Well, what can we say about the 2020 harvest season other than we’re glad that it is over? We picked the last round of peaches at the start of September and the Albarino on September 16.
Thanks to good weather during blossom, we had an excellent crop of peaches this year. We were kept busy all summer with installing bird netting, setting electric fencing to repel raccoons, and, of course, picking. Our challenge came in marketing. Our primary peach market has always been restaurants in Santa Rosa and west county. Due to the pandemic, many of our restaurant customers were either closed for the summer or had significantly scaled back. Happily, we were able to compensate by increasing our sales to individuals. We were also fortunate in selling bulk to f.e.e.d. Sonoma, a wonderful farm to table distribution hub that provides CSA boxes to households in Sonoma and Marin counties.
After a summer of warm but benign weather, in August we experienced an electrical storm the duration and intensity of which I have never experienced in my lifetime in northern California. The result, of course, was a series of major wild fires throughout the state. The Wine Country has been hit hard with the destruction of homes, wineries and vineyards. For winegrape growers smoke taint is resulting in major losses. The Russian River Valley AVA was hit particularly hard with many wineries rejecting crops of pinot noir. Some growers, knowing that wineries will likely reject their fruit, are avoiding the costs of picking by letting their grapes dry up on the vine.
Here at Rusty Gate Farm, we picked on September 16 and delivered grapes to Picayune Cellars and to Deloach. We are now anxiously waiting to see if our crop will be accepted. A winery makes its decision on both laboratory testing results and sensory perceptions. We should be hearing fairly soon. With so many growers and wineries submitting samples to the local wine lab (ETS), the lab is backed up – a situation made worse by loss of electricity due to the Glass Fire in the Napa Valley.
The grape year yield this year was 6.9 tons compare to 9.7 tons last year. Quality was high, despite a severe heat spike (111 degrees one afternoon in Sebastopol) at the same time that fruit was ready to be picked.