Harvest Fieldnotes — 2019 Harvest

Mild October Days Make for Ideal Ripening of Reds

Bin of grapes with farmworker harvesting in background vineyards

Reds that have come across the crush pad and into tanks for primary fermentation are typically going through punch downs or punch overs, where the skins of the grapes are mixed back in with the juice, creating additional color, flavors and tannins.

Sunny, warm days with cool nights are making for ideal ripening conditions for Napa Valley’s revered red wines, while most whites have gone through fermentation of one sort or another and tucked away for the winter. As October gently slips into the home stretch, much of the harvesting of valley floor Cabernets and other richer reds is wrapping up and the movement for harvest moves into the mountains.

Powering on through Harvest

“Our winemaking community is full of creative people who can adapt when the weather, power availability or other environmental changes take place.” 

— Pam Starr, Crocker & Starr, winemaker and owner

While much of Napa Valley is currently experiencing significant power outages, we are ready to power on through harvest.

With last week’s cooler weather and mild temperatures forecasted for the rest of this week, harvest is progressing at a steady rate, allowing vintners to process their fruit at a moderate pace. Cool, sunny days such as those predicted in the coming week are ideal for letting red wine grapes hang a bit longer to develop additional flavors.

Harvest is largely a manual effort in Napa Valley, requiring little to no electrical grid power. The majority of wineries here are small, family owned operations that can accommodate fluctuations in the harvesting rhythm and most have some sort of alternative power source for sorting, heating, cooling.

Additionally, our winemakers are well equipped to use traditional winemaking methods when needed (manual pump-overs, water for chilling, propane for heating, etc). So despite the widely reported PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff throughout the Bay Area and Northern California, Napa Valley continues on in the pursuit and cultivation of another great vintage.

Cabernet Has Arrived

Who said Mother Nature is predictable certainly not a Napa Valley winemaker! Warm late summer weather segued into a cooling trend in mid-September, with a touch of rain, all starting to show the beginning signs of fall. The result of the changes in weather? The picking of white wine grapes nearing is well underway and, in some areas, nearing completion. Medium-bodied reds, like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Syrah are in full swing. So where does that leave Cabernet? Well, we are happy to say that the picking of Cabernet is has started up and down the valley. We’re hearing of great balance and color in the juice that is being pressed. The few hot days we’ve had will soften skins, and the upcoming cool weather trend should allow the rest of the fruit on the vine to slowly develop to perfection.

Slow and Steady

White wines are in full swing and some winemakers are starting to bring in their early ripening red varieties like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Zinfandel. While many are still patiently waiting for the bulk of their red wine grapes to start rolling in, everyone can agree that these warm days and cool nights are perfect for that last bit of development. The grapes that are still on the vine are looking very good, yields appear to be consistent with last year and quality looks to be outstanding. Cabernet Sauvignon should be making its appearance on crush pads in the next week or so.

Waiting on Reds…

Bins filled with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are slowly making their way from vineyards to winery crush pads throughout the valley. For white varieties already harvested, we’re seeing a balance of acidity and floral notes. This first “peek” portends a promising vintage, highlighting balance, freshness and maturity. 

While we are still weeks away from reds being picked, our members are keeping themselves busy, very busy. Winemakers are walking vineyards, sampling grapes and ensuring each vine is getting just the right amount of sun, shade and water. In the winery, winemakers are carefully tending to the newly crushed juice as it begins its transformation into the 2019 vintage.

And So It Begins!

Mumm Napa Valley by Tim Carl Photography

The first fruit of harvest 2019 is in! Mumm Napa and Judd’s Hill are just a few members whose fruit made its way from vineyard to crush pad in the last couple of days. Picking of white wine grapes, such as Sauvignon Blanc, will start in the next week to 14 days. Recent warm temperatures are nudging the transition from veraison to full ripeness. The timing of this early stage of harvest is just around average, with winemakers generally pleased with how this year’s crop is shaping up. Winery teams are gearing up for their busiest time of year, bottling recent vintages and making tank space available for what’s to come.

Harvest 2019 Will Be Here Soon!

We are just a few weeks away from the start of Napa Valley’s 2019 harvest. Winemakers are gearing up for their busy season, bottling recent vintages and making tank space for what’s to come. Right now, winemakers are walking their vineyards, keeping an eye on what’s happening.


Harvest represents the peak of 12 months of rigorous work and concentrated effort. It’s also the time when we come together with the common goal of producing the best possible wines that deserve to say Napa Valley on the label. We hope you’ll join us for updates, photos, videos, music and the stories of just what’s behind every bottle of Napa Valley wine.