For many of our harvest correspondents, the pace of harvest continues during this “perfect” season of fine weather, although for one — John Newmeyer from Heron Lake Vineyard in Wild Horse Valley — the picking of the large bumper crop of grapes is done.
Here’s the latest installment of the 2013 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:
Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery — Zin and merlot are in full swing, and some of the earlier CS blocks are rolling in. Even the finicky zin blocks finally have uniform color. Most varieties are showing near ripe flavors and sugars, while we have seen some minor dehydration and high Brix numbers in the drier locations. With the continued perfect weather, the steady pace should move from zin and merlot into cab franc and cab sauv through next week. Quality looks excellent while quantities vary — some a bit higher, some a bit lower than expected.
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — Harvest is progressing at a nice pace on Diamond Mountain. Healthy canopies and the warm weather are evoking talk about 2013 being a “high sugar year” — one where you just have to wait for flavors and ignore the ever-mounting sugars. A week of temperatures in the mid-80s has brought acids down without greatly increasing sugars, and winemakers are beginning to find the balance of flavors and acidity that indicate full maturity without too much excess sugar.
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards — As predicted last week, the weather has been perfect and trucks are running down the mountain. More so from the eastern slopes, which are usually first, but also to a lesser degree to other points lower on the hill. The highest vineyards are nearly ready but not as actively underway. That will change this week, and we will be in the thick of it by this time next week.
Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards — The weather can only be called perfect. Because of it, the ripening process has slowed down considerably. We do not see runaway sugars, seeds are browning and the acidity is falling. The fruit that was picked during this week showed this clearly. Even the early hillside cabernet that was picked had the right numbers and the right color. The zinfandel harvest is now in full swing, and the growers are smiling. The fruit is generally very clean; it shows little raisining and excellent skin color. Yields tend to be slightly above last year’s. If this trend continues, we should finish three to four weeks earlier than normal.
Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery — The one commonality about the harvest on Spring Mountain is that everyone agrees we have had great weather, the vines are holding up splendidly, the berries are small and very flavorful, perfect sugars, low PHs and high TAs. The whites have mostly been harvested with the exception of small blocks at Terra Valentine and Seven & Eight. Most wineries are harvesting their cabernet or merlot or both, yet as usual, others such as Pride, Guilliams, Paloma and Barnett are still waiting for their reds.
St. Helena — Bob Egelhoff, Egelhoff Wines — We have survived the hot weekend, which threatened many with the thought of having to pick their grapes before optimum maturity. Twenty years ago winemakers would scream if a grower turned on the water right before harvest. Last week it was necessary. There were a few reports of raisining and some sunburn on exposed clusters of SB and CH. The all-important first fog of September has arrived and will be a blessing for controlling runaway sugars and enhance the character and quality of the vintage. Now the battle for tank space and barrels begin with expectation of strong crop levels coming in from the vineyards.
Rutherford — Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyards & Winery — Sept. 16? It feels more like Oct. 16! We will be bringing in our last sauvignon blanc grapes for the season on Thursday. The chess game of tank space is getting oh so complicated due to the combination of a generous crop and the compressed season. The cabernet that we have in so far is beautiful; deep color, rich flavors and lovely mature tannins. We will be pressing out our first cabernet late this week, making room for the next round. Echoing Chris Phelps’ comment below, we are grateful for the moderate weather.
Chris Phelps, winemaker at Swanson Vineyards, reported the following: The cool, foggy mornings and moderate afternoon temperatures were greeted with relief. Cabernet sugars were rising much too quickly relative to tannin maturation. Sugars actually declined by over 1 Brix this past weekend. It has been an early harvest for us — two weeks earlier than normal. Ninety percent of our merlot is in, all chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Over the next two weeks, it should be relatively easy to call picks for cabernet, as Brix and phenolic maturity are now more aligned.
Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery — This week will continue to kick harvest into higher gear in the Stags Leap District. Elias Fernandez at Shafer reports that their hillside cabernet blocks are all in and they finished merlot Tuesday. Elias estimates that they will be finished in about two weeks. The heat spike from a few weeks ago was followed by the return of fog and a cool-down, which was welcome by all. At Chimney Rock we finished merlot on Tuesday. Our petit verdot and cabernet franc blocks and a few hillside cabernet blocks will also come in this week. I predict my reports will get much shorter in the next two weeks as our cellar is about to fill up.
Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards — Harvest is in full swing on Atlas Peak with most of the activity coming in merlot and whites. Quality is uniformly excellent and weather ideal so far.
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery — Tres Goetting, winemaker at Robert Biale Vineyards, says they have brought in their first lot of OKD zinfandel and that, overall, the crop looks great. Walt Brooks and Steve Moulds both reported picking cabernet franc already but that their cabernet sauvignon will hang a bit longer. Here at Trefethen, we have picked more chardonnay as well as some merlot and malbec. Tasting the early fermentations has us very excited for the quality of the vintage.
Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards — Carneros has had a beautiful week. As my neighbor Larry Hyde told me just this afternoon, “2012 was great, but 2013 just might be better.” He’s right; conditions for a spectacular vintage are with us. We have had continuously and steadily harvest without a stop since Aug. 26, and we are 70 percent done. Grape maturities is fantastic with beautiful natural acidity, moderate sugars and great bright flavors. Chardonnay and pinot noir are all picked with only a few exceptions, and this week we will be working on merlot, syrah and cabernet franc. Surprisingly we could be done by Oct. 1.
Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard — Done! And a bumper crop — the largest since 1997. Quality looks good, but we won’t know for sure until we blend and bottle next year. Only one other time in the past quarter-century (in 2004) did we finish before mid-September.
Coombsville — Curtis Strohl, Ancien Wines — The pace continues. We have brought in pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and malbec. I’ve seen a little chardonnay still on the vine around Coombsville, but I would expect that to be picked by the time this goes to press. Flavors are extraordinary, as are yields, across Coombsville and across all varietals. Great fruit and lots of it. Sounds like a good year for Coombsville and for Napa.
For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2013 website at napavintners.com/harvest.