Above the fog line, particularly in the Atlas Peak appellation, the weather was hot last week, just about right to ripen winegrapes. Jan Krupp of Krupp Brothers Estate reports his vineyard received one-twentieth of an inch of rain, causing concern for botrytis in thin-skinned grapes, including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, sangiovese and syrah.
The harvest report by AVAs, from north to south, is as follows:
Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery: Last week’s predicted rain was barely a mist as the otherwise great weather continues nudging maturities into complete ripeness. Whites and merlot are in full harvest as earlier blocks of CS and CF are in tanks. Prudent growers are dropping the occasional green or bunch-rot zin cluster to the ground. Overall quantity is down; quality high.
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards: As fruit begins to dribble in on Diamond Mountain, it becomes clear that yields are all over the map. Soils here on the mountain are normally slow to warm up in the spring and bloom is generally on the late side, so some of us missed the rain at bloom completely. Not everyone was so lucky and shatter is the issue in many vineyards. Von Strasser brought in merlot from the Sori Bricco vineyard at the top of Kortum Canyon — only 65 percent of last year’s crop. Schramsberg, who may bring in some fruit later this week, thinks the crop there looks about normal.
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards: We are about one week ahead of last year at this point, with good heat in the forecast. Most of the sauvignon blanc, including all of Ladera’s, is off or will be soon for Bravante and Cade. Some malbec will likely come off the week of Oct. 3 and perhaps Outpost petite syrah thereafter, but cabs are still in waiting mode.
Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards: The past week was so uneventful that I even forgot to write a report. This week is only a little better. At least half of the sauvignon blanc and semillon crops are in. The results were good in terms of quality but the sauvignon blanc in prime vineyards came in at only
50 percent of normal. This week we will probably see the completion of the white harvest. No reds have been picked and in general we are two weeks behind normal. The cabernet looks very good. Sugars are around 20 to 21 degrees Brix. The only problem might be rain. Last Sunday’s rain was fortunately irrelevant.
Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery: Spring Mountain Vineyards is picking sauvignon blanc, Pride is picking viognier, Stony Hill has picked their gewürztraminer and is finishing their chardonnay and Smith-Madrone finished with chardonnay. Everyone else is waiting. All agree that the fruit is beautiful with great flavors and chemistry. Unfortunately, the crop may be at historic lows. Many shoots and even entire plants have little to no fruit.
Oakville — Pat Garvey, vineyard manager, Flora Springs Winery: The skies looked menacing over the weekend, but the storm never materialized and we went ahead with our harvest schedule and picked sauvignon blanc on Monday and zinfandel on Tuesday. Our sauvignon blanc crop is down substantially and the culprit was the extreme weather conditions that occurred during our spring bloom.
Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery: Harvest 2011 continues to surprise us with its twists and turns. We experienced our first continuous heat last week, followed by the threat of the first rain, which turned out to be just a sprinkle. Nicki Pruss, winemaker at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, continues to sample reds in the vineyards and is keeping a close eye on her SLD merlot, which could hit the crush pad by the end of this week. Kale Anderson at Cliff Lede Vineyards is close to picking a bit of SLD merlot as well.
Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards: Vineyards on Atlas Peak had approximately one-twentieth of an inch of rain Sunday, causing growers to increase their vigilance for signs of botrytis in their thin-skinned, tight-bunch varieties such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, sangiovese and syrah. Cabernet and its cousin, the focus of Atlas Peak and by far the vast majority of vineyard acres here, had some dust cleaned off and can handle small amounts of rain with grace. Last week our mountain appellation had many perfect ripening days and this week is predicted to have a few more.
Mount Veeder — Brian Nuss, Vinoce Vineyards/Twenty Rows: We had a little rain on Sunday to help settle the dust; they are calling for things to heat up this week. We tested some grapes last Friday at 21 Brix. Carol Meredith over at Lagier Meredith told me at our annual Mt. Veeder tasting on Saturday that they are around 22 Brix and hope to start picking in two weeks, which is good news!
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery: After leaving the grapes out last week to enjoy the sunshine, we are now picking at a pretty solid pace. We’ll wrap up the pinot noir this week but expect some of the riesling and chardonnay to overlap with the later varieties. In fact, it looks like some hillside merlot will be picked by Friday. We couldn’t have asked for a better September as the warm temperatures certainly helped speed the grapes along.
Steve Hall, Robert Biale Vineyards: Zinfandel vineyards in St. Helena were picked late last week. Skins are thick, promising great color, aromas and tannin structure. Perfect heat last week tuned up the vineyards. We have seen heavier fog than Sunday’s “rain.” Next up: more St. Helena zins and petite sirah and 10 tons of Rutherford petite sirah.
Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards: Slow but moving. The week’s warm weather has gotten the first real active picking of the season started. Yields as expected are low, but remarkably high concentration and acids. Bright field flavors are occurring at lower sugars than we normally expect. With warm weather persisting, the majority of the pinot noir will finish up the first of October, which is a clear demonstration of just how mild our weather has been. It seems 2011 is a year of great finesse and structure.
Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard: Thanks to last week’s sunny warm weather, some of our chardonnay is now above
21 Brix, with ripe fruit flavors developing nicely. The present cool spell, however, leads me to believe that we’ll need a fortnight or so of further ripening before harvest.