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SAN FRANCISCO — California vintners and growers across the state are grateful to have finished another successful harvest, despite the state’s severe drought and the earthquake that rocked south Napa in late August, just as crush was starting.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Pacific Regional Crop Production Report of August 2014, California’s winegrape production this year is forecast at 3.9 million tons, down 8 percent from 2013’s record high crop.

The 2014 harvest is the third largest on record, according to a news release issued today from the California Wine Institute.

A mild winter and spring led to very early bud break — reported as January in some locations — although the overall length of the growing season mirrored that of past years, the organization reported.

Moderate temperatures allowed for even ripening and one of the earliest harvests on record: July for sparkling wines and mid-October for the later-ripening grape varietals.

“The 2014 vintage was by far the earliest start of any harvest I can recall,” said Adam Mettler, director of winemaking for Michael David Winery in Lodi.

“Early concerns about adequate storage quickly faded as our vineyards continued to check in at 20-25 percent down in volume from the previous two years,” he said.

Winemakers have described 2014 as another year with high-caliber fruit.

“Quality is outstanding,” said Chrissy Wittmann, winemaker at Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards in Paso Robles. “There are small berries with good tannin and color release on the reds, and flavorful fruit with bright aromatics on the whites.

Robert P. (Bobby) Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute, said his organization is “keenly aware” of the state’s ongoing drought and its effects on the state’s entire agricultural community, including the wine industry. “We are doing our part as vintners and growers to mitigate water usage through a variety of sustainable practices.”

Copyright Central Coast Wine Press