NAPA VALLEY'S DIVERSE CLIMATES, SOILS AND ELEVATIONS PROVIDE VINTNERS AND GROWERS WITH A 2002 HARVEST THAT'S FAST, RIPE AND DELICIOUS
Napa Valley Vintners Ask: "Where's the Glut?"
10/15/2002 - St. Helena, California, - In findings announced today, Napa Valley vintners characterized the 2002 vintage as one which will be remembered by a long, mostly mild growing season that ended in a hectic, compressed harvest. And, contrary to reports of a statewide grape glut, Napa Valley vintners reported modest per-acre tonnage.
"It's difficult to generalize Napa Valley's growing season because of the incredible diversity of our sub-appellations," said Dawnine Dyer, president of the Napa Valley Vintners and partner, Dyer Vineyards. "A cluster of grapes in the southern Carneros region of the Valley will experience significantly different degrees of fog, sunlight, wind and precipitation than a cluster high on Spring Mountain, mid-Valley."
"However, overall, we're seeing a balanced grape crop that is average-to-light in terms of yield and showing excellent, intense colors and flavor concentration," Dyer added.
While per-acre tonnage this season is generally lower than average, the overall yield of the entire Napa Valley appellation is at the average to above average level.
According to Frank Leeds, vineyard manager for both Frog's Leap and Long Meadow Ranch, some of the lower yields are manmade. "Some varieties offered up a large potential crop, but many growers thinned pretty heavily to focus on flavor and color. In some Cabernet vineyards, for example, we dropped two tons of fruit per acre over the course of the summer," said Leeds.
"We're seeing more total acres in production, due to numerous replants coming on-line," said Dyer. "That translates into higher tonnage Valley-wide, loosening up grape prices and availability. Even so, glut is not a word I would use to describe our particular situation."
Leeds agreed. "Every year, world-wide, there is a glut of average quality grapes. Meanwhile, there always seems to be a shortage of truly superior fruit. I think what we're seeing here in Napa County is a return to a more a typical grape market - a limited amount of top-quality grapes from well-established growing areas, commanding top prices. On the flip side, fruit from lesser-established areas commands lower prices," he said.
The 2002 Growing Season
According to Leeds, the 2002 growing season began with several vineyards experiencing frost in April. In late May, Merlot in the northern portion of the Valley was blooming and unexpected rain caused a bit of loss.
"The good news about the May rain was that it helped thin out a potentially over-large Merlot crop, while giving the vines a solid shot of moisture going into summer," Leeds explained.
Summer gave Napa Valley a long, mild growing season with only a few manageable heat spikes in late September and early October - speeding harvest to a close. Growers "green suckered" or pruned the shoots and leaves a bit more often than normal to allow the vines to put their energy into the grape clusters - ensuring highly concentrated and complex fruit flavors.
Following veraison (when the fruit begins to change color) in July, growing conditions were truly ideal with warm days and cool, even cold, nights.
Harvest started earlier than is typical. Sparkling wineries began bringing in fruit on August 13th. Makers of still wine were not far behind. Leeds reports that picking for Sauvignon Blanc in the mid-Napa Valley region started on August 17th.
"We had a pretty compressed harvest," says Leeds. "Normally we'd be picking for eight to ten weeks. This year it's been six to eight weeks. We've been real busy out there."
Currently the bulk of Napa Valley's harvest is just about complete. Leeds estimates that only about five percent of the crop remains to be picked. Makers of botrytis wines are likely to begin their harvest in late October and will probably make numerous passes through their vineyards, with picking likely to continue through Thanksgiving.
Blind Tasting of Lesser Known Napa Valley Varietals
In addition to the harvest findings announced by the Napa Valley Vintners, a blind tasting of alternative Napa Valley varietals was conducted for news media and guests. Among some of the varietals tasted were Pinot Meunier, Tempranillo, Malbec, Chenin Blanc, Semillion, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Riesling, among others.
"There were some wonderful, non-traditional Napa Valley wines tasted that clearly challenged and even stumped the palates of some of the most saavy wine writers," said Joel Aiken, vice president, winemaking, Beaulieu Vineyard.
Though the Napa Valley is traditionally known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, 44 different "black" or red, and 28 white winegrape varieties are grown in the Valley. According to Aiken, successful cultivation of these varieties goes hand-in-hand with advances in local farming techniques and practices.
More than 30 wines were tasted including, Domaine Chandon's Pinot Meunier; Truchard Vineyards' 2000 Tempranillo; Cosentino Winery's 2000 Semillon; Casa Nuestra Winery and Vineyeards' 2001 Dry Chenin Blanc; Summers Winery's 2000 Charbono; and, The Hess Collections's Napa Valley Malbec.
Napa Valley Vintners
The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) is a professional nonprofit trade organization representing over 210 wineries in marketing and promotional activities throughout the United States and abroad. For more information about NVV and its members go to www.napavintners.com. Digital Harvest photos, as well as the 2002 Napa Valley Vintage Chart and 2002 Growing Season and Harvest Quotes are available on the Web site in the Press section.