By Barrie Cleveland, California Winery

The Fall season along the Central Coast is a favorite time of year for many locals and out of town visitors. The summer crowds have returned home, the weather is good and there are still plenty of activities and events to enjoy.

The grape harvest is in full swing along the Central Coast so don’t miss a visit, or two, to the local wineries this month and witness some of the action (of course, with a glass of wine in hand). The harvest will in all likelihood go well into October. Watch out for tractors and trucks on the road and the tired harvest and winery workers.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay dominate the vineyards in Edna Valley and produce some of the most sought after fruit in the state. The relatively cool growing area allows the grapes stay on the vine longer as they slowly mature. This long “hang time” contributes to the grapes flavor profile and produces wine with more complex flavors and subtle nuances.

Local winemakers, so far, are very happy with the fruit quality. Steve Autry, of Autry Cellars in Edna Valley likes the prospects for 2012 after a mixed 2011 season, “Our Sauvignon Blanc is in the barrels and is developing very nicely from exceptional looking fruit. The Pinot Noir we have seen has been superb.”

Brian Talley of Talley Vineyards, states in his blog that, “2012 looks to be one of those very special years that combines exceptional quality and good production, especially for Pinot Noir.”

Clay Thompson, owner of Claiborne and Churchill, makes dry Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Muscat, Port and Pinot Noir. “It really is the best growing season in recent memory,” he says, “and looks to be an almost perfect harvest (knock on wood). Good, healthy, sound crop. Not too little, not to big! Good sugars but not excessive, good acids, what more could we want! And judging from the first batch of Pinot Noir we crushed, the color looks good and the berries are juicy!”

Andrea Bradford, owner and winemaker at Avila’s Morovino Winery was ecstatic with how things are going. “We are very excited about the quality of the fruit this year! As long as rain hold off, 2012 will be a stellar vintage. The Pinot Grigio fruit is absolutely amazing and I believe that the 2012 Dolcetto could conceivably surpass the quality of our double gold medal award winning 2009 vintage.”

Stephen Dooley, winemaker and owner of Stephen Ross Vineyards has a reputation for exquisite, lushly flavored Pinot Noir and richly nuanced Chardonnay, sees the 2012 as a bit larger than last season with excellent quality.

If you’re in the area don’t miss the chance to visit the wineries and witness the winemaking process. You might get a chance to taste some fresh grapes (remember they have seeds!) or even some unfermented juice. Enjoy!