Harvest report: Here come the whites

2014-08-18T12:15:00Z 2014-08-20T13:54:06Z Harvest report: Here come the whitesJESSE DUARTE jduarte@sthelenastar.com Napa Valley Register

The 2014 grape harvest continues at a steady pace, with most correspondents reporting that whites are either already being harvested or will be within the next week.

Continuing cool weather “has allowed us to ease gracefully into harvest mode,” said Kristin Belair of Honig Vineyard & Winery, where the sauvignon blanc harvest is underway.

Here’s the latest installment of the 2014 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:

Calistoga – Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery – “Early whites, semillon, sauvignon blanc and patches of muscat crossed scales last week with more scheduled for this week. Zins are showing typical early stress under “around normal” crops. Other reds still show bright green canopies under slightly lower crop loads. Reds still ripening perfectly and Calistoga may see some inbound late this week.”

Howell Mountain – Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards – “Ripening continues in earnest. Some of the first sauvignon blanc will come off either the very end of this week or early next week but it will be targeted picking to start with. Sugars on reds, while variable, are still in the approaching-20s range except for the eastern slopes which are always the leaders. That still puts red picking off for weeks but still well ahead of last year.”

Diamond Mountain District – Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards – “The cool nights and warm days of the last week have been a boon to the vineyards on Diamond Mountain where a quick and even veraison is now complete. With the final green thinning behind us, viticulturists and winemakers are starting to make projections. The earliest reporting vineyards are at the top of Kortum Canyon, where Armstrong Ranch is reporting sugars between 19 and 22 Brix and both they and Sterling are anticipating harvest in the second or third week of September. Crops are expected to match those of the last two years.”

Chiles Valley District – Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate – “Finally the 2014 harvest has begun. The moderately warm weather in our district has created near perfect ripening conditions. Daytime temperatures are around 85 to 90 degrees and during the night they drop 40 degrees. These are ideal conditions to preserve fruit and acidity in the grapes. The sauvignon blanc could hardly be better. The fruit that was picked had around 23 degrees Brix with superb flavors. Yields are very similar to last year — good but not excessive. If the weather holds harvest will be in full swing before September since the other whites and cabernet are not far behind.”

Spring Mountain District – Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery – “Spring Mountain District officially started harvest last Friday with Spring Mountain Winery harvesting a small amount of sauvignon blanc. They anticipate continuing with sauvignon blanc this week and starting with pinot noir. Higher up on the mountain not much has been happening. A few wineries are anticipating starting with chardonnay in the week of Aug. 25. Flavors seem to be developing at lower sugars than usual and the crop looks very good and clean. Everyone’s anticipating a wonderful harvest.”

St. Helena – Matt Reid, Benessere Vineyards – “We have reveled in the relatively cool weather, allowing the grapes time to develop beautiful flavors as they ripen. Moist mornings brought us desired botrytis in our moscato, but otherwise mildew pressure is low. St. Helena sauvignon blanc is being picked, but other varieties may come in later than anticipated.”

Rutherford – Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery – “The cool marine layer over the last week has allowed us to ease gracefully into harvest mode. At Honig we received fruit from Pope Valley and picked our first Rutherford appellation sauvignon blanc. We expect to be receiving sauvignon blanc grapes every day this week and the continued moderate weather is allowing us to bring in fruit with optimal flavors and sugars at a nice steady pace. From Julianne Laks at Cakebread cellars: ‘We’ve picked some of our early ripening sauvignon blanc vineyards that showed tremendous ripe flavors and moderate acidities. The return of the beautiful marine layer and cooler afternoon temperatures have slowed the sugar accumulation so the picking window for this week is wider.’”

Oakville — Molly Hodgins, Flora Springs Winery — “This week we began our harvest with Oakville sauvignon blanc. We are slightly ahead of where we were last year at this time and about 10 days ahead of average, if there is such a thing in farming. Other varieties are starting to sweeten up as well. Sauvignon blanc is typically the first still wine variety off the vine, but I have heard reports of some Oakville ranches picking their earliest merlot this week as well.”

Yountville – Joel Burt, Domaine Chandon — “The cooling trend last week and continuing this week is giving us a chance to complete our harvest planning. We are tasting nice ripe flavors at low Brix levels this year. It should be a great vintage!”

Atlas Peak – Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards – “The past 10 days of cool weather have slowed the advent of harvest on Atlas Peak. However, the extra hang time will give the 2014 vintage the potential to rival or exceed the excellent 2012 and 2013 vintages. I am reminded of Charles Thomas, the Quintessa winemaker, stating many years ago that Napa is fortunate in having 7-8 excellent vintages every decade while most of France only has 2-3 excellent vintages per decade.”

Stags Leap District – Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery – “In Stags Leap District we continue on track for a very early start. Remi Cohen at Cliff Lede Vineyards reports she has merlot at 22 Brix and cabernet sauvignon at 20 Brix on their west-facing Poetry vineyard. She expects lower yields than the last two vintages and remarks that this is indeed one of the earliest vintages in recent memory. Our friends at Robinson Family Vineyards report they are about two weeks away from starting harvest. At Chimney Rock, the mad frenzy of cleaning and preparing equipment continues. Our hillside merlot is getting closer at 22.5 Brix and the flavors are beautiful and promising. We can safely predict it will be a working Labor Day this year for winemakers here in Stags Leap.”

Mount Veeder — Peter Rubissow, Rubissow Wines — “Here at Rubissow on the lower southern flanks of Mt. Veeder we are at 18-20 Brix in most blocks of our Bordeaux varietals. We are 3-5 weeks out for harvest depending on weather and block site. We have a multitude of microclimates on our steep hills and cozy dales. A hot spell is forecast next week so we expect some accelerated sweetening at that time. Overall quality looks to be excellent.”

Oak Knoll District – Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery – “This week, we began the harvest for our estate wines with some pinot noir for our rose program. Across the Oak Knoll District, picking for sparkling wines is almost complete and the first blocks of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay will be picked in the next few days. As we walk through the vineyard blocks, the flavors appear to coming along beautifully in all varieties and the yields look to be a bit smaller than last year.”

Coombsville – Don Baker, Sciandri Family Vineyards – “Picking is underway! Grapes are getting sweeter and the berries are softening. Sauvignon blanc was purposely picked early at 21 Brix by Atlas Peak Vineyards from Hestia Farms. I took cluster samples of the same sauvignon blanc at Hestia Farms; it will be time to pick by the end of this week. According to to Tracey Reichow of Black Cat Vineyard, ‘verasion 2014 in Coombsville has been swift and complete. We moved from the beginning of verasion to complete verasion in a very steady, persistent and unfaltering fashion ... moreso than I remember in past vintages. No gaps or stalls. Bodes well for consistent quality!’”

Carneros – Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards – “Carneros is all lit up with the sparkling wine night harvest. Both pinot noir and chardonnay is coming at a steady but moderate pace. Quality is high and yields for pinot noir continue to be low and chardonnay seem to be moderate. The cool daytime temperatures prevent the pace of harvest from being too hurried, which is good for both quality and our workload. This coming week should be the first of the early still wine harvest. Everything is looking very good.”

Wild Horse Valley – John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard – “As with 2013, this looks like a year when grapes will all be in by mid-September, quite early for us in this high country east of the Napa Valley. It won’t be a bonanza year like 2013 — maybe just a little heavier than average.”

For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2014 website at napavintners.com/harvest.

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