Napa Valley 2007 Harvest Report:Growers Stay Flexible, Winemakers Are Delighted
10/25/2007 - October 25, 2007: St Helena, CA—Harvest 2007 is all but completed in the renowned Napa Valley and it looks to be a stunning vintage, but it was not without a few surprises as reported by the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), the non—profit trade association representing nearly 300 wineries in the appellation. This was a vintage of contrasts: contrasts from previous vintages, and contrasts from early predictions to final outcome, yet winegrowers adapted to changing conditions all along the way to finish with what looks to be an outstanding vintage for Napa Valley wines all across the board.
“There is finally light at the end of the vine row. Lots of frayed nerves but terrifically fresh profiles in the juice and wine…the quality of wine is outstanding, with great acid level,” said Pat Stotesbery, owner of Ladera Vineyards on Howell Mountain, one of the last areas to harvest.
The Growing Season
The year began dry with some very cold days and single—digit nighttime temperatures around the New Year holiday, the opposite to the start of 2006 when floods greeted the New Year. The season continued dry, with about 60% of normal precipitation throughout the appellation. Temperatures were warmer than normal as winter continued into spring with resulting earlier budding, bloom and set in the vineyards across all varieties.
Soils dried early in spring due to low precipitation, which halted canopy production early in the season. This allowed field crews the opportunity to do even more refinement in fruit thinning as they spent less time managing the canopy, a positive benefit to the lack of winter rainfall in the region.
The summer growing season continued on the mild to cool side, with few days topping 100 degrees, even in the warmest locations in the appellation. There were also notably fewer days in the 90s, which changed early predictions that ’07 would be an unusually early harvest. Any fears that labor shortages might occur faded as the cool summer found harvest returning to a more traditional, even relaxed, pace. There was a brief period of heat that spiked around Labor Day, but the temperatures cooled after several days. This heat spike added the boost of sugar development that growers were looking for to complement the excellent acid structure developed in the white varieties.
This year clusters, as well as individual berries on the clusters, though set at a normal quantity, were notably smaller in all varieties due to the dry season. Barbara Insel of MKF Research, the experts in wine business statistics, expects the harvest to be down 5—10% in all varieties from an “average” year. The 2006 harvest was also down and this two—year cycle has leveled out any over—supply in the market for Napa Valley Appellation fruit.
Early Harvest – Whites and Lighter Reds
Harvest of Chardonnay began in early to mid—August in Carneros and southern Napa, followed by Pinot Noir, both for sparkling wine, as these are always picked at lower brix (sugar levels), than those for still wine. The timing was just a little ahead of normal. Mumm Napa Valley’s winemaker Ludovic Dervin said, “This vintage offers good flavors and strong acidity. Overall it is a very nice vintage for Napa Valley sparkling wine producers. Challenges this year included early bud—break with a potential threat of frost, but we had no damage in the end. Nice weather during bloom, and near—perfect ripening conditions until the end of August, allowed us to harvest most sparkling grapes at optimum maturity level.”
“Harvest and sugar accumulation was accelerated the last week in August... The vintage is below average in terms of yields, but of very promising quality…We are extremely optimistic about the 2007 vintage as being high on quality,” said Remi Cohen, vineyard manager, Merryvale Vineyards.
The first rounds of thinner—skinned white varieties like Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and then Chardonnay for still wines began in late August and continued into mid—September. As crush began, Janet Myers, winemaker at Franciscan Estate noted that; “…the Sauvignon Blanc finished fermenting, I'm very happy with the character and quality, nice crisp acidity…Chardonnay yields were variable, but overall came in about 5% under expectation, with…good intensity.”
Steve Reynolds of Reynolds Family Vineyards said of Chardonnay, “Great vintage, weird, but good.” And Allen Price of Casa Nuestra reported that: “2007 Riesling fruit was very clean with lower amounts of Botrytis than previous years. It was an early harvest with average crop load. The flavors…developed quickly so the wine ‘kind of made itself this year.’”
Chardonnay is the top white variety planted in Napa Valley with about 7,100 acres under cultivation cropping at just over 3 tons per acre, with an average 2006 price of $2,200 per ton. A distant second is Sauvignon Blanc at 2,400 acres, Pinot Gris/Grigio at 262 acres and Semillon at 172 acres.
“The 2007 vintage is looking very promising…yields have been slightly lower than anticipated, but the quality appears to be very good. Both the low yields and high quality can in part be attributed to smaller berries and lower—than—average cluster weights. The 2007 season has been characterized by very cool and very consistent temperatures; with total growing degree day accumulation slightly lower than 2006. This has allowed the fruit to ripen at a very steady pace, making for nearly ideal chemistry and flavor development…the 2007 vintage is allowing us to be very selective and pick at exactly the desired level of maturity. The moderate weather, combined with very low disease and pest pressure this year, has left the vines and the fruit in very good condition. All and all we are very optimistic about the 2007 vintage,” said Toby Halkovich, viticulturist at Cakebread Cellars.
Michael Weis of Groth Vineyards said; “STUNNING is the only way to describe the 2007 vintage…Our biggest challenge this year was to figure out what we will do with ourselves between our Chardonnay and our Cabernet harvest——lunch, the beach, bocce ball, a nap? This vintage is one of healthy vines, no Botrytis, no raisins, long hang time and STUNNING fruit!”
Contact: Terry Hall, Communications Director