By 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, three crews had harvested most of 30 tons of sauvignon blanc grapes from the Gordon Valley for Honig Winery. It marked the start of the 2016 harvest season for the Rutherford winery.
Winemaker Kristin Belair said the grapes from the Gordon Valley vineyard are always the first to be harvested, although the 2016 harvest started five days later than in 2015. She added there’s another 30 tons of sauvignon blanc grapes in the vineyard that will be harvested in the next few days. The crews pick at night to keep the grapes cool before they are taken to the crush pad.
“We’re madly sampling our grapes this week to see when they will be ready,” Belair said. “Next week will be busy.”
Honig has 15 or so vineyards of sauvignon blanc and makes 50,000 cases of the varietal each year. Belair added that the grapes coming in early Tuesday looked really good. As to what the harvest season holds, she said, “it is always an adventure.”
The first wine grapes of the 2016 Napa Valley vintage have made their way from the vineyard to the crush pad for what looks to be another early but high-quality harvest in America’s premier wine region.
Crews should begin picking in earnest, including aromatic white wine grapes like sauvignon blanc, in the next week. Recent warm temperatures are helping the grapes transition from veraison to full ripeness, according to a joint press release from the Napa Valley Vintners and the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.
The first grapes to make sparkling wine were harvested in late July by Mumm Napa and on Aug. 3 for Schramsberg.
An early bud break followed by warm weather and spring rains brought a rapid start to this year’s growing season. Garrett Buckland with Premiere Viticultural Services and president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, said, “The ripening has gone well and it’s been a wonderful season with beautiful weather from bloom, to berry set, to hard seed, through veraison.”
With regards to yield, grapegrowers have reported that the average number of berries per cluster is higher than the historical average in some blocks, but overall, Buckland said, “Yield looks good to me. This year is expected to be close to average with cabernet sauvignon slightly below the normal average. However, while yield is important, it is not the only factor in wine quality. We are anticipating tremendous quality this year.”
Grapegrowers are busy finishing canopy work, continuing to thin fruit as needed and keeping a close eye on soil moisture as they wrap up key vineyard activities before settling in for a busy couple of months ahead. Full-on harvest is not expected to begin until next week.
Overall, Napa Valley grapegrowers said they couldn’t be more pleased with this year’s model conditions and are looking forward to another spectacular vintage for 2016. “We are very fortunate,” said Buckland, “for the most part, every year is an awesome year for Napa Valley.”
Notes from the cellar
Meanwhile, throughout the Napa Valley, winemakers are gearing up for the busiest time of the year. According to Michael Honig, president of Honig Vineyard & Winery and vice chairman of the NVV Board of Directors, “For winemakers, harvest is our championship season. It’s the culmination of 12 months of rigorous work and concentrated effort to make the best wines possible.”
As the grapes are ripening in the vineyard, Honig said vintners are busy in their cellars bottling recent vintages and making tank and barrel space ready for the wines that will result from this year’s crop. “It’s the calm before the storm,” said Honig. “Vintners are getting their wineries in tip-top shape, cleaning and checking equipment to ensure we’re ready. Vacations and time off are behind us and we’re rested and ready for the 24/7 nature of the months ahead.”
Winemakers are also out walking the vineyards with their grapegrower partners, participating in the process of deciding the optimal time to pick their grapes. “We’re excited for the promise of a fifth consecutive high-quality harvest. Looks like it’s going to be another winning season in the Napa Valley,” said Honig.
To follow the 2016 Napa Valley harvest as it unfolds, go to napavintners.com/harvest for continuous social media coverage direct from Napa Valley’s vintners. The site also includes photos from some of the first days of the 2016 harvest, along with videos, recipes and educational games to help wine lovers from around the world feel a part of the excitement of this once-a-year event.
In October, NVG will host its 10th annual harvest news conference with a panel of industry experts discussing the important details of this year’s growing season. To receive an invitation to watch the news conference live, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.