2005 Napa Valley Harvest Update
Harvest is Underway: Notes from the Field...
9/22/2005 - St. Helena, Calif. -- On the Autumnal Equinox Napa Valley Vintners report daily high temperatures in the vineyard have pushed beyond 80 degrees on only 5 of the last 21 days, and it appears that a mild fall will follow a mild summer -- both mercifully absent of the dramatic heat spells seen in recent years.
Cool temperatures in September have slowed sugar accumulation dramatically, however acid levels continue to decline and winemakers report flavors are developing nicely in all varieties. While no one wants make specific predictions about what to expect in the bottle while so much fruit is still on the vine, many in the Napa Valley are reporting that grapes appear to have great flavors and acids at a lower sugar than usual -- indicating wines with lower alcohol levels can be expected.
Sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir are finishing up in most regions, with Riesling, Chardonnay and Merlot following closely behind. Some growers report that they are beginning to harvest Cabernet, suggesting that the Napa Valley will experience a more condensed harvest than usual, with the reds right on the heels of the whites.
"This year's harvest seems late compared to years like 2004 and some growers are getting anxious, but it isn't really all that late compared to older vintages," says Jon Ruel, director of viticulture for Trefethen Vineyards." I am content to let the grapes keep hanging and developing more character. That said, the threat of rain has shown up occasionally on recent forecasts, so like most farmers, I'm keeping one eye on the sky."
Conditions for growing grapes in Napa Valley have been very good this year. Healthy winter rains and a warm, dry spell in late March proved to be just right for this year's bud break, which was right on schedule. Ample late spring rains in May and June delivered as much as 7-8 inches of rain to receptive soils.
The relatively cool growing season mitigated development of some crops but overall growers and vintners are in agreement that vineyards have never looked better in the Napa Valley, showing exceptionally even growth across the board. The particular health of the vines is speculated to be partly due to last year's lower crop yields, which allowed vines to store good carbs for this year's growing season.
Warm even weather in July with temperatures in the 80s and low 100s dried things out nicely, and continued the pattern of even growth with no stress in the vines.
Across the Valley vintners are reporting that the cooler weather trend has allowed for flavor development in perfect synchronization with sugar accumulation. Winemakers continue to report excellent balance, with color coming out of the skins very early - a good sign for the 2005 vintage. Color and flavor development of both whites and reds are reported to be quite favorable, with none of the sunburn on skins seen in 2004, and heat summation is said to be tracking along the lines of '91, '94, and '95 vintages.
"From a vintner's perspective I've never seen the vines look healthier," remarked Craig Williams, senior vice president and director of winemaking for Joseph Phelps Vineyards.
Contact: CONTACT: Terry Hall Direct: 707-968-4217 email@example.com Jennifer Kopp Napa Valley Grapegrowers 707.944.8311 www.napagrowers.org