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WINE WORLD ESTATES' HARVEST NEARING COMPLETION; PROMISING REPORTS OF HIGH QUALITY FROM THREE KEY GROWING REGIONS

 WINE WORLD ESTATES' HARVEST NEARING COMPLETION;
 PROMISING REPORTS OF HIGH QUALITY FROM THREE KEY GROWING REGIONS
 ST. HELENA, Calif., Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- As the wine grape harvest draws to its conclusion in all growing regions of California, early reports indicate that 1992 California wines will be well worth watching as they develop in the next few months. Wine World Estates, with Beringer Vineyards in Napa Valley, Chateau Souverain in Sonoma County and Meridian Vineyards on the Central Coast, is reporting a fine vintage in all three regions as the last of the wine grapes are picked and crushed.
 Harvest was early on the north coast, where an early bud break kicked off what Beringer winemaker Ed Sbragia called a "nearly picture- perfect" growing season. Beringer began its crush Aug. 17, nearly a full month earlier than in 1991, while Chateau Souverain in Sonoma County reported the earliest harvest since 1982, and one of the earliest on record.
 This early trend continued at Meridian, where the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are being picked and crushed this week. Characterizing the Central Coast's summer growing season as "relatively cool," Meridian winemaker Chuck Ortman noted that the Chardonnay harvest was nearly three weeks earlier than usual.
 Temperatures on the north coast during the crucial months of June, July and August were consistently warm, with an adequate number of degree days for the grapes to reach good maturity levels. The early morning fog, so characteristic of the Napa and Sonoma growing regions, burned off earlier than usual all summer, thus allowing more hours of sun exposure. However, there was no excessive heat during the summer months, which can sometimes cause grapevines to shut down.
 "We were harvesting in temperatures ranging from the mid-80s to the mid-90s," said Beringer's Sbragia. "It was almost an ideal harvest from the winemaker's standpoint."
 George Buonaccorsi, Chateau Souverain's vice president of grower relations, noted that the '92 harvest was "shorter and more hectic than usual. Normally we experience a sequence of varieties being harvested; this year, we had already picked more Cabernet than Chardonnay by early September. Just shows you can't take anything for granted!"
 Although "leisurely" is not how he would describe the pace of the harvest at Meridian, winemaker Ortman did say there was a nice, even progression of ripening from vineyard to vineyard. "The temperatures in September were ideal for harvest -- averaging in the high 80s," said Ortman. "Although the Chardonnay crush was compressed, we were able to bring in our Pinot Noir vineyards one after the other, and for the first time we used the open-top fermentors on each lot."
 "The Chardonnay fruit coming from our southern Napa Valley vineyards has very good flavors this year," commented Sbragia of Beringer. "Sugar, acid and pH levels were well-balanced, and the juice tasted fruity and intense right out of the fermentors."
 On the subject of Chardonnay, Tom Peterson, winemaker at Chateau Souverain, had this to say: "The Sangiacomo Vineyard in Carneros looks particularly promising this year. Recent installation of catch-wire trellising in this vineyard has opened up the 'fruit zone,' accounting for dramatic levels of fruit intensity. I'm very pleased with our overall averages for Chardonnay this year."
 Even at the juice stage, Chuck Ortman noticed that the flavors he was tasting were characteristic of Meridian's coastal Chardonnay vineyards. "Nectarines, peaches and melons from Riverbench; pippin apples and lemons from Cat Canyon -- the flavors are more concentrated and intense than usual at this stage," said Ortman.
 With regard to the red varietals, the three winemakers consistently refer to good color and high extract.
 "The Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, which experienced early ripening, yielded small berries with excellent skin/juice ratio," commented Souverain's Peterson. "Merlot and Cabernet have deep color, rich fruit and by analysis, do not have high tannin levels."
 Sbragia, commenting on the Bordeaux varieties from Howell Mountain, said, "The wines in the fermentors are dark, suggesting high extract wines. The sugar levels for Cabernet Sauvignon from our Knights Valley vineyard were right on the mark, and the juice shows real depth of color; I think the flavors will be equally good."
 "I'm thrilled with the quality of the Cabernet Sauvignon," commented Ortman. "The berries are firm, with good color and flavors. I'm doing about 30 percent of the Cabernet in open top fermentors this year, which will concentrate the flavors even further and give me softer tannins."
 With the completion of harvest at hand, winemakers in all three regions report an "average-size" crop in 1992 for all varieties.
 -0- 10/8/92
 /CONTACT: Mora Cronin of Beringer, 707-963-7115/ CO: Beringer Vineyards; Wine World Estates; Chateau Souverain;
 Meridian Vineyards ST: California IN: FOD SU:


SG-GT -- SF008 -- 7944 10/08/92 14:14 EDT
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Date:Oct 8, 1992
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