As SLO County harvests conclude, wineries confirm low yields, predict high-quality wines

Brian Talley holds pinot noir grapes.
Brian Talley holds pinot noir grapes.

Now that the grape harvest is over for most area wineries, many vintners are confirming lower yields, but expect they’ll lead to high-quality wines.

The low yields are a significant contrast after two consecutive years of above average crop in 2013 and 2014.

“The lower yields have a tendency to concentrate flavors,” said Heather Muran, executive director of the San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association. “Most members reported tonnage down per acre, with fewer berries per cluster in most vineyards.”

Muran added that most members finished harvest in mid- to late October, although some in the Paso Robles area are still finishing, said Christopher Taranto, communications director for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. Harvest in the Paso Robles area typically ends around the first or second week of November.

Muran attributed the low yields to several factors, including drought and changing weather conditions.

Daniel J. Daou, winemaker and co-proprietor of DAOU Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles, described the year’s harvest as having significant challenges but a large potential for high-quality wine if vintners are able to overcome the difficulties.

Daou said his winery experienced a drastic reduction in yields — in some cases down 50 to 80 percent.

The harvest’s challenges included a large amount of shatter — when flowering doesn’t mature into a fruit set — which significantly reduced yields, and berries developing at different rates, Daou said.

He added that DAOU Vineyards & Winery experienced high levels of acids and low alcohol levels.

He expects the quality of wine from this year’s harvest to rival DAOU’s 2014 vintage, which he calls its best.

Castoro Cellars, with vineyards in San Miguel and Templeton, called it the “smallest harvest, in terms of yields, that we have ever seen. Vineyards that typically give 4 tons per acre have given 1 or less in many cases. ... It is even smaller than the harvest of 2011 that was seriously impacted by frost,” the winery noted in a news release. It reported that the fruit harvested was of great quality and color, describing the harvest as small but intense.

Syrah and cabernet sauvignon were particularly challenging varieties with a decline of yields, according to a harvest report by Solterra Strategies.

“The 2015 harvest was early and light,” said Brian Talley, owner of Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande. But, he added, “I’m impressed with the concentration and balance of the wines.”

Joe Ibrahim, head winemaker at Edna Valley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo, said, “The first (September heat) spell ripened our pinot noir quickly and led us to harvest earlier than usual, resulting in wines with vibrant color, great flavor concentration and a bright acidity.”

Danielle Ames: 805-781-7902

Have a buzz tip?

Submit news and notes items for Biz Buzz. Email:; on Twitter @SLOBizBuzz; phone: 781-7902; fax: 781-7905; mail: Biz Buzz, The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-0112. Biz Buzz is published Tuesdays through Saturdays.