The grape harvest for wineries in California, Oregon and Washington can start as early as July in the case of grapes used for sparkling wines and grapes for still wines generally follow along after that on average about two weeks later. Mother nature changed that schedule by quite a bit this year for wineries along the west coast.
The unseasonally cool growing season, especially in the summer has meant that wineries are only now just barely getting started picking. That has not been the case for wineries in most other parts of the country. According to various reports Oklahoma, Texas, and New York all began their harvests weeks on the early side this year. So as they have wrapped up the first phase of their harvest season and then shift all their focus onto the next phase, fermentation, this is one less thing to factor into their schedule and their winery space.
Wineries in the 3 west coast states not only have their concerns over hoping their crop will ripen to desired levels before rains move in or vines begin to shut down but the delayed harvest also means they can be looking at space issues if the fruit all begins to come into the winery at the same time. This is a situation not desirable to anyone directly impacted by the grape harvest. It means that everyone and everything related to harvesting and processing the grapes is in high demand at the same time. From the picking crews and equipment, to the cellar crews, equipment and especially tank space when the grapes all start to come in at the same time the math quickly gets out of balance. In an ideal harvest scenario the grapes are harvested gradually allowing sufficient time for fermentations to finish and the wine to be moved to other storage vessels so then the tank space is freed back up for the next delivery of harvested fruit. However, when the grapes all start coming in at once then it becomes an “every available bathtub” sort of scene. Wineries will then have no option but to use any available container to ferment their grapes in, even if those containers are not the optimal fermentation vessel type.
That may be just one of the end results of a late harvest season like this one for the wineries here on the west coast. It is a situation they’ve definitely experienced before so they’ll access that section of their skilled knowledge for how most effectively to manage incoming grapes and fermentation schedules. It is probably safe to say that is part of the “art” of winemaking.