(InEDC) BY Cris Alarcon Published: September 14, 2023
In a surprising turn of events, the 2023 harvest in El Dorado’s mountain terroir is shaping up to be one for the books. Known for its high-elevation vineyards and unique growing conditions, El Dorado typically experiences a later harvest compared to other North Coast AVAs. However, this year’s growing season has been particularly delayed, thanks to a long winter and cool spring.
Traditionally, budbreak in El Dorado occurs later than usual, pushing the growing cycle into the milder fall temperatures. However, this year’s budbreak was even later than usual, setting the stage for a unique harvest season. Despite the late start, the mild summer temperatures have allowed the fruit to ripen gently.
According to reports from the El Dorado Eight, a group of local growers and winemakers, the 2023 vintage has the potential to be exceptional. Barring any spring frost or wildfires, this harvest season is expected to be a standout one.
The harvest for sparkling wines started in late August, approximately two weeks later than recent years. Paul Bush of Madroña Vineyards recalls that this year’s harvest reminds him of the ’90s and early 2000s, when harvest typically began in mid-September and lasted into November.
Another anomaly of this vintage is the fact that the red varietals finished veraison before the white varietals. Tom Sinton of Starfield Vineyards believes that the white varietals may have been affected by frost in 2022, causing a delay in their development this spring.
Labor Day weekend brought an unexpected cool rainfall of approximately 0.5 inches, further slowing down the harvest. Vintners like Paul Bush had to take extra precautions to prevent bunch rot, particularly Botrytis, by opening up the vines to allow for better airflow. Despite the rain, there has been minimal damage reported.
As the week following Labor Day approaches, some varietals have finally made their way to the crush-pads. Edio at Delfino Farms, a Rhone-style wine house, started their pick for still wines on September 6th, with low yields but full of character.
Les Heinsen of Element 79 Vineyards in the southern part of the AVA is optimistic about the conditions for producing outstanding fruit this season. With over 70 varietals to be harvested, El Dorado’s winemakers and those from other North Coast AVAs are looking forward to showcasing the region’s signature acidity, brightness, and liveliness with a conifer sensibility.
Overall, the 2023 harvest season in El Dorado is shaping up to be a memorable one, with delayed budbreak and unique growing conditions contributing to what could be an exceptional vintage.