A remarkably early and trouble-free growing season is almost in the books, report correspondents from around the Napa Valley.
Many growers echo Dawnine Dyer of Dyer Vineyards, who celebrated “a well-paced harvest with excellent quality and few surprises.”
John Newmeyer of Heron Lake Vineyard marveled that the harvest was finished by Oct. 3, and recalled five recent years when the Wild Horse Valley harvest didn’t even begin until then.
Here’s the final installment of the 2013 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:
Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery — “Points generalizing my recap of Calistoga’s V-13 include red varietal yields (CS, CF, ME, PS) which were down while zin was near normal. Reds off the press show bright fruit, good balance, deep colors and broad flavors which should provide both juicy young wines as well as smacky, richly flavored, ageable wines. White yields (primarily SB), were up significantly and while ripe, the fruit seems tight and a bit restrained at this point. In summary, back-to-back perfect seasons, ripe, clean, flavorful clusters and an evenly paced harvest conspire to spoil winemakers and growers alike.”
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — “Another great week for ripening (deja vu all over again!) has harvest winding down on Diamond Mountain. In retrospect it’s been a well-paced harvest with excellent quality and few surprises. Diamond Terrace, Wallace and Sterling are all in as of this week and harvest equipment is being cleaned and put away for the season. From lower on the mountain to higher elevations the story is the same. Sterling’s Alison Crary sums it up: ‘Spectacular color and flavor — a gorgeous vintage — it will be hard to wait three years to share it!’”
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards — “It has been busy across the hill with everyone now in ‘finish-it-up’ mode. While there may be some stragglers high on the hill, most folks will be either done or very nearly so by the end of the upcoming weekend. Reports are from normal crop, to somewhat light, to above expectations; so not consistent except as to great quality across the board. Overall, 2013 will be a year to enjoy for both growers and consumers.”
Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards — “When you read this, the harvest is all but over. There are just a few odds and ends that need to be picked. It is the earliest finish in years. We are at least two weeks ahead of normal. This concludes a year that was in many ways easy and did not present any real problems, yet the year was overshadowed and heavily influenced by the driest weather since Jan. 1 in 114 years. The idea that we have not had any real rain since the first of the year is hard to imagine. Ultimately this is the real explanation for the lower yields than last year’s. The weight of the grapes was way down and so was the weight of the clusters. However, all the quality parameters pointed to excellence and if one wants to venture a guess it will turn out to be a very good vintage; whether it is a great one remains to be seen. Auf Wiedersehen until next year.”
Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery — “More perfect weather helped most wineries to finish either last week or this week. Only Sherwin, Pride, Spring Mountain Winery and York Creek Vineyards may, or will, continue into next week. Overall crop levels are above last year but only approaching normal with the exception of some merlot on the high side of normal and cabernet sauvignon still very much below normal. There are wonderful flavors, low pHs and good acidities — a fantastic vintage.”
St. Helena — Kevin Morrisey, Ehlers Estate — “We typically finish harvest a little early up here at Ehlers, but this year was historically early! We brought our last cabernet franc grapes in on Oct. 3, exactly two weeks ahead of last year. Yields across all of our varietals, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot, and sauvignon blanc, were just about the same as in 2012. Overall the yield was 2 percent above last year. The wines are now going dry and the reds are remarkable in intensity with deep dark ruby and crimson color, soft tannins, and a compelling complexity consistent with the full phenolic maturity now characteristic of the vintage. The little bits of rain that passed through brought cooler temperatures and stalled sugar accumulation during that last final phase of ripening. On a scale of one to 10, 2013 is a 10, as was 2012. A great season, with a great season finale!”
Rutherford — Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyards & Winery — “Continued warm, dry weather is easing harvest to a close. Cool fall nights have brought out some spectacular fall colors and the low sun angle makes those evening drives home especially beautiful. Fall does seem to show off Napa Valley at its best. At Honig, all of our Rutherford fruit is in the fermenter and the wines are all looking fantastic. We have a few lots in other AVAs out still to come in and we will be wrapping up an epic season by the middle of next week. Yippee!”
Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery — “It is barely mid-October as I write our last harvest report for the season. Our tanks are filled and we are incredibly busy as we start pressing wines off the skins, barreling down our first lots of the season. Jon Emmerich, winemaker at Silverado Vineyards, is already enjoying some of his SLD Cabernet and Merlot lots in barrels and says they taste great. Kristy Melton, head winemaker at Clos du Val, sees her light at the end of the tunnel. She is finished with SLD fruit and is in awe of both the quality and the rather calm and sane pace of this harvest. Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer, had a slightly more hurried harvest — bringing it all in with a record time of 26 days. He said ‘quality is superb and may even be better than 2012!’ Remi Cohen, at Cliff Lede Vineyards, is hitting her finish line tomorrow and is equally pleased with the ‘quality, beautiful perfume, great color, bright fruit and concentrated flavors.’ The glorious weather of early October was a gift from Mother Nature this year, and we all enjoyed a relatively stress free and lovely harvest.”
Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards — “Harvest is still very active on Atlas Peak. Cabernet berries are small and intense with great flavor. They have lost a lot of weight hanging out with fading leaf canopies. The resulting wines should be amazing! Most of Atlas Peak will be picked by the end of the week with only a few cooler spots to be finished next week.”
Mount Veeder — Brian Nuss, Vinoce Vineyards/Twenty Rows — “Here at the north end most of the fruit is in. Still some cabernet sauvignon at the higher elevations. Grapes hanging in there longer than expected but still in good condition. The 2013 harvest should be picked out by the end of the week.”
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery — “It looks like October will be offering beautiful weather to spare. Although the crisp clear mornings and sunny afternoons will continue into next week, we expect to be fully picked by that time. The early finish will leave us plenty of time to wrap up the vineyard for winter, including the seeding of our cover crops. We are still quite busy in the winery, of course, and are thrilled with the quality of the lots that have already gone dry. Cheers to 2013!”
Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards — “2013, what a year. Consistent, fruitful and elegant. Carneros is done for this year and all around there are no complaints. Who says 13 isn’t lucky?”
Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard — “As of Oct. 3, all of our 2013 vintage wines were essentially ‘dry’ and ready to be put to bed for the winter. The same for the vines, after one final watering. Lately we’ve enjoyed quiet times of repairing and cleaning equipment, toting up the year’s accounts, and strolling among the fall colors of the vineyard and lakeside. What a contrast with five years (1991, 1998, 1999, 2010 and 2011) out of the past quarter-century when picking didn’t even begin until at least Oct. 3!”
For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2013 website at napavintners.com/harvest.