Vinters Need a Drink After This Harvest Year

Lousy weather makes for lousy vacations, lousy crops.

By Matt Baume
|  Wednesday, Oct 6, 2010  |  Updated 12:45 PM PDT
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It's been a rough year for Bay Area wineries.

Challenging weather has left vineyards in some part of Northern California with meager crops. In some places, the yield is half of what it was last year. A cold summer followed by a few days of intense heat has resulted in lackluster growing followed by deadly withering.

The picking is late as well. Some vineyards haven't even started harvesting the dark grapes, which means that they could be out in the fields when the rainy season starts around November.

It's not all bad news. It's still possible that the weather conditions might yield higher-quality grapes. Because the grapes are spending more time on the vine, the resulting wines may have a more intense flavor. Vineyards seeking a silver lining will highlight quality over quantity for the 2010 vintage.

But no matter how bad things get for wineries, they're unlikely to suffer as much as the victims of a winery-arson case that destroyed nearly a quarter-billion dollars' worth of wine. Yes, billion with a B.

Back in 2005, a jury found, Mark Anderson set fire to his Vallejo warehouse to conceal some illegitimate business practices. The 61-year-old pled and was found guilty, and was recently sentenced to fifteen years. But after the sentencing, Anderson asked to withdraw the plea, saying that prosecutors had offered him a better deal than fifteen years.

It remains to be seen whether he can back out of his guilty plea at this point. But if he can, who knows -- maybe he'll be out of prison soon and ready to rejoin the winemaking industry. Then again, considering how poorly it's gone this year, maybe prison is a safer bet.

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