SPICEWOOD, Texas — Central Texas has been experiencing a record number of triple-digit temperatures this summer, which means vineyards are having to harvest grapes earlier. But despite the heat, many Texas vineyards like Spicewood Vineyards are expecting one of their largest harvests.
“Our average yield is usually 2 to 2.5 tons an acre, and this year, it's 3.5 to 4, which is unheard of for us,” said Ron Yates, owner and president of Spicewood Vineyards.
After the February 2021 ice storm damaged several buds on some of their older vines, the vineyard had to replant new ones.
"February '21, the crazy polar vortex, has kind of given us some issues," Yates said. "We lost some primary buds. We didn't have a lot of fruit the last two years and grape-growing."
But since vines take around three years to yield fruit, this year is their comeback.
“We’ve had probably our largest fruit set we've ever had in the history of the vineyard – in 30 years, the most fruit on the vine,” Yates said.
They are projecting to pull off 50 tons of grapes from just this vineyard during harvest season. That’s 12 more tons than their highest yield. And to put that into perspective, Yates said each ton can yield about 50 to 60 cases of wine.
But the heat has pushed harvesting season a little earlier than normal.
"We'll probably have everything off by the first week of August, everything off the vines, which is about two or three weeks early for us this year," Yates said. "The heat, it's just been so intense that the ripening process happens way quicker."
Yates said usually, you want to stop watering grapes close to harvesting time to let them build sugar and have time to fully ripen. But since they’ve had to water closer to harvesting time because of the heat wave, the grapes are nearing the end of their time on the vine.
“When it's really, really hot and the grapes are in that final stage, it can cook them from the outside and mess with the skins and do things that are not great for the grapes,” Yates said.
The vineyard owner said as long as we don’t continue to see temperatures over 105, the harvest should be good. The vineyard harvested Sauvignon Blanc last week and will start with lighter red wines on Tuesday.
But Yates said next year, the yield should be back to normal.
“Next year, we'll probably settle back down a little bit," Yates said. "But I'm super excited about how everything's looking even with this crazy heat."