)—The mountain vineyards of El Dorado AVA report that Labor Day weekend was largely the beginning of the 2019 harvest season in El Dorado County. According to several El Dorado vintners, this is late by one or two weeks compared to average pick time dates in the AVA. The later start will only enhance a favorable condition in high-elevation vineyards ranging from 1,200 to more than 3,000 feet — a longer picking window.
Since the harvest in El Dorado County usually begins after the peak temperatures of August, vintners pick through the shorter days and cooler nights in the fall, and fruit has more time on the vine to ripen. A longer ripening season gives El Dorado vintners a better chance of picking each variety at the most favorable ripeness.
Paul Bush, proprietor and winemaker at Madrona Vineyards and Rucksack Cellars, explains how it works for winemakers and growers in the El Dorado AVA: “If you’re picking during the heat spikes, grapes are ripening quickly and often forcing winemakers to triage their pickings, and perhaps [you’re] missing the optimum ripeness level on a particular variety. If the grapes are still in the lower range of ripeness during these peak August temperatures, as they are in El Dorado, we can wait to pick until they are ripe.” Bush explains the upside of having later-ripening fruit in higher elevations: “By waiting, each day gets shorter [with less sunlight], the nights get longer, and the ripening slower — giving us a larger spread of time of optimal ripeness between varieties.” He points out that longer and cooler nights keep acid from transpiring at night too.
Of course, the El Dorado AVA’s sparkling wine producers pick earliest, during August. One of the first to pick was Gwinllan Estate Vineyard and Winery, producers of a line of sparkling and still wines. Jonathan Pack, family winemaker/consultant, said they started picking on August 16 and 17 for their Rosé Champagne, off two weeks from a typical year. He remarks, “It looks like it is going to be a very late and long harvest, especially if we cool down a lot in September.”
Justin Boeger, general manager at his family’s Boeger Winery — situated in the northern end of the county in the Camino Fruitridge region at elevations from 1800 to 2300 ft. — gives a still-wine perspective specific to the 2019 harvest. The winery’s Labor Day picks included Pinot Noir for Rosé wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Flora. Boeger reports, “This is a later start date for us than the last several years, mostly due to a prolonged winter that was wetter and cooler for a longer period of time. The year 2019 has been mild on many counts, including mild summer temperatures.” Testifying to the year’s pleasant conditions, Boeger recalls, “I woke up one day towards the end of May realizing I never once this year checked temperatures overnight for the threat of frost.”
To the south and in the Fair Play region of the El Dorado AVA, picking started at Skinner Vineyards just before Labor Day weekend, with Roussanne already in the press by the weekend. Petit Bouschet, Mission, and Trousseau Noir were harvested for what winemaker Adam Smith calls “an experimental project.” Smith is fermenting the three varietals in concrete at low brix, with lots of stem inclusion, and no filtration. Smith says, “The intent is to create a food-friendly early release red with white wine zip and wildness!”
Also in the southern reaches, in the Somerset area, grape grower Donna Sauber of Sauber Vineyards reports that “plants look healthy and grapes are clean.” Yet the winery is still a week or two from harvesting some 11 varietals that grow on its 40 acres ranging from 2,600 to 3,000 feet elevation.
Two years of good rainfall and a cooler summer in the region have contributed to healthy crop loads and larger yields. Adam Smith concurs with the optimism of his fellow El Dorado winemakers and growers: “All in all, our wet winter and cool summer is sure to produce wines of elegance and complexity. We’re psyched!”
The El Dorado Winery Association (EDWA), is an association of wineries located in the Sierra Foothills’ El Dorado County. Active members, united through cooperation, encouragement, shared knowledge and education, strive to improve wine quality and the tasting experience. High elevations and cool climate mark it’s distinction as one of California’s unique wine regions.
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El Dorado Wine Region Keen On Winter of 2019
High elevation, cool climate, Sierra Foothill AVA vintners consider their prospects in one of the biggest winters in decades
El Dorado County, CA. (March 11, 2019)—El Dorado AVA, located in the Sierra Foothills about an hour from both Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, is recognized for wines produced at high-elevation vineyards in a cool climate. The AVA's vineyards are planted at elevations ranging from 1,200 to more than 3,500 feet. The cold winter of 2019, and specifically the lower elevation snowpack (the mass of snow compressed and hardened by its own weight), is providing careful optimism to growers and vintners of the region's lofty vineyards.
Will Farr, forecast operations specialist at Western Weather Group, a supplier of meteorological and environmental monitoring systems and weather forecasting services, says that atmospheric rivers initiating in the subtropics merged with storms coming from the Gulf of Alaska, resulting in colder fronts and a snowpack at lower elevations. If all goes well, the lower snowpack will be a boon for El Dorado vineyard irrigation. Snow level (the elevation above which snow falls and below which rain falls) in the region has averaged 3,500 feet in 2019. In contrast, snow level in the past four years has been 5,000 feet.
When the snowpack is at lower elevations, it covers more land and results in good runoff. (Two feet of snowpack equals about 3 to 4 inches of water.) Snowpack at higher elevations tends to gather on steep peaks and covers less land.
Jonathan Lachs, grower/winemaker and owner of Cedarville Vineyard in the Fair Play AVA, in the northern reaches of El Dorado wine region, says that best-case scenario is that the snowpack melts slowly so that water will be available, via his well, for his vines later in the growing season. Supplementing the snowpack, to date Fair Play has already exceeded 2018's rainfall of 30 "and is currently at 35 inches. Lachs says, "This is good news! It will be nice to have field capacity or full saturation of the soil to kick off the growing season. This may be enough rain to supply many of our vines for the entire growing season."
In the Apple Hill/Camino regions in the southern El Dorado AVA, businesses such as Boeger Vineyards, Lava Cap Winery, and Smokey Ridge Farm & Winery access water from their own storage ponds or from the El Dorado Irrigation District, which manages rivers, creeks, and reservoirs as a ready source for agriculture.
The cold weather and heavy rainfall of 2019 (February 2019 was the coldest February in a decade for Northern California, according to Farr) have created two possible scenarios: delayed bud break, as well as delayed access to vineyards in order to take care of late winter tasks, such as pruning. If this cold weather pattern continues past bud break, it will increase the risk of frost damage in higher elevation vineyards, resulting in a reduced crop size.
Elizabeth Standeven, grape grower and owner of Shaker Ridge Vineyard, is waiting to see if "there can be too much of a good thing for some vineyards." She says, "If rainfall continues for a couple of weeks, crews could get behind on pruning, causing some growers to scramble to get ready for bud burst."
In either scenario, the growers and winemakers of El Dorado wine region are used to extreme weather events. With a matrix of terrain, high elevations, cool climate, and a network of reservoirs, creeks, and rivers, they adapt to whatever Mother Nature sends their way.
The El Dorado Winery Association (EDWA), is an association of wineries located in the Sierra Foothills' El Dorado County. Active members, united through cooperation, encouragement, shared knowledge and education, strive to improve wine quality and the tasting experience. High elevations and cool climate mark it's distinction as one of California's unique wine regions.
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2019 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Results
Acknowledgment of El Dorado AVA's Capacity to Grow and Produce a Wealth of Wine Varietals
El Dorado County, CA. (January 16, 2019)—A strong showing at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition illustrates that El Dorado County AVA is a standout for the diversity of varietals grown and produced in the region at high levels of quality.
Approximately 70 grape varieties are grown in the El Dorado AVA, and the region's wines garnered five best-of-class designations, 10 double gold medals, and 23 gold medals. El Dorado's Zinfandels, Grenache Blancs, Tempranillos, Syrahs, Barberas, Viogniers, Malbecs, Petite Sirahs, Mouvedres, Cabernet Francs, and Souzaos all won top-tier awards in all price categories. El Dorado classics, including Dry Rosés, Chardonnays, and Cabernet Sauvignons, also made very respectable showings.
Vineyards began to multiply in the region as early as 1849, as pioneers from all reaches of the globe began to settle here during the gold rush. Multifaceted terrain with elevations from 900 to more than 3,000 feet, several distinct climate zones, and hundreds of micro-climates provide unlimited capacity to work with varieties that fit site-specific conditions. Additionally, El Dorado growers and producers agree that without being tied to the bottom line of one financially successful grape variety, they're free to trial varieties from classic to obscure.
This year's top-tier-winning El Dorado AVA wineries include Boeger, Crystal Basin Cellars, Element 79, Everhart, Gwillan Estate, Lava Cap, Lewis Grace, Oakstone Winery, Obscurity Cellars, Perry Creek Winery, Sentivo Vineyards, Shadow Ranch Vineyard, Skinner Vineyards and Winery, Starfield Vineyards, and Via Romano Vineyards.
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Greg Boeger Receives A Congressional Commendation for Wine
Founder of Boeger Winery in El Dorado Wine Region is acknowledged by Congressman John Garamendi.
El Dorado County, CA. (October 24, 2018)—Greg Boeger, founder and owner of Boeger Winery in Placerville, El Dorado County, CA. has been awarded a Congressional Commendation for Wine by Congressman John Garamendi. A Congressional Commendation "officially recognizes outstanding public achievements" by the people who live in the Congressman's district. "Greg Boeger has played a significant role in the history of California wine and I commend him for his dedication and contributions to the Golden State." -John Garamendi, Member of Congress, 3rd District, CA.
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California's El Dorado Wine Region Named to USA Today's Readers' Choice,10 Best Wine Region's List
El Dorado County, CA. (September 18, 2018)—Wine lovers all over the U.S. have recognized El Dorado County wine region's place among the nation's most revered wine regions. In USA Today's 10Best Readers' Choice award for best wine region, the national newspaper puts El Dorado Wine Region at no. 8 — above Oregon's Willamette Valley and North Carolina's Yadkin Valley.
The 10Best editors partnered with a panel of wine experts to pick the initial 20 wine region nominees. Then the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote from readers all over the U.S. According to the paper, "Experts Jill Barth, a Provence Wine Master; Shana Clarke, Wine Editor for inside.com and contributor to Eat Sip Trip; Karen MacNeil, one of the foremost wine experts in the U.S.; and June Rodil, a Master Sommelier, were chosen for their knowledge of wine and the American wine scene."
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A Cool Trend is Proving Excellent for Sierra Foothill's El Dorado Wine Region's 2018 Harvest
El Dorado County, CA. (September 17, 2018)—El Dorado Winemakers and growers weigh in on the first wave of the 2018 El Dorado county harvest. Their assessments are from vineyard elevations ranging from 1200 to nearly 3,000 ft. that are planted to nearly 70 grape varieties all toll. The region's harvest story this year is a cooling trend starting in late August and extending through the time of this report. Across the board, winemakers and growers are reporting that the cooler temps have had positive impact on elements ranging from sugar levels, the pace at which varietals are coming in, and impact on labor.
Following are comments from vintners and growers from late August to Monday, September 17th, 2018.
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