A few growers plan to start harvesting early varietals as soon as this week, if they haven’t started already. Others are predicting an early September start.
A hot weekend accelerated ripening, confirming initial predictions of an early harvest, at least on the valley floor. Lee Hudson of Hudson Vineyards in Carneros says this is the earliest harvest he’s seen in his 30 years of experience.
Here’s the latest installment of the 2013 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:
Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery — “Some Calistoga sauvignon blanc has started crossing the scale with more SB as well as some semillon being harvested this week. Slowpokes zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon have still not completely finished veraison, while syrah, petite sirah and cabernet franc have fully colored and are maturing nicely.”
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — “More numbers are in to suggest that, at least on Diamond Mountain, it’s not going to be a particularly early season. Seaver, at 1,000 feet, reports that veraison finished on exactly the same date in 2013 as in 2012, and von Strasser’s Gruner Veltliner is testing at 18.8 Brix. They expect to harvest early September, virtually the same as last year. Stay tuned!”
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards — “While there is a little green here and there, for the most part everything is colored up for reds and fully softened for whites. Sugars are still below the need to test but the recent heat has moved everything aggressively along. No one reports picking anything or even being particularly close; but soon. Crop quantity looks good with nice cluster size.”
Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards — “The strange weather pattern of the last few days has accelerated the ripening because of unusually warm nights. The sauvignon blanc is hovering around 23 degrees Brix and the other white varieties are not far behind. Maybe we will start picking at the end of this week.”
Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery — “Harvest may start with various isolated small blocks of mostly whites later this week or early next. The reds are just finishing veraison. There is a growing concern that harvest will all be jammed together. Crop levels appear normal.”
St. Helena — Taplin Family, Taplin Vineyards and the Lewelling Estate — “We’re anticipating harvest much earlier than the last two years. Veraison signs started around July 20 and coloring finished by the first week of August. It went swiftly with little heterogeneity across our 28 acres. We have tiny berries in loose clusters beneath a healthy canopy. Brix varies between 19.8 and 20.6 with TA from 9.16 to 8.21 and pH from 3.12 to 3.15. Our winemaker Julien Fayard is in close contact with our vineyard managers, Doug Wight and Erik Dodd. We’re getting excited about the impending harvest and crush.”
Oakville — Molly Hodgins, Flora Springs Winery — “This week we begin our harvest with some Oakville sauvignon blanc. This year it seems as though sauvignon blanc up and down the valley is reaching maturity, about one to two weeks earlier than last year. Other varieties are starting to sweeten up as well and we expect to be quite busy in the next few weeks.”
Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery — “Warmer temperatures last week continued to build predictions of an earlier harvest this year in Stags Leap District. Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer Vineyards, looked at sugars this past week and is predicting a start right after Labor Day. He is tracking two weeks earlier than in 2012. Jon Emmerich at Silverado Vineyards is spending some time walking vineyards and still thinning some fruit. At Chimney Rock we will be busy doing baseline grape sampling on our estate blocks. Early numbers indicate we are about 10 days earlier than last year.”
Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards — “The weather on Atlas Peak remains near perfect. Flavors in most varietals are already wonderful. Barring any unforeseen weather or fire calamities, this should be a great vintage for wine quality and quantity. So far it is very reminiscent of 1997.”
Mount Veeder — Brian Nuss, Vinoce Vineyards/Twenty Rows — “Weather has warmed up and that of course is great for the vines. Veraison is moving along, made a pass at dropping green fruit, and vines are looking great! Red Flag warnings a little scary, Tuesday morning air was cool with high humidity and fog coming through the Trinity Pass.”
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery — “Although the cooler weather in July and early August slowed the vines down, it is warm again now and most blocks are still tracking early. We have some merlot over 22 Brix! It looks like we will be picking some chardonnay and pinot noir for our own winery by Labor Day. We are already deep into harvest of pinot noir for Mumm Napa and the quality looks to be fantastic.”
Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards — “It’s confirmed; it’s the earliest harvest in my 30 years. Early bloom, a mild but persistently warm summer, a moderate crop load and a trend toward lower Brix harvest has us harvesting table wine chardonnay and pinot noir on the earliest date in 30 years. It’s great to get started.”
Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard — “Both chardonnay and pinot noir are at 19 Brix. We expect harvest during the third week of September — earlier if the recent warm sunny weather continues.”