A classic vintage for Napa Valley from start to finish.

"Classic" and "perfect" are just two accolades being bestowed upon the 2012 Napa Valley growing season and harvest. Textbook conditions saw near-ideal spring bud break, steady flowering, even fruit set, and a lengthy stretch of warm days and cool and often foggy nights during the long summer months. Late and light rains held off until Napa Valley's treasured wine grapes found optimal ripeness, bringing exceptional quality to the crush pad and into the cellar.

The abundance of perfectly ripe grapes--with a smooth balance of acids and sugars--provided a broad sweep of opportunities for winemakers to cull only the most select fruit. The vineyards of Napa Valley are intentionally farmed at lower yields bringing only the very best grape to harvest. Growers here, year-in and year-out, bring an average of 4 tons per acre to crush overall, which is consistently half the California state-wide average. This is one of the many reasons that Napa Valley wines are so consistent vintage-to-vintage and acclaimed for their high quality in the bottle. This vintage, while as much as 30% higher than the past two years' smaller crops, is on par with near-normal quantity.

Stay tuned as the fruit, now juice on its careful and intricate way toward wine, develops in the cellar. We can't wait to see how the flavors of the 2012 Napa Valley harvest reveal themselves.

Notes from the Cellar and the Vineyard

"In my memory, the depth of color, the beautiful aromatics, and the satisfyingly complete palate are unmatched," said Chris Howell, winemaker/general manager of Cain Vineyard & Winery. "The Napa Valley harvest of 2012 will certainly be remembered as one of the very best ever for the Napa Valley."

"Vintage 2012 reminds me of 2005, one of my two favorite vintages of the decade, with its very smooth, even ripening season," said Corison Winery owner and winemaker Cathy Corison.

"2012 is shaping up to be an outstanding vintage. The flavors of the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc blend are delicious, with bright lime and grapefruit. The Chardonnays are undergoing malo-lactic fermentation and showing beautiful character, echoing the ripe Fuji apple and Bartlett pear flavors seen in the vineyard. The personality of the Bordeaux-style varietals is starting to emerge: deep color, dark cherry and cassis flavors, with significant backbone and structure. Overall, the vintage has a very rich and appealing profile, and we are extremely pleased," said Janet Myers, winemaker at Franciscan Estate.

"In agriculture there is no perfection, only personality," said Craig Camp of Cornerstone Cellars. "Winemakers still have plenty of work to be done in the cellars, but the growing season has provided us with a season to celebrate: Warm sunny day after warm sunny day, rarely did we hit 100° F for the high and just as rare was the day it did it not hit at least 85° F. The nights were cool, dropping down to the low 50s, even nicking the 40s. Up and down the temperatures swung wide each day in that dance that makes the Napa Valley such an exceptional place to grow wine grapes. Wines with freshness, life, energy and, most of all, personality are the hallmark here. We were able to pick truly ripe fruit at moderate sugar levels, which means moderate alcohol levels with crisp acidity that will make the wines sing."

Just before the pace of picking really heated up, Phil Coturri, vineyard manager, Oakville Ranch Vineyards said, "The warm days along with the quick bloom this spring set the stage for even crop load through all the varieties--truly everything looked fabulous as we moved into the final weeks." And that is how the season continued with a beautiful warm fall with little rain that allowed for a relaxed and steady pace to the finish.

"Mother Nature has been kind to us in 2012 as we have one of the most balanced crops in years said Keith Hock, winemaker, Schramsberg Vineyards.

"This growing season takes me back to the classic Napa Valley vintages I knew as a teenager, when I worked summers at Louis Martini. The mornings start off with some fog and overcast, by midday it's burned off and the sky is vivid blue. By afternoon we've got heat in the 90s and by five or six o'clock it starts cooling down and if you eat dinner outside you need a jacket," said Elias Fernandez, winemaker, Shafer Vineyards.

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