Preliminary indicators of this year's California winegrape harvest suggest another classic, high quality year, according to a panel of vintners from across the state speaking at Wine Institute's 2000 Vintage Press Conference at the World Trade Club in San Francisco today.The 2000 growing season was ideally mild, punctuated with two heat spikes, a minor 5.2 earthquake that caused no damage, then intermittent rains during the picking and crushing. The heat resulted in small losses from sunburn, and rain produced some isolated mildew, but the lion's share of the crop came in clean, with uniform ripening, excellent sugar/acid balance and fantastic colors and flavors."California is known for its world-acclaimed climate and soil. Combined with the industry's cutting edge science and artistic skill in grapegrowing and winemaking, our winegrowers are producing consistently high quality wine," says John De Luca, president and CEO of Wine Institute.The yields per acre are coming in average to above average for several areas, reported the panel of vintners. Overall winegrape tonnage for the state has been predicted at 3.2 million tons, according to an estimate made by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in August. This is about 23 percent over 1999's crush of 2.6 million winegrapes tons, and higher than the record crush of 2.9 million winegrapes tons in 1997. However, several winegrowers have suggested that the total may be lower because of the smaller berry size and lighter weight of the clusters. CDFA is expected to release its final report on the tonnage in February 2001.California produces over 90 percent of U.S. wine. If the state were a nation, it would be the fourth leading wine producer in the world with 444 million gallons.An edited videotape version of the Wine Institute Vintage Press Conference 2000 will be available for viewing within the week on the Institute's web site at