Wine grapes ripen across SLO County, indicating an early harvest

White wine grapes like chardonnay take on a yellow color when they ripen.
White wine grapes like chardonnay take on a yellow color when they ripen.

Veraison — wine grapes’ onset of ripening and change in color — is underway on the Central Coast, portending another early harvest for most wineries.

In vineyards around SLO County, red wine grapes have started to soften and turn from green to purple, as white wine grapes take on a yellowish hue. This annual color change, when grapes stop growing in size and start building sugars, usually happens about six weeks before the grapes are ready to be picked. Harvest could start before the end of August.

“It’s clear that we’re looking at another early harvest this year,” Tablas Creek general manager Jason Haas wrote on the winery’s blog, noting that 2016 is among the warmest years since 1997.

Last year’s veraison was about a week earlier because of a cold May that reduced crops and brought on early ripening. This year’s crop, however, looks more like normal, if a bit small.

“Quantities look respectable,” Haas said. “The vines look remarkably healthy, with really no significant visible effects of the week-plus of 100-degree weather we saw in late June.”

Adelaida Cellars expects to begin harvesting rosé grapes on Aug. 10, with red and white grapes starting the week after, winemaker Jeremy Weintraub said.

Overall, 2016 has been much more cooperative than last year, said Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery owner and winemaker Bob Tillman.

“At the risk of jinxing myself, I have to admit that this year’s fruit looks fantastic,” he said. “We’re going to make some great wine.”