Calaveras Wine Country 2020 Harvest Highlights - Part 1

Behind the Scenes with Family Winery Teams, Grape Growers & Grape Stomp Planners


The Calaveras Wine Region is abuzz with harvest activities! In celebration of this year's harvest season, the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance is set to host the 27th Annual Calaveras Grape Stomp Competition online for the first time on September 27th. Due to pandemic, the event and auction will move online and a great time is planned for all. This community event and fundraiser has become a tradition for many and details can be found at: https://www.calaveraswines.org/grape-stomp. With 40 tasting rooms to explore in Calaveras Wine Country and the prospecting spirit of grape growers and winemakers alike, visitors can enjoy almost every type of wine available in California.


Out in the vineyards and winery crush pads, grape growers, cellar workers and winemakers are bringing in this year's beautiful bounty of wine grapes ranging from Barbera, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Viognier, Grenache, Marsanne, Roussanne and many more!

New this year - Chenin Blanc (known also as Pineau de la Loire among other names) is a white wine grape variety from the Loire Valley of France. Scott Klann, winemaker and owner of Newsome Harlow Wines is excited release his first vintage of 100% Chenin Blanc from the 2019 harvest. Klann shares, "The 2019 Drama Queen is the culmination of almost ten years of experimenting in the vineyard and winery by the late Steve Collum and myself. We dreamt up the idea of this wine together (over a bottle of Loire Valley Chenin Blanc). The original idea was a Chenin/Viognier blend. And for many years that’s exactly what the DQ was. A few years ago we started noticing more and more development and expressiveness in the Chenin Blanc. The decision was made to graft the Viognier portion of the vineyard over to Chenin Blanc. This 2019 is the first vintage we were able to bottle it 100% Chenin Blanc. The resulting wine is dry and aromatic and so very “Loire Valley” in style. The 2019 Drama Queen will be released in the next few weeks".


Sandra Hess, Executive Director of the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance shares, "This year's harvest in Calaveras Wine Country has been bittersweet as we mourn the loss of one of the greats, Steve Collum. Collum was the lead Vineyard Manager in our wine region and brought a wealth of knowledge to winery teams throughout the Sierra Foothills. Steve helped our friends at Aloria Vineyards achieve their Sustainable Vineyard Certification and brought many innovate approaches to vineyard management including the development of his own netting solution. Steve is greatly missed and will be forever remembered for his kindness and many contributions. We dedicate the 2020 Calaveras Wine Region Harvest to Steve".

As our friends at Vina Moda Winery bring in their bountiful harvest of Syrah from the Dalton Ranch, winemaker Nate Vader focuses on hand-sorting to provide the highest quality of wines year after year. This picture is a great way to visualize the value of hand-sorting when making hand-crafted wines:

Stuart at Brice Station Vineyards shares, "This morning’s Brix samples showed normal ripening, heavier than normal crop load on our Bordeaux varietals. Most of the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are in the 19-20 range. The Merlot is at 22 Brix, and we will begin bringing our Merlot harvest in about two to three weeks - when the sugar reaches 25 and acid about 3.45 ph. If anyone is looking for grapes this harvest, we are bound to have extra for sale".


Rich and Gary share a harvest update at Lavender Ridge Vineyard...

"Harvest is just getting started for us. We’ve only harvested white wine grapes so far. Some people are talking about rinsing grapes before processing due to the smoke in the air due to fires. So far, the 2020 harvest is off to a great start and we are looking forward to the red varietals coming in soon. No reports of smoke taint in the Sierra Foothills wine industry at this point. The white fruit looks and tastes good. There has been some rise and fall in Brix this year which is a little unusual but overall we expect an excellent harvest".

The team at Milliaire Winery is busy bringing in their Zinfandel grapes and the color of this year's harvest is quite beautiful! They have Old Vine Zinfandel vineyards planted in Calaveras County and the average age of these vines is approximately 95 years old. True old vine Zinfandel is distinguished by head-trained vines with thick, gnarled trunks and is planted with ancient clones dating back to the turn of the century. Steve and Liz Milliaire continue to produce award-winning wines and were among the first to plant grapes here.


Kevin Locke, proprietor of Locke Vineyards, shared that he did some extra hand-watering of his grapes this season due to the extreme heat wave a few weeks ago. Overall the grapes look wonderful and he looks forward to harvest season each year. It's truly a family affair at Locke Vineyards as daughter Kirsten and others lend a hand with picking and bringing the grapes in. They shared this picture of their Viognier grapes looking might fine the later part of August and we can't wait to hear about all of their other varietals being harvested this year.


Today, we caught up with Joe Lazzara, Jazz Cellars co-owner and he reported that they have harvested their Viognier grapes from Dalton Ranch and their Grenache grapes from Villa Vallecito. Joe shared that the grapes look great and that this year's harvest season has been bountiful. The Jazz Cellars team looks forward to introducing new wines from the Calaveras Wine Region in years to come.


We hope that you have enjoyed these harvest updates. Watch for Part-2 in our 2020 Calaveras Wine Country Harvest Spotlights next week!


About the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance: Established in 1989, The Calaveras Winegrape Alliance (CWA) is a non-profit organization, dedicated to increasing the awareness of all wines produced in Calaveras County and/or produced from Calaveras grapes. CWA represents Calaveras County families - making some of the most exciting wines in California’s historic Sierra Foothills region. The Calaveras Grape Stomp Competition was started by local winery owners and grape growers who wanted to create a fun event to celebrate the harvest season and also give back to their local communities. The annual event has grown into the Largest & Oldest Grape Stomp in California. To learn more visit the Grape Stomp page here.