With harvest now in the home stretch, local grapegrowers weathered last week’s power outage amid what has been a smooth growing season.
“Experiencing fires, earthquakes and power outages — at this point there isn’t much Napa Valley winemakers can’t handle,” said Elizabeth Vianna, adding that Chimney Rock Winery “didn’t skip a beat.”
Reporting from Carneros, Christopher Hyde said the cold weather and the power outage “have slowed down the pace in what will be a long harvest season this year.”
Louis Kapcsandy of Kapcsandy Family Winery said, “Thousands of gallons were spared by the last-minute heroics of several local electrical contractors,” causing a collective sigh of relief.
Here’s this week’s harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Area (AVA):
Calistoga — Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “The show must go on. At least that’s what we told ourselves amidst the bewilderingly mundane non-event that brought most of the valley back to the 19th century this week. But we persevered, as did our neighbors, and harvest rolled on amidst the hum of generators, the din of propane forklifts, and a few flickering LED lights. Most of the AVA has entered the home stretch with heavily-laden vines and dense soils encompassing the majority of the tonnage yet to be picked. The warm, dry conditions on deck should help sustain the current momentum.”
Howell Mountain — Laura Barrett, Clif Family Winery — “Last week was a busy week of harvesting, many days without power. With lots of experience and lessons learned from 2017, the power outage had little to no impact on winemaking. Wineries were set up with generators and it was business as usual for crews and facilities. After the dry and warm wind of last week, followed by cooler days this week, many blocks on Howell Mountain turned the corner to ‘ready’ status and sent harvesting into high gear. Mike Dunn of Dunn Vineyards started picking on Oct. 9 and has not stopped since. ‘It’s been fast and furious. This is a year to have tank space and a generator!’ At Clif Family Winery, we will bring in the last of our Cold Springs Vineyard this week and be finished with all harvesting by Friday.”
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — “The weather has been kind to us — that may be the motto for 2019. Warm dry weather last week brought more and more winemakers into the fields looking for the perfect moment to harvest. Anticipating the winds that led to the power shut down, more fragile and exposed vineyards hurried to bring in fruit before the event. There is little bottleneck now with wineries that couldn’t receive fruit during the power outage, but a couple of days wait in lovely weather is the worst of it. With nighttime temperatures dropping, the vines are in the last precious gasps of the season. Sterling has had a busy week and will be close to finished in their Diamond Mountain Ranch by Monday. SummitVine, Diamond Creek and Constant will all be working at a steady pace through next week. Did I say the weather has been kind?”
Chiles Valley District — Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate — “Without power the harvest continued for most. At this point its mainly Cabernet with some vineyards reporting higher than average yields and suddenly back to closer to historical average harvest dates. The cold nights with perfect daytime temperatures have contributed to great acid retention and outstanding flavors. We can see the finish line.”
Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone — “Mother Nature is still providing near-perfect weather for those still harvesting on Spring Mountain, which is most, but not all. Keenan, School House, Smith-Madrone, Togni have finished harvest. For those of you that don’t work at a winery, please remember that ‘crush’ will continue many weeks after the last grape is harvested with pump-overs, punch-downs, pressing and barreling down and then finally clean-up.”
St. Helena — Aron Weinkauf, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery — “At our Spottswoode Estate Vineyard, harvest is proceeding at a surprisingly relaxed pace. Our Sauvignon Blanc was picked three weeks ago, and we have completed the harvest for our Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and about half of our Cabernet Sauvignon, with the remaining Cabernet scheduled for picking in the next two weeks. Because the season offered somewhat cooler conditions, the grapes have lovely color and excellent physiological maturity at relatively modest sugar levels. This said, there have been some issues with uneven cluster maturation, so we have been doing some late-season fruit dropping. After last week’s short-lived heat spell, the weather cooled down, which is allowing us to pick exactly when we wish, while providing plenty of time to manage extractions and fermentations.”
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Matt Reid, Benessere Vineyards — “The 2019 harvest calendar looks nothing like previous years’, but the quality of the grapes coming in is exceptional. At Benessere we are just beginning the harvest of our later varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sagrantino, and Aglianico. A slight chance of rain has disappeared from the forecast and, with moderate weather expected to persist, we expect a slow, steady harvest of beautifully ripened grapes. The 2019 vintage should be another one for the record books.”
Rutherford — Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — “Last week’s ‘exciting weather’ appeared to have minimal impact on the fruit remaining on the vine as it continues its long slow march to perfection. The warm, sunny and growing-ever-shorter days and cool nights are keeping ripening to a moderate pace. With the continued good weather, we can to carefully plan tank space and calmly bring harvest to a close. That close is still two to three weeks away, though. We have harvested our first Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon last week from Campbell Vineyard, located on South Whitehall Lane. Midway through fermentation it is proving to be a lovely dense wine, with great promise.”
Oakville — Jennifer Rue, Hoopes Vineyard — “Across Oakville comes the refrain of the last push with bone-chilling mornings and warm but short days. Up at Oakville Ranch, we’re rounding the home stretch picking Cabernet Franc and will be more than halfway through with Cabernet Sauvignon by week’s end. This week has seen some wind machines in use on the valley floor and with no real rain on the horizon and temperatures below 35 a full three weeks earlier than 2018, it is near-frost conditions, not rain, that will likely bring harvest 2019 to a close before the last week of October.”
Yountville — Louis Kapcsandy, Jr., Kapcsandy Family Winery — “Every soul in the valley is breathing a sigh of relief after last week’s power fiasco. Thousands of gallons were spared by the last-minute heroics of several local electrical contractors as fruit is coming off the vine every day. Cabernet Sauvignon is arriving on the crushpads plump and healthy thanks in no small part to the increasingly cold nights. After one of the longer growing seasons this decade, 2019 is shaping up to be yet another high-quality vintage. Several winemakers I’ve spoken to are reporting flavor intensities on par with 2016, 2013 and even 2007. Tanks are getting drained, barrels filled up and tanks filled again with the next block of beautiful fruit. By October’s end, tractors will begin sowing cover-crop seeds and spreading compost ahead of any potential fall rain. Tourists are happily flocking to our tasting rooms and posting a myriad number of celebratory harvest photos online. Is there any better time of the year in any corner of the wine world?”
Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery — “We were thrown another curveball this past week with the dramatic offshore winds, which caused PG&E to shut off power to many in Napa. Experiencing fires, earthquakes and power outages — at this point there isn’t much Napa Valley winemakers can’t handle. Even with the power outage, winemakers continued to be busy in Stags Leap District. Jon Emmerich, winemaker at Silverado Vineyards, was lucky to not lose power and is scheduled to finish harvesting his SLD fruit this week. He says, ‘We have been using our optical sorter on the SLD fruit due to dehydration. The results have been fantastic!’ Marcus Notaro, winemaker at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, is more than half way through their Fay Vineyard. Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer Vineyards, did lose power but was fortunate to have back up generators and didn’t skip a beat. He says, ‘Backup generators and optical sorters are our friends this year!’ Michael Baldacci, at Baldacci Vineyards, is slowly making his way through their Stags Leap District vineyard. Our friends at Cliff Lede Vineyards finished harvesting their SLD vineyards this past Wednesday. At Chimney Rock, we did indeed have a couple of days without power, but didn’t skip a beat. We have been extremely busy and are now deep into our Cabernet Sauvignon harvest. This is the moment we have all be waiting for!”
Mount Veeder – Lorenzo Dalla Brea, Hess Collection — “This week will be quite active on Mount Veeder as we enter the busiest part of our harvest season. The warm days and dry winds we experienced last week spiked sugar concentrations in most of the estate blocks, and the chilly nights helped to preserve acidity levels. At this stage, the fruit is showing full flavor profiles. Starting Monday, our vineyard crews will hand-pick a young Cabernet Sauvignon block, as well as our estate Syrah and some early ripening Malbec blocks. Over the years, Malbec has shown as one of the varieties best performing on Mount Veeder, and it represents a significant share of the acreage planted at our higher elevation Veeder Crest and Summit vineyards.”
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards — “We’re in the home stretch! Nighttime temperatures have been in the 30s and the vines are turning beautiful fall colors. Thankfully, nearly all of our grapes are in and the rest will be in within a week or so. Tasting the active red fermentations with our winemaker, Bryan Kays, he commented on the ‘concentrated flavors’ this year and he remains excited about the quality of the vintage. Even after we finish picking, the cellar will still be quite busy but it will feel great to get everything off the vine.”
Coombsville — Tom Farella, Farella Vineyard — “Things really picked up this week with harvest going off in all directions. Cabernet was the focus this last week with balance between sugar and acidity coming into focus for some of us, though there is a lot still on the vine. The tail end of Merlot and Syrah also is coming off as the last big harvests are lined up and, thankfully, the weather is cooperating beautifully with this mid-October season before it all shuts down in the coming weeks. The colors in the vineyard are spectacular with fall senescence in high gear and, with the mild weather, we are really enjoying this latter end of the 2019 vintage.”
Carneros — Christopher Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — “Harvest of later season varieties continues in Carneros, with Syrah and Merlot being picked at Hyde Vineyard. At Truchard this week, harvest of Cabernet Franc and Syrah continues, with Merlot harvest wrapping up this week and Cabernet Sauvignon harvest starting sometime next week. The cold weather and power outage last week have slowed down the pace in what will be a long harvest season this year.”
For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2019 website at harvestnapa.com.