Harvest Fieldnotes — Harvest Updates

That’s A Wrap

The 2019 harvest season has come to an end. Wines from this year’s vintage are now quietly developing in cellars, and winemakers couldn’t be happier with the caliber of fruit from this year. “The quality of the fruit that has come into our cellars has been truly exceptional, with deeper color than anticipated, ample texture with bright acidity, and clean fermentations,” noted Tom Farella of Farella Vineyard.

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.

Entering the Home Stretch

And just like that, the 2018 harvest season is coming to an end. Vintners throughout Napa Valley are stepping back and reflecting on the steady harvest they had this year. The near-perfect growing season started later than previous years, saw ideal weather conditions throughout and is coming to a close for a majority of wineries throughout the valley. Wines from the 2018 vintage are now quietly developing in cellars, and winemakers are pinching themselves and smiling for the gift it appears Mother Nature has given them.

Break in the Action

A brief but welcomed period of rain gave harvest crews a much-needed breather, allowing time to catch up on work in the cellar before the next round of picking. While some producers are still waiting to bring in Cabernet Sauvignon, many are reporting that the majority of their fruit will be hitting crush pads in the next few weeks. The crisp fall mornings and sunny days are allowing for optimum ripening, and the winemaking community couldn’t be happier. While everyone is at different stages of harvest all can agree that yields are higher than anticipated and quality of the 2018 vintage has been exceptional thus far.

Red Wine Anyone?

With white wines now behind us, winemakers throughout the valley are steadily bringing in their first picks of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. While many are still patiently waiting for 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 ripening. The grapes that are still on the vine are looking very good, and yields appear to be above average. However, many producers are reporting that the bulk of Cabernet Sauvignon harvest will be around mid to late October.

Slow and Steady

What a difference a year can make. A year ago, many winemakers were busy bringing in fruit and keeping up with Mother Nature’s curveballs, while this year’s harvest is quiet. Many producers throughout the valley are steadily bringing in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and the first few bins of red wine. We are still weeks away from harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon as growers are waiting for temperatures and sugar levels to rise. If the weather continues this way, we’re in for a beautiful harvest with an abundance of elegant and complex flavors developed through a balanced and even growing season.

Napa Valley Harvest Begins

The first fruit of harvest 2018 is in! Duckhorn Vineyards, Domaine Chandon, Mumm Napa, Judd’s Hill and Monticello Vineyards are just a few members who have had fruit make their way from the vineyard to the crush pad. The picking of white wine grapes, like Sauvignon Blanc, will start in the next week to 14 days. Recent warm temperatures are helping the transition from veraison to full ripeness. While this year’s harvest is slightly behind last year, many winemakers are breathing a sigh of relief to a more even, less challenging growing season.  Winery teams are gearing up for their busiest time of year, bottling recent vintages and making tank space for what’s to come.

2018 Harvest

We are on the cusp for Napa Valley’s 2018 harvest.  With our warm, sunny days and crisp cool nights, it looks like harvest will not be underway for a couple more weeks. Winemakers are walking their vineyards, keeping a keen eye on what’s happening. Workers are strategically managing vine canopies to ensure optimal sun exposure while grapes are beginning veraison, the process of slowly changing color and transitioning to ripeness and softness.

Harvest represents the culmination 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. 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.

Moment to Reflect

Weeks have come and gone, and the close of this year’s harvest is upon us. The usual cheering, end of harvest get-togethers and general excitement have been replaced with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. The recent wildfires came right as harvest was wrapping up for many in the valley, with an estimated 90% of the grapes already in. This year’s harvest has tested every winemaker’s quick thinking, thanks to the ups and downs that Mother Nature has thrown their way. Even with everything that has happened, this year’s vintage is going to be excellent. While the celebrating might not happen today, this week or even next month, our sense of community and love for each other will shine. As we start to pick up the pieces, we will all share a glass of wine and be thankful for what we have. Jon Ruel from Trefethen Vineyards may have said it best: “We know that the Napa community is resilient and we will support each other as we move forward together.”

If you would like to support the Napa Valley community during this challenging time, you can donate to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund or enjoy a glass or bottle Napa Valley wine wherever you are. Even better: come visit us sometime, taste early samples from the 2017 vintage and experience the bounty and beauty that still remains in the place we are so grateful to call home.

Harvest Huddle with Doug Hill

Doug Hill brought us up the mountain (even though you can’t see it) to introduce us to his crew picking Malbec grapes deep into the night. Night Harvesting is easier on the crew, ensures nice cool fruit coming into the winery, and is a really interesting thing to watch.

Back in the Saddle Again

This harvest season has given us our fair share of ups and downs weather-wise. It might sound like a broken record, but Mother Nature is keeping us active. Last week’s dip in temperatures slowed down the progress of harvest for most throughout the valley, but the silver lining for producers was the ability to catch up in the cellar. Just when we thought the cooler weather was here to stay, the heat returned and it was a blessing for all. This latest rise in temperatures helped push grapes to ripen, and the valley is alive once again with the bright lights of night harvesting. We are still a few weeks out before most Cabernet Sauvignon will be picked, but the consensus from winemakers is that by mid-October we will be in the thick of it. Even with this crazy ride, everyone is happy with the quality and yield coming out of the vineyards.

Harvest Huddle with Stephanie Jacobs

For our third “Harvest Huddle” video, we headed inside to see what goes on in the winery during harvest. Winemaker Stephanie Jacobs of Cakebread Cellars discusses fermenting “on lees” and what that adds to her Chardonnay. The winemakers of Napa are constantly walking their fruit through the stages of becoming wine, even if that means hand stirring barrels multiple times before they go into bottle.

The Hills Are Alive…With Grapes

Another week has come to an end this harvest season, and we couldn’t be happier. Weather conditions are ideal for our red wine grapes and the few late harvest white grapes are still on the vine. Vintners on the valley floor have been busily picking lighter reds and small lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, but our hillside producers have been relatively quiet until now. Almost all hillside wineries are starting to bring in fruit, and things couldn’t be better. Lush, vibrant fruit is making winemakers so excited they could dance – literally! While we still have a few weeks to go before the height of the Cabernet Sauvignon picking begins, it gives us time to stop and enjoy the other amazing varieties that grow within the valley.