Harvest Report: With red harvest under way, growers monitor sugar levels

2012-09-27T00:00:00Z 2012-09-27T17:52:55Z Harvest Report: With red harvest under way, growers monitor sugar levelsJesse Duarte Napa Valley Register
September 27, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The harvesting of red varietals has begun in some appellations. But with persistently mild weather, most growers report that their cabernet sauvignon still needs some hang time.

Carmen Policy of Casa Piena reports that Yountville growers are “hoping for a few consistent 90-degree days to jump-start the sugar numbers, which have been very static for the past weeks.”

Here’s the latest installment of the 2012 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:

Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery: “The 85- to 90-degree days and the cool nights (slipping below 40 last week) have combined to bring the sugars, acids and most importantly, flavors into luscious balance. Zins and merlots are smacky and inbound. Harvest of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc will begin later this week. Oft-repeated quality descriptors include ‘killer’ and ‘exceptional.’”

Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards: “Red fruit has started coming off the eastern slopes, but the balance of the mountain is on a holding pattern. Most people see good sugars but not full flavor; so we wait some more. While the fruit still looks good, one starts to wonder about the possible compression of the harvest and the resultant effect on tank space. Heat promised for a while but good forecast hopes abound.”

Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery: “A completely normal harvest was just too good of a thought to last. Randy at Keenan thinks it’s become ‘a little backward.’ He’s letting his chardonnay and merlot play catch-up while he’s deep into harvesting cabernet sauvignon. He’s not alone. Andy Schweiger is in full swing harvesting his cabernet while we’re harvesting both cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. On the other hand, Cain just started on Sept. 17 with a few reds from young blocks, Terra Valentine will start their merlot and riesling later this week, maybe, and Guilliams and most others are waiting just a little bit longer.”

St. Helena — P.J. Alviso, manager, Napa Valley Viticulture: “We’ve picked almost all of our St. Helena merlots, but have not yet started cabernet. Quality so far has been excellent. With the slow ripening we’re seeing due to the relatively cool weather, we’ve been able to achieve nice physiological ripeness and get a desired concentration level based on how long we let it hang — luxuries we have not had the last two years.”

Rutherford — Anna Monticelli, winemaker, Piña Napa Valley: “This week’s warmer temperatures should accelerate the gradual ripening we’ve had in our Rutherford cabernet vineyards. These west-facing hillside vineyards are getting closer to full flavor development. We will likely begin picking our first blocks next week.”

Yountville — Mary Rocca, Rocca Family Vineyards: “We thought we’d start picking by the end of this week, but since the weather has cooled off some, we are in a holding pattern at the moment. The fruit looks absolutely beautiful, and is coming along nicely — just needs a little more time. Should be a fantastic vintage.”

Julie Nord, Nord Vineyards: “Finally we get to pick something in Yountville! Looks like we will pick the first chardonnay at Trio Vineyards. The grapes have turned a beautiful golden color and the flavor explodes in your mouth.”

Carmen Policy, Casa Piena: “The prediction of an early harvest of our cabernet has been put on the shelf and may even be placed in the recycle bin due to the cooling effect we are experiencing. Our winemaker and vineyard manager have us back in October for the picking and perhaps even after the first week. They love the crop and the size estimates have grown over their August guesstimates. We are very happy with this vintage, but everyone is hoping for a few consistent 90-degree days to jump-start the sugar numbers, which have been very static for the past weeks.”

Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery: “A cooler week gave the SLD vintners a slower start to harvest than expected. Jon Emmerich, winemaker at Silverado Vineyard, got started with some blocks of merlot. Pine Ridge’s Michael Beaulac reported that he had sent his crew home and said, ‘There seems to be an echo in the cellar due to lack of fruit.’ Benoit Touquette, winemaker at Hartwell Vineyards, is busy pampering his sauvignon blanc while they continue to wait for estate merlot. Here, we continue to fawn over our one little tank of merlot — it seems to be responding to all the attention and smells beautiful.”

Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards: “Harvest weather on Atlas Peak is as good as it gets. Whites and merlot are still coming in. Cabernet, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec are ripening beautifully.”

Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery: “We decided to let much of the chardonnay keep hanging last week and now the flavors are popping and we are picking like mad. Knock on wood, the sunny and warm weather keeps coming and that means the reds are not far behind. It’s that time of year when we are reminded why we call it crush. Cheers to 2012!”

Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards: “This past week we saw cooling temperatures and a near halt to harvest; a classic mid-harvest breather. With the milder temperatures and extended hang time, flavors are developing with lower sugars. Still steady and on course for an exceptional vintage.”

Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard: “On Friday and Saturday we brought in all of our pinot noir. Perfect harvesting weather, comfortably cool until noon. The fruit was just where we wanted it, 24 Brix with good acid balance. And lots of it: the largest crop in five years. The chardonnay is now above 22 Brix, so we’ll probably pick it this week.”

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