They’re off and running in the California wine country, where the 2014 wine grape harvest started even earlier than the early 2013 harvest. In the last days of July vintners from the North Coast to the Central Valley to Southern California began picking grapes that ripened anywhere from a few days to more than a week earlier last year.


Sparkling wine grapes like Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir were among the first to be harvested, with vintners enthusing about their quality, concentration and lower sugars. The 2014 harvest is projected to be smaller than last year’s record-busting yield though still above average.


A long hot summer with even temperatures and rain coming at just the right moments gets a lot of the credit, vintners say, with vineyards so far mostly unaffected by California’s continuing drought. The drought has forced some wineries to truck in water or utilize reclaimed wastewater to irrigate their vines; high-tech irrigation equipment has also made wineries more efficient in their water use. Even so, winemakers worry that their good luck won’t hold forever and are praying for winter rains to restore some of the state’s depleted groundwater.


For now, though, vintners’ have more immediate concerns. Like what to do if their vineyards all ripen at the same time and the potential logjam in wineries finishing bottling the 2013 vintage as the 2014 vintage is coming in. Still, as problems go, things could be a whole lot worse.