OCTOBER 11, 2013

Harvest Wrapping Up As the Growing Season Started Out: Early and Excellent

Harvest Wrapping Up As the Growing Season Started Out: Early and Excellent

With higher elevation hillside vineyards yielding the last of their fruit, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, most winemakers are calling a contented conclusion to what many describe as a seamless year of steady weather: all in all, a truly beautiful season.

The warm breezes and sunny days of the last week coaxed remaining grapes to full maturity and the brief lull of the previous week opened up needed tank space for juice from this lingering fruit. Already fermenting wines are showing exceptional expression, with some being brought to barrels to quietly age in the months ahead.

Quality continues to run very high with great acidities, moderate sugars and great flavors; 2013 is fantastic.

Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards

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Filling barrels at Clos du Val
Photo by Clos du Val

OCTOBER 4, 2013

Warm, clear autumn weather allows final fruit to ripen in near-ideal conditions

Warm, clear autumn weather allows final fruit to ripen in near-ideal conditions

With whites and many reds already starting their journey in the cellar, the Cabernet Sauvignon remaining on the vine is taking in the gentle warmth of the autumn sun. Hillside harvesting is about to hit its stride with a number of valley floor wineries picking final clusters off the vine in the next week.

The pace of harvest has slowed a bit this week and now the musky smell of dried leaves and fermentation is in the air. There is a general sense of an extraordinary vintage in the making as everyone who has worked the exhausting but exhilarating harvest of 2013 begins to take a deep and grateful breath during this short respite before the final stretch.

At this point, we are nearing 130 days since bloom in Oakville, and the grapes have had a luxurious amount of time to ripen and develop flavors

Molly Hodgins, Flora Springs Winery

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Harvest hands at Cain
Photo by Lololand

SEPTEMBER 27, 2013

Over the hump – Napa’s harvest more than halfway done

Over the hump – Napa’s harvest more than halfway done

Reports from vintners and growers this week indicate that many are rapidly approaching the end of grape picking for 2013. Activity is transitioning from the vineyard to the winery – pressing red grapes that have been fermenting whole, transferring juice from tanks to barrels and continuing the juggling act of finding enough space to accommodate what has been a fast and abundant harvest.

The short but intense rain event of last Saturday did not have significant impact as much of the delicate, thin-skinned varieties that can be susceptible to rain damage had already been harvested. The days following the rainstorm also brought abundant sunshine and breezes that helped to quickly dry any grapes still on the vine. The pace for harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon, usually one of the last varieties to be picked in Napa Valley, is accelerating. Talk continues of this year’s harvest finishing as it began – one of the earliest we’ve seen in a while.

Although nobody was really wishing for rain, it came anyhow and provided a clear reminder that, even in the Napa Valley, we cannot actually control the weather

Jon Ruel, Trefethen Family Vineyards

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Cleaning tanks, Ehlers Estate
Photo by sasammie

SEPTEMBER 20, 2013

Here comes Cabernet Sauvignon!

Here comes Cabernet Sauvignon!

The recurring themes for Napa Valley’s harvest this week were: “perfect weather,” “early harvest” and “more tank space!” It was another week of warm days, cool nights and crisp early mornings – ideal harvest-time weather. Most all the white grapes are now in and picking turned decidedly toward reds this week, including Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinot Noir and other thin-skinned varieties. The bright spotlights of night harvest were seen throughout the valley all week, under the glow of the heavy, full harvest moon.

Reports of the first Cabernet Sauvignon grapes being harvested were also announced and the pace for this king of Napa Valley’s grape varieties is expected to really ramp up beginning over the weekend. Some vintners report their harvest may be done by the end of September, one of the earliest most folks can remember.

2012 was great, but 2013 just might be better

Larry Hyde, HdV Wines – Hyde de Villaine

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Night harvest at the Castello
Photo by Castello di Amorosa ‏@TheCastello

SEPTEMBER 13, 2013

Picking Switches from White Wine Grapes to Red

Picking Switches from White Wine Grapes to Red

With warm weather continuing into September, the pace of the 2013 Napa Valley wine grape harvest has accelerated. The picking of white wine grapes, especially aromatic varieties, is nearly finished and the harvesting of red wine grapes including Pinot Noir, Merlot and Malbec is in full swing. After a spell of hot weather last week, the marine influence is again being felt in Napa Valley contributing to the development of balanced sugars and acids that portend the makings of another quality vintage.

Summer has finally arrived just as we are approaching fall. This past week of warmer weather, well into the high 90's, is promoting the final preparation of skin and seed development for the big reds. These temperatures have brought true ripeness to our Malbec and Merlot which will be picked later this week. After several clear mornings, we anticipate the morning fog to return, allowing remaining clusters luxurious hang time.

Pam Starr, Crocker & Starr Wines (St. Helena)

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Sunrise Merlot harvest in Oakville
Photo by Craig Camp, Cornerstone Cellars

SEPTEMBER 6, 2013

Perfect Seasonal Weather

Perfect Seasonal Weather

With warm weather and cool nights pushing through into September, perfect seasonal weather for ripening continues. With the heat lingering on for the next week or so, many vintners will be finishing up the harvest of their whites in the next ten days in keeping with the somewhat early harvest in general. Sugars are rising in reds, so there should be a trickling in of Malbec and Merlot in some areas. The cooler nights, however, are allowing fruit to maintain acidity through ripening—a hallmark of a great vintage in Napa Valley.

We opened this year’s harvest with Pinot Noir with beautiful berries with intense bright flavors. The skin tannins are fresh tasting, with no over-ripened flavors. We continue to bring in more fruit each night, including the rest of our Sauvignon Blanc. Reds are still two weeks out or more-depending on whether the warm weather we’ve been having continues.

Ken Bernards, Ancien Wines (Coombsville)

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Nightlife in Napa Valley
Photo by Rombauer Vineyards

AUGUST 30, 2013

Slow and Steady Progress for Napa’s Harvest

Slow and Steady Progress for Napa’s Harvest

This week’s moderate temperatures are moving harvest forward with slow and steady ripening. Flavors are intensifying at lower sugar levels, thanks to continued hangtime. The Sauvignon Blanc harvest is about halfway through, with other aromatic whites and Chardonnay still being picked. Pinot Noir picking for still wines is just barely beginning in Carneros, with a number of vintners forecasting harvest of some reds, including Malbec and Merlot, after Labor Day. The color in all reds is becoming deep and dark, boding well for quality.

We see a welcome cooling trend in the forecast to stave off any accelerated sugar accumulation in the grapes. The fruit is coming in clean and sound and yet another bumper crop, uncharacteristic after last year’s record-setting crop.

Peter Mondavi, Jr., Charles Krug Winery

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Pinot Noir at Truchard
Photo by Suzanne Truchard

AUGUST 23, 2013

Aromatic White Grape Harvest in Full Swing

Aromatic white grape harvest in full swing

Thanks to some warmer temperatures earlier this week, ripening throughout the valley has accelerated a bit, with red grapes maturing and coloring up beautifully. The weather in general is just about perfect for this time of year with Sauvignon Blanc and other aromatic whites like Semillion, Viognier and Muscat coming in fast and furious, much of it being harvested at night. The general consensus is that our 2013 harvest has started a bit early in some areas, but not that early overall.

What initially looked like a very early harvest has pushed back a few weeks, but shows great yields and so far, high quality. In August, we will only see some Sauvignon Blanc, but September looks like it will be a very busy and rewarding month.

Kristy Melton, senior winemaker, Clos Du Val Wine Co., Ltd.

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Intern Reed Frazier dons the traditional “Harvest Dress” at Schramsberg Vineyards. Photo by Keith Hock

AUGUST 16, 2013

Beginning to Pick White Wine Varieties

Beginning to pick white wine varieties

With much of the harvest for sparkling wine well underway, we’re just beginning to pick white wine varieties, especially Sauvignon Blanc. The cool evenings have been ideal for creating crisp and balanced acidity for our whites, while the return to warmer days next week will help ensure even ripening throughout the valley. Here we go!

In late July we thought that it would be possible to pick the first week of August, but the recent run of cooler weather, foggy mornings, warm afternoons and cool nights has delayed harvest somewhat from our original predictions. The start date is reminiscent of 2007 and 2008....or back further to 2004.

Kristin Belair, winemaker, Honig Vineyard and Winery

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Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc being picked this morning. Photo by Joseph Phelps Vineyards