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September 22, 2017
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Vintners scramble to protect
grapes from heat amid harvest
Raisin producers assessing
damage from rain during harvest
By TIM HEARDEN
By TIM HEARDEN
Courtesy of LangeTwins
Wine is bottled and labeled at LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards in Lodi,
Calif., earlier this year. This year’s wine grape harvest is in high gear, and growers
say this season is returning to normal after a couple of drought-impacted vintages.
or leaf removal within the canopy to
increase air flow and filter sunlight
and using drip irrigation and sprin-
klers during major heat spikes, she
Growers have been watching their
vineyards closely and managing
them by hand to ensure quality and
avoid fruit damage, she said.
“No growing season is ever the
same and farmers are experts at
quickly and thoughtfully responding
to varying weather conditions,” she
A reprieve from the hot weath-
er was expected this week, as Napa
Valley temperatures were slated to
top out in the low 80s this weekend,
according to the National Weather
Service. Long-range forecasts show
valley highs averaging in the low to
mid-80s for the remainder of Sep-
tember. Parts of the San Francisco
Bay area had of rain on Sept. 11.
Growers throughout California
are in the midst of harvesting an an-
ticipated 4 million ton wine grape
crop, down slightly from last year’s
production of 4.03 million tons, ac-
cording to the National Agricultural
The industry is getting back to
normal after drought-related water
shortages led to lighter crops in 2014
and 2015. Wine represents 60 per-
cent of the state’s total grape crop.
While the first grapes for Napa
Valley sparkling wine were picked
Aug. 7, fog and cooler daytime tem-
peratures slowed the pace of harvest
in early August, but grapes start-
ed coming in at a steady pace once
warmer days arrived, the Napa Val-
ley Grapegrowers reported.
FRESNO, Calif. — Raisin
producers who were already ex-
pecting a smaller crop are assess-
ing the damage from stray show-
ers that spritzed grapes that were
drying on the ground.
Thunderstorms that passed
over the San Joaquin Valley on
Sept. 4 dumped as much as a half-
inch of rain in some vineyards,
said Kalem Barserian, the Raisin
Bargaining Association’s chief ex-
Rain can make raisins drying
on paper trays dirty or moldy. It
could take several weeks before
growers know the extent to which
their crop was damaged, industry
“The biggest thing when it
rains is, ‘Can I get them dry?’
and the key to that is to get good
weather immediately following,”
said Rick Stark, grower relations
manager for Sun-Maid Growers
Temperatures in the valley
reached triple-digits on Sept. 5
with a slight breeze, he said.
“You couldn’t ask for better
than that,” Stark said. “We’ve
gotten good weather since that.
There’s actually people out boxing
and there are still people picking.
They’re doing the same thing they
were doing before the rain. It just
took a couple of days to get ev-
erything dried back out to where
The setback comes as farms
faced insurance policy-imposed
Submitted by Sharla Wilson,
Kootenai Extension Educator
– 4-H Youth Development
deadlines of Sept. 20 to finish
hand-picking grapes for raisins
and Sept. 25 to finish continu-
ous-tray harvests by machine,
Stark said. All the raisins have to
be out of the field by Oct. 20, he
Growers are expected to pro-
duce a 1.45 million-ton raisin crop
in 2017, down from 1.54 million
fresh-weight tons last year, ac-
cording to the National Agricul-
tural Statistics Service. But they
could have difficulty even meeting
the NASS estimate.
Barserian said it’s the shortest
crop he’s seen since 1998, another
big rain year. That year, California
produced only 248,000 dry tons of
raisins while it averaged 336,000
dry tons. About 4 to 4.5 pounds of
fresh grapes dry into a pound of
raisins, according to the Universi-
ty of California-Davis.
“That year we had 20 inches
of rain and this year we had 18
inches,” he said. “The vine takes
a rest when there’s a lot of water.
… Typically your bunch count is
39 bunches per vine. This year it’s
The shorter crop could help
the industry rebound from a price
slide. Last year, prices bottomed
out at $1,100 per ton, down from
$1,600 the previous year, and the
cost of production is about $1,400
per ton for a standard vineyard,
While prices for this season
have yet to be negotiated, some
packers are already offering from
$1,500 a ton to as much as $1,700
on a contract basis, he said.
Photo by Chris Holloway, Ears Up Photography.
NAPA, Calif. — The latest in a
string of heat waves this summer has
complicated a wine grape harvest
that vintners had considered a post-
drought return to normal.
Triple-digit afternoon tempera-
tures in California’s prime wine-pro-
ducing regions early this month left
vintners scrambling to take protec-
tive measures to keep grapes from
shriveling on the vines before crews
could pick them.
In the Napa Valley, where tem-
peratures reached as high as 107 de-
grees on Sept. 2, growers say fruit
quality remains high because of win-
ter rainfall and vineyard practices
they employed during the growing
Heavy winter rains replenished
reservoirs and brought soil moisture
levels back to full capacity, said Hei-
di Soldinger, the Napa Valley Grape-
growers’ marketing and communica-
“Grapevines draw from these
stores of moisture throughout the
warmest summer months,” Soldinger
said in an email. “In this way, stable
soil moisture levels act as a natural
heat buffer. Also, to date, air humid-
ity levels remain high, even on the
hottest days. The damp air, as with
soil moisture, acts as a cooling ele-
ment in the heat.”
Further, certain vineyard man-
agement practices helped growers
protect their crop, Soldinger said.
Techniques have included tunneling
Garret Booth, 10, shows his hog at the North Idaho State Fair in Coeur d’Alene.
The Kootenai/Shoshone 4-H Program
had a strong presence during the North
Idaho State Fair in Coeur d’ Alene
Idaho August 23-27.
We had over 1,700 4-H entries from
our 705 enrolled members who were
supported by over 230 adult volunteers
The 4-H projects entries ranged from
the traditional sewing, cooking and
livestock to robotics, aerospace and
everything in between.
One of the highlights was the first
annual Small Animal Market sale
where we sold a combined total of 21
pens of poultry and rabbits bringing in
over $7,000 for those members.
Even more notable, at our large animal
sale we had a sale total of over
$520,000. This year we sold 183
hogs, 51 steers, 43 market lambs and
17 meat goats.
committed to donating the proceeds of
his market lamb to Garret Booth’s
family to help with medical expenses.
Additional highlights from our sale
also included the community support
of Garret Booth and his family.
Garret, age 10, battled cancer this year
but remained determined to continue
his involvement in the 4-H program.
He had the reserve champion market
hog and during the sale his hog was
not sold once but twice with those
additional proceeds going to help him
and his family.
To his surprise when he picked up his
lamb this spring from the Hansons he
was also given all of the feed that he
would need to finish his project.
Staying true to his word, he committed
his entire market lamb check to the
We also had a market lamb member,
Cyrus Vore, who had received a lamb
through a Pay It Forward essay
program in conjunction with Hanson
Livestock. In his winning essay he
It is moments like this that you truly
get to see the heart of a community
and we are reassured that there are
youth leaders in the next generation
that are headed in the right direction.
Our wonderful community supporters
raised the bids on both Garret’s
Hog and Cyrus’s lamb to over $20