Subscribe for 33¢ / day

The harvesting of white chardonnay and zinfandel grapes continues this week. But with the exception of some pinot noir here and there, most red grapes still need a few weeks on the vine.

In what’s been an ongoing theme of this year’s harvest, growers continue to marvel at what Paul Smith of Vermeil Wines called “cookie-cutter perfect weather.”

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

Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery: “Cookie-cutter perfect weather continues and while colors and flavors intensified overall last week, sugar curves in cabernet sauvignon seemed to flatten. Some zinfandel blocks are showing foliar stress, typical slight berry dehydration and ‘ripe’ numbers, though still have ‘maybe next week’ flavors. Petite sirah sugars are rising nicely but share zinfandel’s need for more time in the sun.”

Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards: “We are in that calm before the storm. What little whites there were are gone and the reds are still a ways off across the mountain. Everything is holding well and developing nicely with little stress on the vines. It seems that the forecast, like the Force, is with us for the moment.”

Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards: “This week’s report does not contain much news. Picking has almost come to a halt. Just a few lots of whites (sauvignon blanc and chardonnay) were brought in. There is some last-minute thinning going on in cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel. Sugars are moving up steadily. Some cabernet sauvignon is getting close to 24. However, the bulk of it hovers between 21 and 22 Brix. Flavors are unusually good and all we need now is continuing stable weather.”

Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery: “It’s been a lovely and wonderful harvest so far — near perfection. By the end of this week, Stony Hill, Spring Mountain Winery and Smith-Madrone will have finished with white grapes, yet Keenan and Schweiger will not have started with their whites. Pinot noir seems to be the only red being harvested on the mountain. The reds are showing wonderful flavors at this early stage, but the main harvest of the mountain is still several weeks off.”

St. Helena — Louise Dye, executive director, Appellation St. Helena: “St. Helena remained the warm spot in Napa Valley last week and this week. Robert Biale Vineyards harvested zinfandel from the Old Kraft Vineyard last week, and will harvest petite sirah from there this week. We are bringing in Jack Varozza’s zinfandel and tempranillo this week on Pratt Avenue. Clusters are nice-sized, and the skins have good thickness, which gives us great color and aromas.”

Oakville — Molly Hodgins, Komes and Garvey Ranches/Flora Springs: “We are picking merlot! The red harvest has begun in Oakville. We have finished picking all of our white grapes, except chardonnay, which we hope to move into soon. Chardonnay, like all other varieties yet to be picked, is continuing to benefit from the beautiful weather. The fruit is sweetening evenly and flavors are intensifying.”

Yountville — Jennifer Waite, Tamber Bey Vineyards: “Last weekend, we picked our 2.5-acre block of Dijon clone chardonnay in two passes, starting with clone 95 on Saturday and 96 on Sunday. The balance will be picked later this week. Winemaker Frederic Delivert was very pleased both with the quality and the quantity of grapes.”

Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery: “The fun began for Stags Leap District this past week as Pine Ridge harvested their SLD ‘Le Petit Clos’ Chardonnay. A small amount of malbec will be next for Michael Beaulac and his team. Kristy Melton at Clos Du Val reports they have some early ripening merlot from the district in fermenter. By the time this column is in print, Chimney Rock will have kicked off the season with our hillside merlot.”

Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards: “Whites continue to come in slowly and beautifully on Atlas Peak. Perfect ripening weather is gently coaxing Atlas Peak cabernet sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals toward a perfect harvest.”

Mount Veeder — Brian Nuss, Vinoce Vineyards/ Twenty Rows: “Grapes are still looking great. Not much to report. Harvest up here is still at least two weeks out. Cooler weather this week will slow things down a little bit. We are ready and anxious for a great harvest.”

Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery: “We enjoyed more sunshine and warm temperatures last week. Right now, I see growers in the Oak Knoll District wrapping up the harvest of sauvignon blanc and getting into pinot noir and chardonnay. Although I also heard of at least one merlot block getting picked, we don’t expect to get deep into the reds for a while yet.”

Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards: “Last week saw steady but slow maturity at a near-perfect pace. Sugars advanced more slowly than flavor maturation, adding intensity to an already gorgeous harvest. Eileen Crane of Domaine Carneros reports that their sparkling wine harvest will be done this Thursday, making the 2012 harvest the longest, most extended sparkling wine harvest in memory.”

Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard: “The Brix on our pinot noir is only 22.5, but the ripe fruit flavors are there, so we’ll bring the crop in Saturday, Sept. 22. We expect a nice-sized, problem-free vintage. The chardonnay still has a ways to go — just above 20 Brix.”

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments