Harvest Report: Cabernet harvest takes off

2012-10-11T00:00:00Z Harvest Report: Cabernet harvest takes offJesse Duarte Napa Valley Register
October 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The recent heat wave caused the cabernet sauvignon harvest to begin in earnest, and growers from around the valley report bringing in high-quality fruit.

“This makes for very busy wineries and picking crews up and down the valley,” said Molly Hodgins of Komes and Garvey Ranches/Flora Springs. “But it is something of a relief for growers and winemakers who had been waiting for flavors to catch up with sugars.”

Here’s the latest installment of the 2012 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:

Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery: “Most growers passed the halfway mark last week with continued raves over the excellent quality. Shrinking, cooler days, satellite photos of wispy clouds off the coast, forecasts of possible showers and, oh yes, beautiful fruit mean it’s time to bring it all in. Most of the tight-clustered flavors, except of course slow-poke charbono, should be in by the end of the week, leaving only cabernet sauvignon. It’s a good year when the only complaint heard is that of inadequate tank space.”

Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards: “Harvest is finally in full swing on Diamond Mountain. Merlot and malbec are off the vine and cab will be coming in all week. With cooler days and nights in the 40s, sugar accumulation has slowed while flavors continue to develop. Crop levels are reporting average to slightly above average, but the bulk is still out. Predictions of rain last week pushed back to this coming Saturday (20 percent chance), but shouldn’t do anything more than wash the dust off.”

Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards: “The recent heat has moved everything along to the point where people are picking all over; albeit with varying degrees of aggression. Many have pick schedules that include every day of the week. It does indeed look as though things will be quite compressed in time and everyone may be maxing out their tank space and doing some logistical planning. All comments about quality, though, are very good.”

Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards: “Today is Oct. 8 and it is fair to say that 50 percent of the harvest is complete. Even cabernet sauvignon, either young blocks or those in warmer locations, showed fabulous maturity after the little heat wave a week ago. Zinfandel also has been picked widely in our district. Like cabernet, the quality is outstanding due to the excellent maturity and good sugar/acid balances. If the rain does not become an issue the harvest should continue, but at a little slower pace.”

Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery: “Many of the higher elevation wineries on Spring Mountain are actively harvesting cabernet sauvignon and almost anything else that’s left on the vines. They are also anticipating the end of harvest later this week or early next week. However, Pride, York Creek, Guilliams and Sherwin will not finish until toward the end of October, as will the lower-elevation wineries that are still waiting on the cabernet sauvignon.”

St. Helena — Doug Boeschen, Boeschen Vineyards: “With the whites all in and, in many cases, already dry, we’ve turned our focus to the reds. Sugars jumped up last week after the heat, and merlot and cabernet franc were some of the first to come in Upvalley. With cool, dry days in the forecast, we have the luxury of time to make picking decisions. There’s certainly no rush.”

Rutherford — Jean Hoefliger, winemaker/general manager, Alpha Omega: “The most prominent varietal of Rutherford, cabernet sauvignon, has now begun to arrive on the crush pad at Alpha Omega. We are currently harvesting our Rutherford hillside property and are impressed with the beautiful aromas. The recent cooler temperatures, which followed a heat spike, are softening the structure of the valley floor cabernet tannins, which will continue to hang throughout the week.”

Oakville — Molly Hodgins, Komes and Garvey Ranches/Flora Springs: “Last week’s heat kicked this week’s harvest into overdrive. Nearly all the grapes still on the vine in Oakville are scheduled to be picked this week. This makes for very busy wineries and picking crews up and down the valley, but it is something of a relief for growers and winemakers who had been waiting for flavors to catch up with sugars. The clear forecast gives the fruit that is still out there some extra time to mature or to wait for an open tank at the winery.”

Yountville — Jennifer Waite, Tamber Bey Vineyards: “Last week’s heat spike gave our cabernet sauvignon that much-needed last push down the final stretch toward optimal Brix levels. Both the old vine and new vine blocks are now with just a couple of digits for harvest. We expect to pick the last of our Yountville fruit — cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot — within the week.”

Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery: “This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Jon Emmerich, winemaker at Silverado Vineyards, picked his first SLD cabernet and exclaimed, ‘Yahoo!’. Michael Beaulac of Pine Ridge says, ‘We’re rocking,’ picking SLD cabernet every day this week. Kristy Melton, winemaker at Clos Du Val, is filling tanks up quickly and sees light at the end of the tunnel. Sandy Taylor at Taylor Family Vineyards says they will be finished harvesting SLD cabernet by the time this is in print. At Chimney Rock, we are ecstatic as cabernet sauvignon will be galloping into tank continuously over the course of the next 10 days.”

Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards: “Grapes on Atlas Peak tolerated last week’s heat wave pretty well, with very few raisins being created. An occasional block did crash. Cabernet sauvignon is now being harvested in addition to the whites, merlot and malbec. The quality of almost every lot is outstanding this year. There is potential for many great wines this vintage. Cabernet franc is still not quite ready.”

Mount Veeder — Brian Nuss, Vinoce Vineyards/Twenty Rows: “The harvest has started for us. Picking Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for Robert Craig. On Thursday we are also picking for 2480. The weird part is we are starting in the upper vineyard this year, which we usually pick two weeks later than the lower. The grapes are in great shape and ready to go.”

Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery: “While the weather has cooled, the action has not. We have been picking actively including malbec, merlot and cabernet franc. We also picked our first lot of cabernet sauvignon from our Hillspring vineyard. The pinot noir has all been pressed, which is good because we need the tank space. Loving 2012!”

Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards: “What a perfect week; September blessed us with a slow-motion harvest and now, with the first week of October’s heat and ripeness, we have finished up the 2012 chardonnay harvest. By this coming week’s end we will be nearly done with the remaining merlot, syrah and cabernet franc. With three-quarters of the harvest in the barn bubbling away, we can’t help but feel giddy.”

Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard: “Vintage 2012 is complete — by far the largest since 2007. Time will tell as to the quality of the wines we’re making therefrom. We picked the chardonnay six times over a 14-day period; the last picking (on Oct. 6) caught us with overripe fruit (26 degrees Brix) thanks to a warm sunny week.”

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