FAIRIELD — Grapes are an exalted fruit in Solano County and they are particularly in their glory at this time of the year.
They are the county’s 10th-largest cash crop, according to the recently released 2011 Solano County Crop and Livestock Report. More than 14,000 tons were harvested last year, with a worth of more than $10 million.
And that was a bad year because of a late, wet spring, a cool summer and early October rains, said Ron Lanza of Wooden Valley Winery in Suisun Valley.
“It just made it a very difficult harvest and not very lucrative for the growers at all,” Lanza said.
But this year would seem to be a different story. Lanza on Thursday said Wooden Valley Winery is smack in the middle of its harvest and things look good.
The summer had some good heat. A small hot spell last week provided the final push for ripening. Then the subsequent cool spell provided good weather for the harvest, Lanza said.
“This year is just much better all the way around,” Lanza said. “The quality of wine will be better. The yield is much better for growers.”
Solano County in 2011 had 3,902 acres of vineyards. Agricultural Commissioner Jim Allan said the bulk is in Suisun and Green valleys, but that there are grapes planted all over the county.
Ryer Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has grapes. There’s a vineyard near the top of Mount Vaca. Allan said even the Montezuma Hills has some grapes.
About the only part of the county without grapes is the Jepson Prairie area, Allan said. Jepson Prairie is located in the flatlands east of Travis Air Force Base.
These aren’t table grapes or grapes targeted to become raisins, either. Allan said virtually all of the county’s grapes are for wine.
The number of bearing acres of grapes in the county rose by almost 300 from 2010 to 2011. Allan sees opportunities for still more vineyards to be planted. A limiting factor at the moment is the availability of grape nursery stock, he said.
The Suisun Valley Vintners & Growers Association commissioned a meteorological study of that area, Allan said. The results show that the valley has nearly identical conditions to the Napa Valley in such areas as daytime highs and overnight lows, he said.
All of that helps make for fine wines. Winemakers will soon be at work on this year’s grape harvest.
“It looks fantastic,” Lanza said.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.