Chimney Rock winemaker Elizabeth Vianna says this year’s harvest is not for the faint of heart. But, as the Indian summer continues, winemaker Chris Dearden said workers are harvesting all the varieties, the last of the whites and the first of the cabernets in the St. Helena Appellation.

Following are the 2010 harvest reports by American Viticultural Areas (north to south):

Calistoga — Paul Smith, Onthedge Winery, “Last week’s heat brought many grapes into sweet ripeness while others were scorched and badly desiccated. Many varieties will be crushed this week as activity at most wineries will ramp up to that typical of harvest. Zinfandel yields have been average to a bit light with good sugars while one cab franc grower reports losing nearly two-thirds of his crop to sunburn and desiccation while a block sheltered by the shadow of the Mayacamas shows neither shrivel nor raisins. In general, unprotected sites to the north and east of the Napa River have sustained more heat damage than those to the west and south of the river.”

Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards, “With smaller than normal crops the vines responded quickly to the last week of heat and sugars took quite a jump. A few really exposed vineyards complained of raisining, but most of the canopies on Diamond Mountain remain healthy with sugars running from 23-26 Brix. Early varieties are coming in, but, with a favorable long term weather forecast, most of the cabernet will be out for another week or two.”

Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards, “For the most part, things remain very quiet. Red fruit has barely begun and most people are holding off waiting for more assured ripeness. Some yellow leaves are seen in the fruit zone as the plants sense the coming of season but the phenolics and brown seeds are still lagging a bit. There is some talk about later this week but with the forecast of cool weather until the weekend it will probably be next week before anything worth mentioning happens.”

Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards, “What a difference a week can make. Ninety percent of all whites are in now. Only a little bit of chardonnay has still to be picked. What is more remarkable is that some zinfandel and syrah have been picked and will continue to be harvested throughout this week. Cabernet sauvignon samples showed good sugars of around 23 degrees Brix but with fairly strong acidity and low pH. Overall quality has been very, very good whereas yields are dropping somewhat below normal. The heat damage seems to have been more severe than first anticipated.”

Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery, “What a difference a week makes. Blistering warm weather last week moved sugars up substantially and those of us on the top of the mountain harvested whites and small blocks of reds, mostly merlot. The lower elevations of the mountain, mostly in the morning fog, are still in a holding pattern and the cool-down this week has everyone back in the waiting game.”

St. Helena — Chris Dearden, winemaker, V Madrone and Shibumi Knoll, “Vintners and growers are enjoying the late Indian summer weather and picking all varietals now including the last of the whites such as chenin blanc as well as Old Vine Zinfandel, petite sirah, syrah, and even the first cabernets of the year. The fruit quality has been excellent with ripe balanced flavors and moderate sugar levels. Color from the skins is releasing early and tannins taste grainy and rich, which is a harbinger of a good vintage.”

Rutherford — Jeffrey Stambor, director of winemaking, Beaulieu Vineyards, “2010 is trying the patience of even the most experienced winemaker. Continued cooler temperatures and dry conditions are predicted and thus there is little immediate pressure to pick. The vines are holding up well in most cases considering we are well into October. Merlot is beginning to come off but we have yet to pick any cabernet in the appellation. Flavors are still developing and with a bit of cooperation in the weather we will be looking at some great wines. GO GIANTS!”

Oakville — Pat Garvey, vineyard manager, Flora Springs Winery, “Paul Steinauer from Flora Springs and Gary Brookman from Miner are waiting for the chardonnay flavors to develop. Sugar increased 2 Brix during the very warm week but flavors were slow to develop and acids were still higher than they would like. With the Brix moving about 1.2 Brix per week both winemakers are beginning to pick up nectar, tropical fruit and honey in the flavors and will want us to pick later this week.”

Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery, “The harvest is officially on in the Stags Leap District. Elias Fernandez of Shafer tells me, ‘The piper has arrived for payment’ — and he is busy picking merlot. Benoit Touquette at Hartwell had just picked a bit of merlot and was waiting for a bit of recovery after the intense heat. At Chimney Rock, the waiting game continues, but will probably begin merlot this week. My description for the nature of this harvest: not for the faint of spirit. It will be an intense October for everyone.”

Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards, “Wonderful merlot, chardonnay and zinfandel are being harvested on Atlas Peak pointing to an excellent vintage despite our earlier concerns. Cabernet flavors are wonderful and weather permitting confirm that this will be a very good year.”

Mount Veeder — Brian Nuss, Vinoce Vineyards/Twenty Rows, “Well, we did get some heat last week as you know, it did help move things along. We are at 24 Brix in the lower vineyard. Seeds are a little green but getting close. Looks like the weather should be perfect this week around 80 degrees. Hopefully, we will have some grapes in by next report.”

Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery, “Here at Trefethen, we’ve brought in our first cabernet while we’re still in the middle of picking chardonnay. Come to think of it, we also brought in merlot, petit verdot and malbec this week. October is looking to be a pretty busy month!”

Dave Pramuk from Robert Biale Vineyards, “Biale continues to pick zinfandel from all appellations: Rockpile, Monte Rosso and Stagecoach are all in. Generally good quality, some loss of fruit due to dehydration. We’ll have 50 percent of our fruit in by the end of this week. Petite sirah is expected to come in next week.”

Stan Boyd, Boyd Family Vineyards, “Flavors are finally starting to come around as sugars have increased about 1.5 Brix in the last week. We’re looking to harvest our last block of chardonnay and some syrah for Rose this week.”

Morgan Morgan, business manager for Oak Knoll Ranch/Lamoreaux Vineyards, “We finished our sauvignon blanc and semillon harvest mostly last week and some this week. The quality was excellent, although the yield was a bit lower than normal for the sauvignon blanc. The cabernet is coming along nicely. We hope the weather stays mild and we do not go through any extremes of hot or cold. If the weather behaves favorably, we can expect an excellent quality crop with normal yields. Rios Farming handles our crops.”

Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards, “It’s great to be past the halfway point of chardonnay. Flavorful fruit has been coming in all week as quickly as we can pick it with perfectly moderate yields. Pinot is all in and bubbling away. Merlot and syrah will be starting this week. We are all excited about how fantastic the quality is and amazed to see how apparently insurmountable problems can disappear. Long live the ‘Surprises of 2010.’”

Wild Horse Valley — Bob Nicol, Robert Nicol Vineyards, “The weather is sure changing up here, cool evenings and foggy mornings are becoming more prominent, with barely warm afternoons, which seems to be the norm. We’re still a week or two before the Brix says yes and the seeds are darker. Taste is excellent with terrific wholesome clusters. The beauty of fall colors are showing up in this valley in the sky, but still trying to hang on to its green leaves.”


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