2010 Mendocino Harvest Report

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By Courtney Cochran

With smoke-tainted 2008 vintage wines in circulation now, Mendocino winegrowers no doubt are keen on a strong harvest this season. Still, this hardy group from one of Nor Cal's most northerly wine regions is all too familiar with the vagaries of inclement weather - not to mention so-called acts of god (hello, fires!) - which means they're used to holding their breaths come near-harvest-time.  

I caught up with standout Mendo vintner Paul Dolan of Paul Dolan Vineyards to get his take on what's in store for Mendo wines in 2010.

WC: How is the growing season looking now?
PD: Late.  It's been a cold spring and a cool summer. Its effects we're seeing all over the state, but [the unseasonable cold] is definitely happening up here in Mendocino. Things are two to four weeks later than we'd like to see them, and there is concern in the very cool areas as to whether [the grapes] will achieve maturity.  

WC: Are any varieties faring better than others?

PD: Most whites look okay.  As for reds, there are bright spots here in Ukiah Valley, where Petite Sirah - which is usually a late [ripening] variety - was one of the first to see veraison, or color change.  Over in Anderson Valley I think Pinot Noir will do well because it's an early variety that in this instance will see some extra hang time - which will develop a little extra complexity for those wines.

WC: Are there any particular varieties you're worried about?
PD: Cabernet Sauvignon is the most worrisome up here because it tends to come in late - sometimes [even in a good year] it just barely limps in.  Overall, late rains could really cause problems for mid- to late-ripening varieties like Merlot and Cabernet.  

WC: What does this mean for some of the other Mendocino AVAs?
It's worrisome for Cabernet in Redwood Valley and maybe also out in Potter Valley - some of the cooler areas that struggle in a cool season.  

WC: Overall, what is your prediction for the 2010 Mendocino harvest?
PD: This won't be a self-fulfilling prophecy because I can't do anything about the weather!  That said, it has all the makings for a tough season and I think we'll have some grapes that get caught by rain and won't get harvested.  

WC: Switching gears, are there any fun Mendo harvest-related activities we can look forward to?
PD: Pure Mendocino is an annual event happening next weekend at my family's ranch, Dark Horse. It's a great way to acknowledge our organic farmers - whether they're harvesting produce or grapes - and the relationship between a healthy environment and our health (the event benefits the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County).

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