The cool, autumn-like weather late last week gave Napa Valley’s vintners and growers a break from picking grapes and allowed a bit of time for catching up in the cellar. There was flurry of picking activity mid-week, right before two short, intense storms passed quickly through the valley pausing vineyard activity for a couple of days. However, as soon as the sun came out, picking began again in earnest. This week’s warm days and cool nights, expected to last through the weekend, have provided optimal conditions for grape ripening as Napa Valley enters the home stretch of harvest 2014.
Many wineries, especially those on the valley floor, are reporting that all their grapes are in and are now fully focused on cellar tasks. A few vintners, especially those in the hillside areas of the valley, like Mt. Veeder, Howell Mountain and Diamond Mountain, still have some Cabernet Sauvignon hanging on the vine and won’t finish their picks for another 2-3 weeks. Vintners continue to rave about the quality of the vintage, but reports of quantity are quite varied, depending on the grape variety and the vineyard location within the valley.
Canopies look good and the weather forecast is promising for those who are looking for that last bit of flavor and tannin development.
Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyard
This week, fall officially arrived in Napa Valley – and it wasn’t just the calendar telling us we’re heading into a different time of the year. The grape harvest is reaching its peak and many vintners and growers have now passed the halfway mark for bringing in the 2014 Napa Valley wine grape crop. Mother Nature also brought us a taste of autumn weather in the form of a little light rain and cooler temperatures, which will slow the process ever so slightly before picking begins again in earnest as we reach the final days of September and for many, the final days of this year’s harvest.
Vintners and growers continue to comment on the early, abundant and high-quality nature of this year’s crop. Plans are underway for Thanksgiving celebrations that most in the wine industry don’t get to enjoy because it’s normally such a busy time – looks like we may have the opportunity to give thanks for some time off around the holidays this year…a welcome blessing.
Rain? What rain? Canopies are open and the fruit is in good enough condition to carry through likely without a problem.
Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards
Warm weather last week spurred a jump in maturity levels of red wine grapes, with the Cabernet Sauvignon harvest now in rock and roll mode. Even Cabernet Franc, often late to the harvest game, is being brought in, along with what looks to be the picking finale over the next week or so of other reds, including Zinfandel, Merlot and Petite Syrah. As the season stretches on, yields that at first were being reported as average to a bit above average seem to be sizing up.
With mild, early autumn-like weather in the latter part of the week and predicted for the week ahead, ideal conditions for the ripening of the reds that remain continues the refrain of 2014 looking to be exceptional, and in many cases, an exceptionally early, vintage. A gentle sprinkle of (welcome) rain on September 18 rinsed dust from the grapes and hopefully portends a wet winter ahead.
The Cabernet is in near-perfect condition as we head into the second half of September and we are contemplating an early finish to what promises to be a spectacular vintage.
Kristin Belair, Honig Winery & Vineyard
Under the glow of the harvest moon, it’s been a busy week of wine grape picking in the Napa Valley. Nearly all the white grapes have been brought in, pressed and put in tanks and now the reds are beginning to overflow in macrobins. Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah are being harvested in a serious way, and Napa Valley’s signature Cabernet Sauvignons are reaching perfect ripeness and are being picked. With one of the earliest harvests in recent memory, vintners are noting exceptional flavor profiles and vintage potential.
The weather has been fantastic, with warm days reaching into the 90’s, but cooling down to the mid-50s at night. The crazy pace of full-on harvest is starting to hit its fast-paced stride. Tank space will soon be at a premium!
As you sleep under the 2014 harvest moon, we will be night picking Cabernet Sauvignon. Flavors are superb, so why wait?
Kevin Morrissey, Ehlers Estate
The marine layer lingering through most mornings has allowed vintners to bring in fruit with optimal flavors and sugars while providing a wider picking window. Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and patches of Muscat crossed the weigh scales at a steady pace this week. A smattering of Chardonnay has now begun to find its way to the crush pad. The very earliest Pinot Noirs are starting to be picked, with reports of Merlot being harvested within the next week.
This extra “hang time” that the cooler weather makes possible is coveted by winemakers, providing the gradual development of sugars and the much-desired retention of acidity, weaving together a sense of balance in the bottle that speaks of a great vintage in the making.
We have reveled in the relatively cool weather, allowing the grapes to develop beautiful flavors as they ripen.
Matt Reid, Winemaker, Benessere Vineyards
Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon were harvested in Napa Valley this week and other white varieties, including Chardonnay, are softening toward ripeness as we head into the second half of the month. Cooler temperatures overall are keeping harvest at a steady pace for now, but the somewhat warmer days predicted for the week ahead ought to encourage a tempo uptick.
Lighter reds including Pinot Noir have finished veraison and may find their way into bins by early to mid-September. Cabs and other darker reds are luxuriating in the moderately warm days and fog-touched mornings and will likely be ready for picking in some areas by the middle of next month.
Throughout Napa Valley, flavor complexity in grapes of all varieties is capturing the imagination of winemakers as they begin to sense the potential of this growing season. Moderation seems to be a theme this week: moderate to above average crop size, moderating temperatures keeping sugars and acids in balance and moderate picking activity.
The pleasant warm weather continues to be ideal for grape ripening. Things are shaping up nicely for a great harvest season.
Mary Hodgkins, Flora Springs Winery
Harvest in Napa Valley is quietly getting underway. After the first grapes for sparkling wine were picked last week, we’ve had cooler and overcast weather, giving a mild pause to the ripening process. A few Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes are being picked this week and next, but right now is the calm before the proverbial storm that is harvest.
Vintners around the valley are anticipating an early harvest, right now about two weeks on average, depending on whether a vineyard is situated on valley floor or hillside, and where in the southern to northern niches of the valley it is located. Hot, sunny weather is predicted in the week ahead, and the pace is expected to pick up quickly. Veraison, when the grapes turn from green to red, is coming to fruition depending on location, from nearly complete to halfway there.
Within the cellar there is a flurry of activity readying for the vintage coming in: bottling is at full speed, barrels are at the ready and equipment of all sorts being well-tuned for the whirl of work just ahead.
Weather is perfect for a bountiful yield. Clusters are large, cluster counts are high and canopy development is perfect. We’re looking at a likely ‘three peat’ of 2012 and 2013.
Don Baker, Sciandri Family Vineyards
The first of Napa Valley’s sparkling wine producers began picking grapes around 6 a.m. on Wednesday, July 30, just two days earlier than the start of last year’s wine grape harvest. Although this past winter was one of the driest on record, Napa’s vintners and growers are predicting an abundant, high-quality harvest for the third year in a row.
While there is a specific moment in time when the first grapes of each Napa Valley vintage are picked, every harvest represents the culmination of 12 months of rigorous work and concentrated effort by our vintners and growers to produce the best possible wines.
Grapes for Napa Valley sparkling wines are the first to be harvested, followed by aromatic white wines like Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay, lighter reds and then deeper red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon will become ripe and be picked next. Unlike other agricultural harvests, ours typically lasts from early to mid-August until sometime in the latter part of October. But every year is different and we encourage you to follow along as the most exciting time of year in Napa Valley is about to begin!
Late and very welcome spring rains set us up well in this otherwise dry year. Thanks to the long, moderately warm spring, even flowering, good fruit set and few heat spikes, we’re looking forward to bringing in some beautiful fruit and maybe even an above average yield.
Ludovic Dervin, winemaker Mumm Napa