Mumm kicked off the Napa Valley’s 2014 harvest on July 30, and while sparkling varietals are always the first to ripen, growers are also anticipating an early harvest for the valley’s most popular grapes.
Ripening seems to be at least two weeks ahead of where it usually is in early August. “We could start picking the week of Aug. 14, as early as we ever have, if not earlier,” said Molly Hodgins of Flora Springs Winery.
Here’s the latest installment of the 2014 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:
Calistoga – Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery – “Reports of sauvignon blanc sugars reached into the 20s during last week’s heat so this week’s cooler weather is refreshing. Fruit is clean and veraison has been early and quick. Cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc are 95 percent while zin, as usual, is bringing up
the rear at around 90 percent. We may see some local white fruit next week.”
Howell Mountain – Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards – “In 2011 our first report was mid-September, in 2012 and 2013 it was Aug. 20 and Aug. 12, respectively; so 2014 continues the trend toward even earlier development. We are now about where we were on those earlier dates; malbec nearly complete in color and cabernet between 55 and 85 percent, depending on who you talk to. Surprisingly, some sauvignon blanc seems to be lagging and not as developed as some of the reds. ‘Early’ is the year’s seeming mantra but we’ll see.”
Diamond Mountain District – Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards – “Coming out of last week’s intense heat, grapes on Diamond Mountain are anywhere from just entering veraison to 80 percent complete. Like everywhere in Napa, it looks to be an early year, but perhaps not as early here as on the valley floor.”
Chiles Valley District – Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate – “Even though it is overcast and cool and there is rain in the forecast, this year promises to be one of the earliest ever. It started with the abnormal drought from Jan. 1 to the middle of February. Then it rained 23 inches and now we are squeezing by and hope for next winter. It did help that this was the second year in a row without any spring frost, so we saved a lot of water. At the same time the second half of winter turned unusually mild leading to a start of the growing season that was two to three weeks earlier than normal. At veraison we are/were still two to three weeks earlier than normal, so we are projecting the sauvignon blanc harvest to begin around the 15th of August and the earliest cabernet sauvignon around the 15th of September.
Spring Mountain District – Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery – “It’s pretty quiet on Spring Mountain. The upper elevations are expecting chardonnay to start the last week of August with most of the reds still finishing veraison. The lower elevations have some sauvignon blanc at 21 Brix and some pinot noir at 22.5 Brix. Expectations are high for both a good vintage and a good crop.”
St. Helena – Brian J. Kosi, Winemaker, Atalon Winery, Freemark Abbey Winery – “The 2014 growing season has been perfect with consistent warm weather during the spring and summer. Wilson Ranch, about a half mile south of Freemark Abbey Winery, is about three weeks ahead of schedule. The morning fog is welcoming, slowing things down a bit. Flavors of the sauvignon blanc are very nice considering the lower Brix. We will start picking on Friday!”
Rutherford – Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery – “With the first grapes of 2014 arriving at Mumm on July 30 confirming an early start to the 2014 harvest, sauvignon blanc can’t be far behind. We expect to receive our first fruit (from Gordon Valley) mid to late next week, a full week earlier than last year. In Rutherford, we are seeing Brix levels running about a week ahead of last year as well and could see Rutherford sauvignon blanc arriving at the winery sometime the second week of August! The vines are looking great, with the late April rains arriving just in time to have enough soil moisture at the right time for good growth and high quality fruit. Crop levels look to be average or slightly below average. We are working hard to wrap up bottling and summer cellar operations before harvest gets into full swing in a few short weeks. What happened to summer vacation?”
Oakville – Molly Hodgins, Flora Springs Winery – “Oakville is currently pretty quiet, although the grapes are ripening at a furious pace, or at least that’s how it feels. Oakville sauvignon blanc will be picked first, and it should be early. We could start picking the week of Aug. 14, as early as we ever have, if not earlier. Overall, yields look good, for all varieties: not high nor low. Vines naturally set just about the right amount of fruit. Quality looks great.”
Yountville – Tim Tiburzi, Domaine Chandon — “Last week Domaine Chandon brought in 76 tons of Chardonnay and 40 tons of pinot noir from the Yountville Ranch, both showing outstanding sparkling wine potential with vibrant flavor and bright acidity. This hand-harvested fruit went straight to press and the juice collected in tanks to be centrifuged clear of grape berry solids in route to their fermentation tanks.”
Atlas Peak – Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards – “Harvest will be coming early to Atlas Peak this year. We are two weeks ahead of 2013. The season has been warm but with few severe heat events. Flavors are great and the crop is bountiful. Most Atlas Peak vineyards will be thinning to produce superb quality wine.”
Stags Leap District – Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery – “It is no coincidence that we are submitting our first harvest report eight days earlier than last year. A dry and warm winter, spring and summer have grapes in the Stags Leap District well ahead of last year. Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer vineyards, is excited for the quality of the vintage. Their hillside vineyards should be finishing up veraison and crops look lighter, with smaller berries than both 2012 and 2013. He thinks picking dates could range between five to ten days earlier than last year. We are observing the same here at Chimney Rock. This week we are green thinning some of our blocks and it is rare to see veraison almost completed by the first week of August. We should be harvesting earlier than last year and our weather data seems to match 1997 and 2004 closely. The exciting news is we expect another year of beautiful quality in Stags Leap District.”
Mount Veeder – Peter Rubissow, Rubissow Wines – “It’s early yet on Veeder, but the overall crop is coming along nicely. Top to bottom most Mt. Veeder producers and growers report an average to slightly above average crop load and good vine health in spite of the drought. If the good weather holds it’s looking to be an excellent year on Veeder!”
Oak Knoll District – Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery – “After a strong start to the season with some well-timed rains and a warm spring, the summer weather has been truly fantastic. In the Oak Knoll District, the cabernet sauvignon vines cruised through veraison quickly and the white varieties are already showing some flavor development. Harvest of pinot noir for sparkling wines will start any day and the lightest blocks of sauvignon blanc will be next.”
Coombsville – Don Baker, Sciandri Family Vineyards – “The Coombsville harvest is getting close and reportedly will start two weeks earlier than usual. Vineyards with white varieties will begin picking sauvignon blanc by the end of August with chardonnay to follow. Most reds, with the exception of pinot noir, are still at least six weeks out. Weather is perfect for a bountiful yield. Clusters are large, cluster counts are high and canopy development is perfect. We’re looking at a likely ‘three-peat’ of 2012 and 2013.”
Wild Horse Valley – John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard – “In spite of a July that’s been more like a May (cool and windy), ripening is actually a bit ahead of usual here in our little upland valley. The grapes are now halfway through veraison, which in a typical year would mean that harvest is seven weeks away.”
For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2013 website at napavintners.com/harvest.