RUTHERFORD — Dozens of Mumm Napa employees gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate the start of the 2014 harvest on the winery’s crushpad.
Deliveries, which began arriving at 6 a.m., yielded just shy of 16 tons of pinot noir grapes destined for Mumm's sparkling wine.
In keeping with tradition, employees uncorked splits of Mumm Napa sparkling wine and joyously sprayed each other with bubbly. Winemaker Ludorvic Dervin also pulled out a saber and with a brandishing flourish, uncorked a bottle of Rose Brut.
“It was a very good year, almost a carbon copy of 2013 in terms of quality and abundance,” Dervin said. “It was a pretty non-eventful year (for weather), and overall it’s looking really, really good.”
This year’s weather has been similar to last year’s, and although California is still in a drought, Dervin said the limited amount of rain came at just the right time -- late February and early March -- to soak the soil before bud break.
After that, there were no real weather problems -- no frost, with a mild spring and early summer allowing for nice canopy growth and a good crop load.
“Mother Nature threw us a couple of curve balls. With higher heat, we had to watch for sunburn (there was none), and it’s been more humid (than usual) the last few weeks,” Dervin said.
Mumm Napa has been the first Napa Valley winery to harvest grapes for the past few years. This is partly because the sugar level in grapes used for sparkling wine is lower than grapes harvested for still wine, and partly because of the rocky conditions of the Alex and Ben Vyborny's Game Farm Vineyard off the Silverado Trail, which is above Rector Creek Dam.
Dervin said the vines struggle in that environment, and that’s why they are harvested first. They also make a good contribution to rose, he added.
The Vybornys have also been in vineyard management since 1976, and the brothers manage about 900 acres between Napa and Sonoma. Vineyard manager Ben Vyborny agreed that this year’s harvest is similar to last year’s.
“We’re about a week ahead of last year, and the tonnage last year was a little less, but there were no real issues with weather,” Vyborny said.
Dervin and Vyborny also said that labor is tight, and has been challenging for the past three years. While they had plenty of workers for now, recruiting labor when the harvest is at full bore this fall will be problematic.
The Mumm harvest will continue for six to eight more weeks, and Dervin said he is looking forward to “a great, great harvest in 2014.”