Napa Sparkling Wine Harvest Begins Three Weeks Late, Having Successfully Weathered A Wet Winter and Cool Summer

Winemaker Pauline Lhote Says 2023 Harvest Is “One for the Record Books” But Praises Slow Ripening Season as “A Dream” for Sparkling Wine

Napa Valley, August 25, 2023 – Chandon California officially announced the start of its 50th sparkling wine harvest today, with Head Winemaker Pauline Lhote calling the first pick of Napa’s 2023 season. Grapes for California’s sparkling wines are typically harvested earlier than those of still wines, though this season’s significantly cooler weather patterns meant slower ripening across all of Chandon’s estate vineyards and a start to the Napa sparkling harvest three weeks later than in 2022. Celebrating five decades of Napa farming and winemaking, Chandon began harvesting grapes from its Yountville estate vineyard in the cool hours around midnight on Thursday, August 24th, bringing in 9 tons of Pinot Meunier and 12 tons of Pinot Noir. Gathering together with her all-female winemaking team to begin harvest, Pauline noted, “This cool growing season and late harvest is certainly one for the record books. But then 50 years of sparkling winemaking in Napa teaches you lots of patience!”

While 2023 is potentially one of the coolest starts in Sonoma and Napa in more than 20 years, Winemaker Pauline Lhote and her team are excited about the high quality of the 2023 harvest, noting that cooler than average temperatures after veraison (beginning of ripening) helped to slow the process and preserved the bright acidity and fresh fruit character that Chandon sparkling wines are known for. “Overall, it was quite a dream season for sparkling wine grapes,” said Pauline. “After years of drought and heat in California it was such a blessing to finally have a very wet, cool season. Even three weeks late, I’m excited about the exceptional fruit starting to come in.”

Considering the impact of drought conditions in years past, Pauline and Chandon Winegrowing Director Carlos Danti also noted other positive byproducts of 2023’s wetter, cooler season, including replenished soil moisture in the vineyards, full ponds and reservoirs through the summer, and thriving flora and fauna, including growing fish and owl populations. According to Carlos, “It was amazing to see the impact of this year’s rain on every aspect of our winegrowing and regenerative practices – natural wildlife expanding its territories, soil health and beneficials thriving, and our vineyards across Sonoma, Carneros and Napa needing far less irrigation than in past years.”

In terms of crop size, Pauline is optimistic about grape yield this harvest, noting that winter rains and slow ripening allowed vineyards to grow extremely well, with clean, loose clusters that have high potential to deliver quantity as well as quality. “While this year’s crop size is likely to be about average rather than high, Chandon is extremely fortunate to be able to farm for quality, not quantity,” noted Pauline. “Whether the year is high yield or low, wet or dry, our goal is always to make sparkling wines of exceptional acidity and delicious quality.”

A pioneer of sparkling wine in California – and the first French-owned sparkling wine house in Napa – Chandon continued to embrace innovation and change as it celebrated its 50th growing season this year. As part of its goal towards cleaner farming and reduced fossil fuels, the winery installed solar panels in Carneros and Yountville to offset energy use and replaced its tractor fleet with electric vehicles. In addition to irrigating with 90% reclaimed water and enriching vineyard soil with more carbon, the winery also planted over 60 acres of drought-tolerant vines in Mount Veeder, Yountville and Carneros. The key to ensuring exceptional California wines for the next 50 years, according to Pauline, “Learn from the past and plan for the future. All of our new plantings, solar panels, and other farming updates at Chandon are the result of meticulous research to ensure we can continue growing the highest quality fruit even as weather conditions and climatic changes get less predictable.”

Ushering in the winery’s next era in Napa Valley with the unveiling of a beautifully reimagined Chandon Home this fall, the winery is also toasting 50 years of sparkling wine with this month’s release of the Chandon 50th Anniversary Cuvée Winemaker’s Blend ($75.00 SRP at Led by four head winemakers since putting down roots in Napa Valley in 1973 – Dawnine Dyer, Wayne Donaldson, Tom Tiburzi, and now Pauline Lhote – Chandon brought all four winemakers together again for a reunion to create this milestone blend. “Our team will definitely be toasting with a bottle of our 50th Anniversary Cuvée this harvest,” said Pauline. “It’s the perfect wine to reflect on five decades in Napa and the people that have made the last 50 harvests at Chandon California so special.”