Fast & Fabulous: Sonoma County’s Grape Harvest Races Towards Finish

Published on October 6, 2016

Night Harvest in Sonoma County captured by photographer George Rose

Night Harvest in Sonoma County captured by photographer George Rose

Above Average Yield Brings End to Near-Perfect Growing Season

Following months of near-perfect growing conditions, a heat wave in mid-September brought about a rapid pace to finish Sonoma County’s winegrape harvest with most varieties reaching the optimal flavor and ripening levels in the fruit. About 90 percent of the county’s winegrapes have already been picked and late ripening fruit varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot should be picked by mid-October – nearly two weeks earlier than normal.

Harvest in Sonoma Valley

Thanks to generous rains early in the year, a warm spring and a mostly mild summer, what was once thought to be a short crop grew into an average-size vintage which was welcomed following last year’s short harvest. Unique to this year’s harvest was when a particular variety ripened, it seemingly ripened everywhere throughout Sonoma County with cooler region vineyards ripening at the same time as those in warmer climates. The recent rainfall also had little impact on the grapes as most fruit is already off the vines and it was a mild storm – just enough to dust off the grapes.

“So far it appears that 2016 will be an outstanding vintage for Sonoma County thanks to an ideal growing season. The harvest took off like a rocket due to the late summer heat which condensed everyone’s timeline to pick fruit,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers. She added, “Our growers are thrilled with the incredible quality and flavors of the grapes which should also excite our winemakers and wine lovers.”

Here are some quotes and insight from the “front vines” of our AVA’s:

Alexander Valley

“We are right on track for an average harvest which is pretty astounding considering how small the cluster counts were earlier in the season. In general, for Alexander Valley, harvest is either complete or nearly complete. In fact, we just finished our harvest at Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars and we’re excited about the supreme quality of this year’s crop, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc which stand out as perhaps being the best varieties in Alexander Valley this vintage.”

— Brad Petersen, Rawah Vineyards

Dry Creek Valley

Harvest in action in Sonoma CountyThroughout Dry Creek Valley, it appears everyone is right on track for an average crop size. The quality and flavors of sauvignon blanc have been cited as being terrific and the same is true with Zinfandel. Cabernet quality seems outstanding. Harvest in Dry Creek Valley should be completed by the third week of October.

“Dry Creek cabernet could be the sleeper hit of the 2016 vintage in Sonoma County. Quality looks great and the pure berry flavors are outstanding.”

— Tim Bell, winemaker, Dry Creek Vineyard

Russian River Valley

“It is another great year for grapes and wine from the Russian River Valley. Despite the month of August being cool, the fog prevailed and warmer days in September brought an average size harvest with very flavorful grapes.”

— Chris Crispo, Bush Crispo Vineyard

Sonoma Valley

“Harvest is in its final stages for Chardonnay. Pinot Noir has finished. There are still some Bordeaux varieties to pick. It has been a remarkable vintage as the weather has been fantastic and our winemaker partners are saying the wines are showing nicely. We wish there was a little more fruit as yields are a little below average. But, we take what Mother Nature gives us and she has blessed us once again.”

— Steve Sangiacomo, Sangiacomo Family Vineyards

Want up-to-the-minute updates on Sonoma County’s harvest activities directly from our grape growers and wineries? Back by popular demand, the Sonoma County Winegrowers have created an online Harvest Tracker to help everyone stay informed on what’s happening in our vineyards and cellars.

Visit for the latest news.