Grapegrowers in parts of the Napa Valley are already in the final stages of what’s been one of the earliest harvests in memory.
Most growers report excellent quality, in a year that’s been markedly free of inclement weather or any other kind of trouble. A few minor storms over the last few weeks didn’t trouble growers.
“This year will stand out for being an early harvest in an overall cool year for us, with excellent flavors and balance,” said Ken Bernards of Ancien Wines in Coombsville, calling the 2013 harvest a “beautiful season.”
Here’s the latest installment of the 2013 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:
Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery — “In anticipation of the Fat Lady’s performance, Calistoga is cleaning every block and mopping up every nook-n-cranny. Vintage analogies include 2009 and 2012 though my sense is 2013 is unique. While white blocks scaled heavy the wines seem to lack the important baby-fat middle plumpness I prefer at this point. On the other hand, red T/A yields have been shy — 50 percent lighter in some blocks — with flavors that are OMG bold.”
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — “Another lovely week for ripening is drawing to a close and those at higher elevations, where cab is still coming in, are all smiles. J Schram, Andrew Geoffrey and The Vineyardist are finding excellent flavor development with the longer hang time. About half-finished, Diamond Creek’s Phil Steinschriber reports the fermenting wines are exceptionally expressive.”
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards — “Picking will be widespread across the mountain this week depending on altitude; the lower, the more aggressive. Reports are of anywhere from “we will start” to “we are planning to pick every day from here on out.” With showers in the forecast for mid-week it may slow things down but it sounds like all hands on deck with completion before Halloween.”
Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards — “By Tuesday of last week everybody was picking again. The one-tenth of an inch of rain the previous weekend left no significant impact. Zinfandel, petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon are on the agenda now. The quality is outstanding and the fruit showed no blemishes. All the parameters were near perfect. Slightly disappointing was the lower than expected weight. What looked like very full clusters turned out to be a little lighter. Let us hope that the rain forecasted for mid-week will be as nice as the last one.”
Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery — “This is a busy week for harvesting the vineyards on Spring Mountain. The grapes are ripe, the weather is perfect and last week’s cool weather has opened up much-needed tank space. This great harvest should be wrapping up by next Friday, Oct. 18.”
St. Helena — Kristy Melton, Varozza Vineyards — The last week has been a frenzy of activity around St. Helena. The tiny amount of precipitation followed by some warm temps really pushed any last ripeness through that people were waiting for this season. Varozza Vineyards has picked everything but a block of zinfandel and a small amount of cabernet, and our neighbors seem to be in similar states. This continued nice weather is a warm welcome and we are all incredibly grateful for this volume of high-quality fruit producing some wonderful wines.”
Rutherford — Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyards & Winery — “Last week’s warm, dry weather pushed grapes to full maturity and wineries were be filled to capacity with near prefect fruit. Many wineries were reporting having harvest 60-80 percent complete. Rutherford cabernet is coming in at a steady pace and fermentations are all moving along quite nicely. Here at Honig, it looks like we wrapping it up within the next 10-14 days.”
Oakville — Molly Hodgins, Flora Springs Winery — “In Oakville, we have finished with all white varieties. Of red varieties (grown in Oakville), only our merlot is all in. We continue to harvest our cabernet sauvignon and petite verdot. Dry weather and a little bit of recent heat have given the grapes a little more time to develop. The length of this season with its early start and continued good weather has allowed for more hang time than other recent vintages. This could mean good things for the wines to come.”
Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery — “This harvest, like most, has been distinct and unique. Benoit Touquette, winemaker at Hartwell Vineyards, will be close to the 90 percent mark by the end of this week and thinks his fruit is quite tasty. Michael Beaulac at Pine Ridge reached his SLD finish line today and loves the quality. Jon Emmerich, winemaker at Silverado, finished harvesting his SLD fruit at the end of September and is putting his first lots to barrel. Elias Fernandez at Shafer Vineyards finished harvesting on Sept. 29, a first in 29 years. At Chimney Rock, our last few blocks will arrive this week and the general mood on the crush pad is elation for my team. This will be a first for us — the finish line on all SLD Cabernet Sauvignon before mid-October. For now it is back to the crush pad.”
Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards — “The warm dry winds have accelerated ripening and created near perfection in many blocks of cabernet syrah and cabernet franc. Merlot is concluding a bountiful, excellent year. Many blocks are losing significant weight as sugars approach 30 Brix. Harvest is proceeding at a torrid pace.”
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery — “We have made good progress and the remaining vineyard blocks which did not taste ready last week are now tasting great. We should be wrapping up late next week, a couple weeks earlier than the past few years. Cabernet grower Steve Moulds had this report: ‘Finished up around noon on Monday, with all fruit picked over the week exhibiting bright fruit flavors. Overall perhaps 10 percent yield over last years bounty. Clone 169 came in heavy, which was a surprise, while clones 337 and 338 were in the normal range. What a great ride this year has been!’”
Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards — “With cooler weather, slower ripening and harvest nearing an early end, Carneros is remarkably quiet for the second week of October. Last week saw sporadic picking of mid-season reds such as merlot, cabernet franc and syrah. What little fruit left is syrah and cabernet sauvignon. Quality continues to run very high with great acidities, moderate sugars and great flavors; 2013 is fantastic.”
Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard — “Fall colors arrived suddenly this past week: a field of vines that were mostly green turned mostly yellow, almost overnight. We’re still puzzled by the extra-large, healthy 2013 grape crop — we’re looking back on our notes from 2007, 1997, and 1991, years most similar to this one.”
Coombsville — Ken Bernards, Ancien Wines — “What a beautiful season. We started early, and we’re going to end early as well. Still a little cabernet sauvignon hanging out there. I’ve even seen some syrah still on the vines. We’ve brought in all of our fruit, however. At this point, the skins are loose, and we’ve seen a bit of raisining. We’ve experienced some dry, off-shore winds that have finished off the ripening nicely for those who wanted a little extra. This year will stand out for being an early harvest in an overall cool year for us, with excellent flavors and balance. Everything seems to be fermenting with ease, which is a real treat for everyone in the cellar. It was really a low-stress year for the vines, and that seems to be showing in the excellent quality of the fruit.”
For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2013 website at napavintners.com/harvest.