Colorado grape growers are ‘thisclose’ to big harvest
As anyone with a backyard garden can attest, that cool and wet weather we enjoyed in May, dubbed “Miracle May” by some water watchers, left most of western Colorado about a week to 10 days behind the regular time when it comes to harvesting fruit and vegetables.
The same is true for grape growers, many of whom this weekend said they still are waiting for their grapes to ripen fully.
The wet spring following a mild winter was very good for the crop, which appears to be one the best in recent years.
“We’re a little behind but all of the fruit looks great,” said John Behr of Whitewater Hill Winery on 32 Road. “It’s really nice to be able to drive down the rows and see bunches of grapes.
“I could get spoiled.”
Deep winter freezes and late spring frosts repeatedly have sliced into the area’s grape crop since 2011, leaving many winemakers, particularly those who prefer to stay 100-percent Colorado grown, to cast an anxious eye at their dwindling supply of available wine.
“I’m down to eight wines and I usually make 17,” said Nancy Janes, Behr’s partner and the winemaker for Whitewater Hill. “So I’m really glad this year came along.”
Janes and a few other growers already have picked some early ripening white-wine varietals but most growers said their grapes need at least another week or so of warm, late-summer days and cool nights to fully develop the desired levels of balance between sugars and acidity.
John Garlich of Bookcliff Vineyards said his grapes in the Vinelands area south of Palisade were about 10 days out from harvest and John Barbier at Maison La Belle Vie Winery in Palisade said his are at about the same stage of development.
Still, Barbier said he’s eager to take full advantage of a big harvest.
“My reds are getting a bit short so this year will be very good for us,” he said. “I want to stay 100-percent Colorado and refuse to buy (out-of-state) fruit, so I can use a good year.
“I think this year I will make some extra cases of wine because I know I can store them and they only will get better with time.”
“I already got some early Chardonnay from Kaibab (Sauvage) and everything else was about normal,” she said. “But after veraison things are little slower and taking a bit longer to get ripe. I can’t explain it.”
Naomi Smith of Grande River Vineyards said she was anticipating a big crop and that Grande River winemaker Rainer Thoma was ready for “things to pop.”
“I think everything is going to ripen all at once, just like the cherries and peaches did,” Smith said. “I think this is going to be a good year for us and other growers.”