SANTA MARIA VALLEY, Calif. - The annual wine grape harvest on the Central Coast has begun with growers and vintners busy getting their ripened fruit off the vines and into processing facilities.
Crews could be seen working beneath large, mobile lights during the overnight and early morning hours at a vineyard along Telephone and Clark Avenues in the Santa Maria Valley.
Weather conditions earlier this year and the drought are partly to blame for a later start to the 2021 wine grape harvest.
"It's been a very cool Spring and Summer", said Jonathan Nagy with the Miller Family Wine Company in Santa Maria, "normally we would be picking by Labor Day, where we don't anticipate picking our first grapes (in the Santa Maria Valley) until the end of this week."
"In those situations a lot of times we'll have smaller berries, which smaller berries usually means really good quality", Nagy added, "so we're seeing really good flavors, really good color, really good acidity, and so all in all it's going to be a good qualitative vintage, maybe not as much as we were expecting."
A reduction of acres of wine grapes in recent years has seen a drop in their value according to the 2020 Santa Barbara County Crop Report, falling to fifth in gross production value at more than $93 million last year.
The yield per acre is expected to rebound in 2021.
Total, gross agricultural production in Santa Barbara County in 2020 hit a record $1.8 billion