The Event
Harvest ’99: From Spain to Sonoma
© by Sheral Schowe
It seems like the grape harvest is a little later on the calendar every year. When I brought my first wine tour to Napa and Sonoma about 15 years ago, we landed in the middle of harvest activity in August. For several years to follow, the grapes were well on their way to fermentation in September.

Now, after a cooler than normal summer, vintage 1999 began in mid-September with sauvignon blanc, and will stretch into the first week of November with cabernet sauvignon. This week’s activity includes the harvesting of zinfandel and merlot.

Winemakers from the Sonoma area are reporting lower quantity yields, yet higher quality fruit for 1999. Mike Richmond of Acacia Winery said that the extra hang-time brought by this year’s late harvest has helped produce good flavors and color. Higher quality fruit in slightly lower quantities with excellent flavor and color extraction marks 1999 as a delicious and memorable vintage to close the millennium.

Spain has had a similar long, cool growing season, with a few devastating hailstorms. Ribera del Duero expects a record harvest despite the hail damage, with an anticipated record 66,000 tons of grapes harvested. The premium Rioja region expects a 25 to 30 percent smaller crop due to bud damage from April frost. Expect an increase in prices, so now is the time to stock up on your favorite Rioja wines.

The sherry producers of Jerez report 5 percent more grapes than last year with excellent quality. This year’s 84 million liters of juice will top off Spain’s solera systems and create 106 million bottles for their worldwide market.

To learn more about the history, climate, and soils responsible for creating our favorite products of Spain and Sonoma, there are some delicious and educational opportunities in store for the month of October. Chef Jerry Garcia at Chez Betty in Park City is planning a Sonoma celebration on October 22. To register for Jerry Garcia’s special dinner, which will include stuffed leg of lamb, call the Continuing Education Department of the University of Utah in Park City at (801) 585-7313.

For an enlightening and epicurean experience on the food and culture of Spain, there will be a special five-course dinner prepared by Café Madrid on October 23. Space is extremely limited, so register early. For more information on the Spain dinner and discussion, e-mail your requests and questions to In the meantime, our annual trip to Napa and Sonoma will arrive, once again, in the middle of harvest.

Oct. 7, 1999

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