OCTOBER 10, 2014

Harvest Napa Valley 2014 Coming to a Close

A series of warm days and cool nights have pushed Napa Valley’s vintners and growers across the annual harvest finish line. As the 11th week of picking draws to a close, all but a few blocks of mountain Cabernet Sauvignon are in and the scent of fermentation is filling the air throughout the Napa Valley.

This year’s harvest will go down as one of the earliest ever in the Napa Valley and it will also be noted for near-perfect weather throughout the growing season, resulting in a fairly abundant and very high quality crop.

The harvest is winding down in our district....2014 will go down in history as the earliest harvest ever.

Volker Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate

Photo of the week: Goodbye harvest moon! Photo courtesy of Chimney Rock
Goodbye harvest moon!
Photo courtesy Chimney Rock Winery

OCTOBER 3, 2014

Start! Stop! Go!

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

Photo of the week: Sunrise Cabernet Sauvignon pick in Oakville
Sunrise Cabernet Sauvignon pick in Oakville
Photo by: Craig Camp, Cornerstone Cellars

SEPTEMBER 26, 2014

Harvest Peaks as Autumn Begins

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

Photo of the week: Harvest in the rain
Thursday’s rain had little effect on the thick-skinned grapes still on the vine and did not dampen vintner enthusiasm for the quality of this year’s vintage. Photo by Suzanne Becker Bronk, Bronk Photography

SEPTEMBER 19, 2014

Harvest Heats up

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

Photo of the week:Say  hello to some of the final Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Napa Valley’s Soda Canyon
Say ‘hello’ to some of the final Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Napa Valley’s Soda Canyon. Photo courtesy Silver Oak Cellars

SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

Reds Racing Toward Ripeness

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

Photo of the week: Harvest Moon, Photo by Bob McClenahan
Harvest Moon. Photo by: Bob McClenahan

SEPTEMBER 5, 2014

Harvest is in Full Swing

From Carneros to Calistoga, hillside to valley floor, the bustle of harvest is escalating in the Napa Valley. Thanks to a few warm days early in the week, activity has really ramped up as we begin the month of September. Most of the valley’s Sauvignon Blanc is now in, a week to 10 days ahead of normal. Chardonnay and lighter reds are being picked with some very early reports of Cabernet Sauvignon being harvested in a select few locations.

Weather for the week ahead looks moderately warm during the day, with cooling fog predicted for the overnights – the perfect recipe for ripening grapes in the Napa Valley. Early reports indicate a moderate yield for the 2014 crop.

After all the excitement early last week, the focus of our work is already back to picking grapes and making wine.

Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards

Photo of the week: Taking advantage of the cool morning fog at Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak
Taking advantage of the cool morning fog at Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak. Photo by: Dr. Jan Krupp, Krupp Brothers

AUGUST 29, 2014

Pressing On

Gratitude: for all of the kindness, support and cohesion of our community that we have experienced since the South Napa earthquake. In making sure people were safe, in providing essential assistance, in cleaning up and doing what can be done to get back to the business at hand and the unalterable spirit of harvest.

While we have been tending to our neighbors, the grapes continue to ripen, restrained by the recent cool evenings and early mornings, with warm afternoons gently moving things along. Sauvignon Blanc is finishing up within the next ten days or so, with some of the early reds such as Pinot Noir and Merlot ready to come in to press.

Harvest goes on.

Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards

Photo of the week: Here come the reds
Here come the reds. Photo by Scott Yount, Young Inglewood Vineyards

AUGUST 22, 2014

Warm Days, Cool Nights

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

Photo of the week:  It’s raining grapes in Napa Valley
It’s raining grapes in Napa Valley. Photo by Bob McClenahan

AUGUST 15, 2014

The Pace is Smooth and Steady

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

Photo of the week: Vineyard dog Max thinks the Sauvignon Blanc is almost ready
Vineyard dog Max thinks the Sauvignon Blanc is almost ready. Photo by: Mitzi Inglis, Joseph Phelps Vineyards

AUGUST 8, 2014

A Prelude to What’s To Come

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

Photo of the week
Chardonnay grapes on their way to becoming sparkling wine. Photo by: Alex Evans, Domaine Chandon

JULY 30, 2014

Napa Valley Harvest 2014 Has Begun

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

The first grapes from harvest Napa Valley 2014 were picked just before 6 a.m. on July 30
The first grapes from harvest Napa Valley 2014 were picked just before 6 a.m. on July 30. Photo by: Tony Albright, Napa Valley Vintners