Napa County’s recent heat has accelerated the harvesting of red grapes, especially cabernet sauvignon. Dawnine Dyer indicates on Diamond Mountain District, the cabs have been coming in fast and furious since Monday. Not so for grapegrowers in Chiles Valley. Alexander Eisele said that although all the zinfandel has been harvested, the cabernet and merlot are just beginning to show full maturity.
Here’s the latest installment of the 2016 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:
Calistoga — Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “Is it summer or is it fall? It’s been exciting if nothing else and we knew it was going to be busy when we saw picking crews mustering right at dark throughout the AVA. And while the cool temps midweek gave us our first taste of autumn (wasn’t that great?), we seem to be right back in the middle of that oh-so-familiar Indian summer event that blows through around this time each year. We’ll have to keep a close eye on nighttime temperatures and the relative humidity of the blustery desert breezes to stay ahead of the heat. The cool spell forecasted for this week will bring a welcome respite.”
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards — “The picking of reds has now begun and it sounds as though a lot will be picked in the very near future. The recent heat has moved everything along and now the concern seems to be the compression of harvest; something that has the chance to challenge both picking crews and tank space. Lots of trucks up and down the road. Expect next week to be a very big volume week.”
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — “Picking has been steady on Diamond Mountain since Sept. 20 as winemakers watched for the combination of factors that indicate optimal ripeness. The heat over the weekend has changed all that and cabernet has been coming in fast and furious since Monday. Schramsberg has been experimenting with shade cloth to protect the clusters from intense heat and, after last weekend, the results should be interesting. Diamond Creek is reporting good concentration and brilliant color extraction in the first few lots. Many of the estate wineries are picking as I write (including Dyer.) The next two weeks will tell the tale.”
Chiles Valley District – Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate – “Fall is certainly here. The winds are blowing, the leaves are falling and the slow but steady pace continues. Just about all zinfandel has been harvested. The cabernet and merlot are still just beginning to show full maturity with just the hillsides being harvested so far.
“Overnight and morning temperatures have been cool, contributing to nice acid balance with delicious flavors.”
Spring Mountain District – Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery – “Our mountain continues with its eclectic way of life with some wineries having finished, while others have yet to start. Keenan, Smith-Madrone, Stony Hill and Togni have all finished. Cain and Spring Mountain, after a short break, both are hard charging with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot. While Schweiger is almost finished, and both Paloma and 7 & 8 have both barely started they all are waiting for cooler weather to return for more hang time before re-starting. Kieu Hoang and Sherwin are waiting for the same reasons before they even begin their harvests. There is unanimity that the fruit is beautiful with great flavors and good acid and pH.”
Rutherford – Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — “Fall weather cycles definitely keep us on our toes and keep us holding a close eye on day-to-day changes in the vineyards. This week looks like a repeat of last week with the beginning of the week is starting off at record highs and cooling off again toward the end of the week. No rain in sight! With no clouds and dry air we can see 50-degree temperature swings over the course of 24 hours. Cool fall nights are what flavor development loves.
“We’ll likely see the first Rutherford AVA grapes here at Honig this week. Using the fruit that we have in so far as a gauge, we are expecting a slightly above average crop size, overall. What is in the fermenter now looks truly amazing! Dense, balanced tannins, backed by plenty of red and black fruit flavors.
“Checking in around the AVA we have heard from Muiris Griffin, winemaker at Round Pond, who reported at the beginning of last week that they were in a holding pattern. “Sampling and sampling and sampling again.’ He says he is ‘thrilled with all of the intense flavor development and that a couple of days of heat will be just what we need.’
“Meanwhile, on Sunday, Rebekah Wineburg, winemaker at Quintessa, was delighted to report, ‘We started picking in earnest this past week with the higher elevation and west facing hillside cabernet sauvignon. The yields are back to average, the flavors are excellent, and the fruit looks beautiful as it passes across the crush-pad. I’m really excited by what I’m seeing this vintage.’”
Oakville — Linda Neal, Tierra Roja Vineyard — “Oakville is now at a full boil, with fruit coming in from every corner. Small harvest ‘cities’ were seen this morning at several neighbors’ vineyards. I chatted with foreman, Ruben Ortiz, as he was loading the “first 14 tons from Beckstoffer’s To Kalon.” At sunrise, six trucks were waiting to weigh in at Cardinal.
“Oakville is blessed to be home of the UC Davis Field Research Station, where 20 acres of experimental blocks yield answers to pressing questions and guidance for future plantings. This week staff researcher Michael Anderson reports, “Picked first cabs today. The fruit is headed back to Davis for a red blotch study. Vines are harvested individually, clusters are counted and weighed.” You can follow the Station’s activities on Instagram.
Janet Myers, Franciscan Estate, writes, “Harvest is picking up in Oakville, with malbec and petit verdot coming in now and cabernet around the corner. Everything looks great — good color and flavor — and the Sept. 17-19 heat wave pushed ripening forward, adding nice texture to the skins and tannins. We’re getting more fruit than the 2015 vintage, but the crop is still light in some cases, providing great concentration of flavor.”
Yountville – Bill Nancarrow, Goosecross Cellars — “The weather and harvest activities are ‘hotting up!’ This latest heat wave has pushed a lot of fruit to ideal ripeness and the picking crews are putting in some big days and nights getting the fruit into the wineries. There is a slight hint of apprehension about possible moisture/rain in the future. It sure would be nice to have time for a roundtable discussion at Ciccios about picking before or after precipitation, and ideal ‘picking windows,’ but there is too much going on at the wineries as white ferments are finishing, and the first red ferments get pressed to open up space for more sublime fruit to come in.”
Atlas Peak – Melissa Apter, Antica Napa Valley-Antinori Family Wine Estate — “With temperatures reaching the high 90s in the most elevated vineyards of Atlas Peak this weekend, we can easily say that the fruit got that extra push it needed — and that we were all begging for! We are finally looking at full pick schedules and the cellars will be filing up fast. The cabernets are tasting great with nice small sized berries packing a concentrated punch. Stagecoach Vineyards picked their first cabernets last week and we will be bringing ours in early this week here at Antica. Let the punchdowns, pumpovers and purple hands begin here in the Atlas Peak AVA.”
Stags Leap District – Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery – “If you drive through Stags Leap District this week, after the latest slight heat spike, you’ll likely smell lots of coffee and hear a whole lot of rock ’n’ roll booming from the cellars. That is what it takes to get through the big cabernet rush. Michael Beaulac, winemaker at Pine Ridge, was “busy, busy” finishing his SLD cabernet harvest on Tuesday, and reported seeing “great color and taste.” Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer vineyards, was moving on to cabernet, “in a big way this week.” Michael Baldacci reports that his crews were quickly going through hillside and young vine cabernet with “almost everything else to follow soon after.” My pal Marcus Notaro, winemaker at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, had harvested some cabernet from Fay Hillsides early in the week and said, “The wave is coming starting next week.” At Chimney Rock, all of our hillsides are in and by the time this article is printed we will be well past our half way point in harvesting cabernet. This is the moment we all live for and we are adrenaline-filled and ready!”
Mount Veeder — Sander Scheer, Hess Collection — “We wrapped up the whites up here late last week. The heat has kicked our harvest into high gear. Malbec blocks are on the schedule and syrah is very close. Cab will start coming off in five to seven days. While it’s hot, watching the irrigation very closely on our rocky soils is key to getting us to the finish line!”
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery — “The temperature in our vineyard reached 99 degrees Sunday afternoon but was actually just 43 degrees that same morning. These cool nights, a signature feature of our terroir, allow the vines and grapes to recover moisture lost during the hot days. We are now done with cabernet franc, almost done with merlot and picking selectively, but quite actively, in the malbec and cabernet sauvignon. Over at Robert Biale Vineyards, winemaker Tres Goetting reports that they have brought in all their zinfandel, as well as their inaugural vintage of Greco di Tufo. Tres is delighted with the quality this year, across the board, and waxed poetic about the inky must from their signature petite sirah from Aldo’s Vineyard here in the OKD.”
Wild Horse Valley – John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard – “By now all of the 2016 vintage is not simply off the vines, but fully fermented and barreled down for the winter. The only remaining fall task, other than cleaning and storing the farming and winemaking equipment, is to decide how much irrigation to give the still-green vineyard before it’s fully ‘put to bed.’”
For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2016 website at napavintners.com/harvest.