Last weekend’s rain ushered the 2013 harvest into its final phase, with growers rushing to harvest the last of their white grapes.
The late-ripening cabernet was tough enough to handle the rain, but cool temperatures have slowed ripening. Harvest continues at a steady pace in some appellations, while other growers are patiently waiting for reds to reach optimal sugar levels.
Here’s the latest installment of the 2013 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:
Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery — “Forty vintages ago, 25 Brix would trigger a frenzied panic, an old response to older conventions for now old wines and now even older men. In 2013, maximum hang time to near-30 Brix with some adjustments to now optimum are ho-hum. And the recent cool weather is now, well, cool, with high-quality vernacular now ‘awesome.’ The Calistoga pace peaked this week with perfect contemporary ripeness. CS, CF, PS and PV scale crossings will taper down this week with yields significantly down, albeit with excellent quality.”
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — “A second rain during September is unusual and has growers on Diamond Mountain watching their vineyards closely. Mountain Cab is pretty hardy and so far there are no reports of damage from the rain, but skins are softer and, with a few exceptions, it’s time to finish up. Some lucky folks are finished while some are waiting to barrel down the first wave of fermentations to make space in the winery for the last grapes. At higher elevations the harvest is just hitting stride. First reports from the fermentor are enthusiastic — great flavors, excellent color extraction and plush tannins.”
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards — “Sauvignon blanc and malbec are in and reportedly with large quantities and great quality. Cab is now firmly underway. Some folks report that cluster weights may be low, but overall tonnage remains at or above predicted levels. Across the board, quality looks very good and the vines and fruit are holding healthy. Now we only need a little more consistent heat to get us to the finish line. Lots left to pick.”
Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards — “For a while things could not happen fast enough, and now we are back to the old waiting game. For how long, we do not know. After last weekend’s rain, we had to wait for the cabernet sugars to come back up again. Now there are clouds on the horizon that might keep us out of the vineyards a few more days. The little that was picked, mostly zinfandel, showed excellent quality. So far it is shaping up to be a stellar vintage.”
Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery — “The first rain almost two weeks ago provided a nice break to catch up and make some space in the wineries. This little storm is not quite so welcome. While some wineries will be harvesting this week, most are now impatiently waiting for the grapes to further mature. The early-season belief, held by many, that there would be an early end to the harvest must now be re-evaluated. True, some wineries are about to finish, but there is at least 50 percent of the grapes still hanging on our mountain vineyards. The mountain is in unison that 2013 is a fantastic vintage — maybe even better than 2012.”
St. Helena — Eric Titus, Titus Vineyards — “Harvest is about to enter the critical stage. The variable weather conditions have alternatively stimulated and suppressed Brix movement, resulting in gradual and even maturation, and good cluster weight. The zinfandel harvest appears to be just about complete, with excellent results, and we should see the majority of the cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc coming into play in the next week or 10 days.”
Rutherford — Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyards & Winery — “Sunrise after 7 a.m., nights trending cooler and moderate daytime temps ushered in the first week of fall. Sara Fowler at Peju reports that all of her Rutherford Estate fruit had been harvested as of Saturday. ‘We picked our cab this past week (merlot a week or two back); so far, it looks, smells and tastes amazing! Analytically speaking, the fruit was practically perfect.’ At Honig, we are excited to be bringing in our first Rutherford cabernet this week. The fruit continues to look fantastic. We are looking forward to an active week ahead with pressing out tanks that were crushed in early September, barreling down those wines and receiving more fruit. Everyone here was able to get a much-needed rest day this past weekend, so we are ready.”
Oakville — Molly Hodgins, Flora Springs Winery — “This week we are harvesting most of what remains in Oakville. In the past week we finished up with chardonnay and we are continuing with cabernet sauvignon. The last few days, minus a rainy Monday, have been busy and the action continues. At this point we are nearing 130 days since bloom in Oakville, and the grapes have a luxurious amount of time to ripen and develop flavors.”
Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery — “In Stags Leap District, the cabernet sauvignon harvest continued at a steady pace this week. Elias Fernandez at Shafer Vineyards looks like he is closest to the finish line. Meanwhile, Jon Emmerich, winemaker at Silverado Vineyards was about to jump into ‘full force.’ Harvesting about 130 tons of SLD Cab so far, Jon said the color is dark and beautiful and the juice ‘seems really solid.’ Michael Beaulac was deep into cabernet sauvignon, waiting on petit verdot and cabernet franc on their estate. He commented on enjoying the ‘nice, easy pace’ of this harvest. I agree with Michael. At Chimney Rock, the generous mild weather has allowed us to keep a very civilized pace of harvest, leaving us time to pay careful attention to each precious tank.”
Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards — “Growers on Atlas Peak have hustled to finish picking whites and zin before this second small rain. Otherwise we have been busy picking merlot, malbec and some cabernet but less busy than we would have been had not last week’s rain slowed ripening.”
Mount Veeder — Brian Nuss, Vinoce Vineyards/Twenty Rows — “The weather has made for some slow ripening, which is just fine. Wall Vineyards has picked most of their fruit and so has Skaggs. Have not seen much more traffic on the road. Would guess by mid-October all the north end of Mount Veeder Appellation will be picked. Camille Vineyards picked some fruit on Saturday and some more on Tuesday.”
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery — “As the weather has gotten a bit more variable, so has the pace of harvest. We are no longer picking every day, but we are working through the remaining blocks as each approaches ideal ripeness. That means some days are much busier than others in the vineyard. The winery keeps humming with the new fruit delivered and the pump-overs and pressing of the earlier lots. We continue to be quite excited with the potential quality this year.”
Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards — “Autumn is in the air, and it makes everything feel vibrant and alive. After last Saturday, dust-settling rain, harvest started up on Monday under clear skies and warming weather. Here at Hudson, chardonnay 2013 finished last week, and in the rest of Carneros, there’s very little left. Flavors and acids are perfect with long, slow, consistent maturation. Half the merlot and syrah is off and fermenting with the end in sight. Thirteen must be a lucky number.”
Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard — “All wines are now in barrels for the winter. The pinot noir is dry, awaiting malolactic fermentation; the chardonnay is still bubbling away at perhaps 4 degrees Brix. The vines, in spite of having given up all their fruit a fortnight or more ago, are still mostly green. We gave them one final deep irrigation so as to put them in good stead for the 2014 season.”
Coombsville — Ken Bernards, Ancien Wines — “Here it is, the last day of September, and we are already looking at the last lap, so to speak. We brought in cabernet sauvignon from two separate Coombsville vineyard sites on this past Saturday and Sunday, and we have more scheduled throughout this week. We’ll see our last syrah come in by Wednesday, Oct. 2. As with the earlier varietals, the cabernet sauvignon is coming with yields on the heavy side but with fantastic and bold flavors. So, even with a cooler year, we are seeing fruit with full and even ripeness, good Brix, great acidity, and delicious flavors in the skins. I hear much the same news from our neighbors. Rain doesn’t seem to have left us any worse for the wear — and let’s hope that continues to be the case. If temperatures hold, or rise as predicted, I would expect to see the bulk of the Coombsville fruit picked toward the end of this week.”
For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2013 website at napavintners.com/harvest.