In south St. Helena, Mark Porembski from Anomaly Vineyards and Charnu Winery reports the sweet smell of pomace tells him that harvest is here! In other appellations, sauvignon blanc grapes are being picked and Rudy Von Strasser has brought in their Gruner Veltliner, one of the few white varieties grown in the Diamond Mountain District.
The harvest report, by AVA from north to south, are as follows:
Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery: Sauvignon blanc and semillon are picked here and there, while red action seems limited to sideways, precocious pinot noir and Muniere. Syrah is sugar-ripe but not yet flavor-ripe. And if not for their deeper and more uniform color, I’d conclude zin, CabF and CabS vines took last week off as Brix curves remained essentially flat.
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards: Things are heating up this week in the Diamond Mountain District. Von Strasser brought in their Gruner Veltliner, one of the few white varieties grown in the district (an homage to Rudy’s home country of Austria) and always the first picked on the mountain. The folks at Schramsberg are reporting Brix readings in the 22s for malbec, and here at Dyer we’re getting 19 in cabernet. Even with the heat, we don’t expect the bulk of harvest until the second half of October — late, but not far off last year.
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards: Checking my notes, we are just slightly ahead of last year. Cade, Bravante and Ladera are either picking sauv blanc or are poised to do so soon. Despite some catch-up lately, like most of the other mountain locations, it will be some time yet before any reds of consequence come off. Clusters look good, loose and plentiful.
Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery: Chardonnay still seems to be about a week ahead of last year; the riesling and cabernet sauvignon appear slightly ahead of last year. The cabernet franc is worrisome since it is slightly behind last year. All in all, the mountain is experiencing an excellent growing season, which portends an excellent vintage. A few wineries may start harvesting later this week.
St. Helena — Mark Porembski, Anomaly Vineyards and Charnu Winery: The sweet scent of pomace can be detected in the south St. Helena area: Harvest is here! Aromatic white varietals are being picked this week. Milat picked chenin blanc on Monday and much of the local sauvignon blanc is in. Red grapes will follow suit, but it will be a few weeks before cabernet is ready in most sites in St. Helena. Many vintners are sad to see such small yields, but are optimistic that quality will be high.
Oakville — Pat Garvey, vineyard manager, Flora Springs Winery: Temperatures should stay warm the entire week. The warm climate close to maturity helps lower the acid and increases the pH in the grape. Our sauvignon blanc will be harvested this Thursday and because of the heat, we will begin picking at 3 a.m. Each of our harvest crews will be outfitted with safety reflector vests.
Yountville — Tori Wilder for the Yountville AVA: Sauvignon blanc is all but done in Yountville, with Gamble Family reporting their last pick on Tuesday, Sept. 20. In all varietals, most producers are reporting smaller crops due to adverse weather conditions during set; however, the very temperate growing season with no heat spikes during these final weeks is creating beautiful fruit flavors, according to winemaker Jim Close (Gamble Family), a notion seconded by Davie Piña (Piña Napa Valley). There seems to be strong, steady visitor traffic throughout the appellation and everyone is eagerly anticipating the arrival of additional varietals to crush pads with a keen eye on the weather.
Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery: It has been another cool, wet spring followed by a cool summer. As a result, the district is experiencing another late start of vintage. Our friend, winemaker Benoit Touquette at Hartwell vineyards, tells us that they are still preparing all their equipment while they wait for merlot to turn the corner in ripeness. Kale Anderson at Cliff Lede Vineyards says that the merlot is showing some intense flavors at lower Brix numbers. At Chimney Rock, we continue the cleaning game and our hillside merlot is starting to show some beautiful flavors.
Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards: Another week of mostly perfect ripening weather on Atlas Peak. Lots of sun, warm nights and mild breezes are gradually bringing the grapes to maturity. Green flavors are dissipating. Ripe flavors are developing, which — weather permitting — should lead to a crop of excellent quality and decreased quantity.
Mt. Veeder — Brian Nuss, Vinoce Vineyards/ Twenty Rows: We received the heat that September usually brings. I was walking through the lower vineyard this morning and noticed the canes on the vines browning up nicely, which is a good sign. We are still working on thinning the fruit load, especially in the upper vineyard. I am feeling optimistic that we will be finished picking by November.
Oak Knoll District — Steve Moulds, Moulds Family Vineyards: We are doing sugar monitoring, as well as irrigation management right now. I would say harvest is still five to six weeks away for those of us with cab. We have dropped enough fruit to hasten ripening in most all blocks, with the exception of one that experienced more shatter than usual. Quality looks to be tops, as long as the weather holds.
Steve Hall, Robert Biale Vineyards: We are very close to harvest for a few St. Helena zinfandel vineyards. The weather for the next two days will either push the pick to Friday or back to Monday and Tuesday of next week. Today we saw very thick skins, some berries stayed small in size, but others got fat the last weeks or so from the heavy May and June rains; pHs are soft.
Jon Ruel, Trefethen Family Vineyards: We have lots of sunshine and warm temperatures in the vineyard this week. Riesling and chardonnay are tasting great and are almost ready to come in. The reds are, of course, a bit further behind but, with the light crop, we expect them to advance quickly.
Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards: This week can be characterized easily by “hurry up and wait.” With weather in the low 70s all week, we slowed to a halt with a busy week on the horizon. What we have picked is low in yield, concentrated with remarkable high acids. The resulting wines should be real show-stoppers.
Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard: Ripening proceeds in our little valley, albeit ever so slowly. Monday, the chardonnay tested at 18.5 Brix. It now looks certain that harvest will be as late as last year’s — mid- or late October.