Napa Valley Shines at Harvest...Drink it in!
The harvest season in the Napa Valley is, quite literally, show time! After months of tending to the vines and nurturing the fruit to ripeness, the fall and its annual harvest bring a whirlwind of excitement as winemakers get the chance to do what they do best. For those of us who live here, the fragrance of harvest is unmistakable; a slightly sweet, slightly sour aroma wafting up from already crushed grapes, spread back in vineyards, gently fermenting in the waning sun.
To many of us used to the persistent sound of trucks rolling through our towns laden with bins of grapes, it may appear that harvest time is quieter these days. Innovations in wine grape harvesting find viticulturists and crew out in the field in the wee-hours of the morning picking grapes when the temperature hovers around 50°F. The vineyard crews are generally finished for the day before most folks are even out of bed, and the grapes are in the winery already cooled by Mother Nature thereby maintaining the quality of the fruit to the winemaking process—and along the way reducing the winery's need to chill the grapes before crush. This is yet another example of the low-tech, very green innovations being used by growers in the Napa Valley.
Vintners here are spoiled by the region's dry Mediterranean climate, a climate that covers just 2% of the earth's surface and allows for the most vintage-to-vintage consistency for wine grapes. The 2012 harvest will be measured in the coming years as wine comes to market, but the growing season has been even, most would say perfect or classic as they reach to quickly knock wood. Vintners are thrilled with the prospect of this spectacular growing season. The bottled wine will chronicle this time and this place for years to come.
A small place with a big reputation is how one could describe the region's often mis-perceived place in the wine world. Many know the Napa Valley as the most renowned wine region in the US, but few know that it is one of the smallest winegrowing regions in the world—producing just 4% of California's grape harvest, and it's a mere one-eighth the size of Bordeaux. That 4% is a mighty engine that has an economic impact of $13.4 billion to Napa County alone and is responsible for 46,000 jobs directly and indirectly in the county.