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Napa Valley harvest report

Napa Valley harvest report: Entering the home stretch


A worker harvests Clif Family Winery's Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon at the Cold Springs Estate Vineyard on Howell Mountain.

Harvest has entered the home stretch at a brisk but not frenetic pace as growers bring in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

As a season full of near-perfect weather enters its final stages, growers report high quality grapes and high yields.

“As long as the weather stays warm and no rain is on the forecast we will be moving through this harvest cherry-picking each corner of every block at the perfect maturity and so far this vintage looks very promising,” said Lorenzo Dalla Brea of the Hess Collection.

Kristin Belair of Honig Vineyard & Winery was also pleased with the quality of this year’s grapes, reporting Cabernet with “beautiful fruit characters, solid acids and lush tannins.”

Here’s this week’s harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Area (AVA):

Calistoga — Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “Warm, dry conditions persisted this week Upvalley, nudging us closer to the finish line. This is the time of the season when vineyards can literally change overnight and predictable, consistent weather can mitigate unforeseen (and undesirable) challenges. Flavors, especially in Cabernet and Merlot, are bright and concentrated. Yields are up across the board and tank space is at a premium. We’re keeping a close eye on the offshore winds, although the accompanying warm nights may help some later-ripening areas. The marathon continues.”

Howell Mountain — Laura Barrett, Clif Family Winery — “Howell Mountain producers are coming down the homestretch of the season. Mike Lamborn of Lamborn Family Vineyards expects harvest to wrap up by the end of this week. Erin Smith of O’Shaughnessy Winery continues to pick at a steady pace and anticipates completion by early next week. And Cimarossa will likely finish their harvest on Saturday. The warm, dry, windy conditions were helpful in the vineyard for some concentration effect, though the threat of wildfire and subsequent power outages were a concern, as some wineries on the hill had to rely on generators to process their Monday morning harvest. I have seen some major flavor development at the Clif Family Cold Springs Vineyard over the past week, without any dramatic changes in juice chemistry, and look forward to wrapping up the vintage in the coming week!”

Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — “Harvest is in full swing on Diamond Mountain. Dyer and Mueller are picked out. Diamond Creek has another week. Further up the mountain, Seaver is finished and Andrew Geoffrey is all systems go and even The Vineyardist, Constant and Sterling are beginning to bring in fruit. Smiles all around as to quality … and quantity is not bad either. Karen at Seaver says it may be their biggest harvest ever.”

Chiles Valley District — Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate — “Slow and steady. There has been a certain calmness to this year’s harvest. Sugar accumulation is gently moving forward and winemakers are waiting for some additional flavors to develop. The heavier crop load is taking a bit longer to ripen. The beautiful weather has moved things along gradually, no tank space issues up to this point.”

Spring Mountain District – Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone — “With the warmer and very dry weather along with some hints of rain next week most everyone is picking. Ed Ewing at York Creek and Chris Howell at Cain Cellars are both ‘in the thick of it’ and picking at Spring Mountain Vineyard is ‘cranked way up,’ according to Ron Rosenblum. Even with the small berries this year, the crop is picking out heavy and everyone is still ecstatic with this year’s harvest.”

Rutherford — Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — “It is all about the weather! Each week’s report seems to begin with weather and end with grapes. After a week or so of settling into a warmer drier pattern and incoming fruit slowing to but a trickle, the pace at Honig has accelerated to a constant, yet unhurried, rhythm of draining, pressing and barreling down and receiving the next round of fruit. The Cabernets coming out of the fermenters have beautiful fruit characters, solid acids and lush tannins. We’ll have more Rutherford Cabernet arriving this week and a quick look at our Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc block shows that the early rain did some of its magic with botrytis (Noble Rot) showing up here and there. With a little luck the weather will cooperate, and we’ll have that in before December. Did I say it was all about the weather?”

Oakville — Jennifer Rue, Oakville Ranch Vineyards — “Harvest has hit high gear and the Oakville AVA is lit up from east to west, hillside to valley floor. You name them, they’re picking: Dalla Valle, Hoopes, Paradigm, Peter Michael, Rudd, Tench, Turnbull. At Oakville Ranch our 66 acres will be 80 percent picked out by the end of this week and we are paying keen attention to the 10-day forecast to determine dates for the rest. Canopies have changed dramatically over the last week with varying hues of yellow and more widespread leaf drop. Fruit looks and tastes amazing showing very little desiccation, broad juicy ripe flavors and color off the charts.

“Days are full, scheduling picks, crushing, tasting, managing ferments, doing tank board chess, and fielding phone calls asking to pick up a bit more tonnage reflecting yields trending 20 percent over average. This is a vintage of redemption. The wide hang time window of ideal weather has given us choice over pick dates versus the forced hand of last vintage. However, PG&E’s scheduled power outages reinforce our dependence on the grid and certainly many more wineries will be investing in generators before next harvest.”

Atlas Peak – Gordon Waggoner, Acumen Wines — “Most sites are now being brought in on Atlas Peak. Even grapes from the coolest locations see a pick date on the horizon. Quality has been truly superb across the board with yields larger than expected, up as much as 20 percent in some blocks. In the winery, we are turning tanks quickly as the higher volumes put pressure on production to make more room. The reds coming in now are near-perfect, with brown seeds in most cases, showcasing complex, mature phenolics with excellent concentration and deep flavors. The vintage is shaping up to be one of high quality with high yields, the best of both worlds!”

Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery — “For most producers in our little AVA this week, Cabernet Sauvignon is officially hitting crush pads. Elias Fernandez had a one-word report which showed just how busy he was, ‘Slammed!’ Others found themselves a bit more relaxed. Jeff Owens, winemaker at Odette Estate, said he had nothing scheduled yet, and was ‘just enjoying the nice weather!’ Michael Beaulac, winemaker at Pine Ridge Vineyards, commented he was ‘moving along at a steady pace, no craziness this year, having fun and still thinking that color and flavor are spectacular.’ Marcus Notaro, winemaker at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, continued to pick the upper blocks in Fay and the oldest blocks in SLV reporting, ‘more coming this week for sure — really nice stuff so far.’ Some of our neighbors are closer to the finish line; Cliff Lede Vineyards was scheduled to finish with all their SLD grapes this week. At Chimney Rock, our beloved Cabernet Sauvignon is finally ready and we’ll be harvesting some blocks this week at a moderate pace, enjoying the perfect weather and thrilled with the pristine quality of the grapes.”

Mount Veeder — Lorenzo Dalla Brea, Hess Collection — “Last week was the official beginning of red grape harvest on our Mount Veeder ranches, with small lots of Malbec and a tiny lot of Shiraz picked from our estate blocks. The marine fog layer that has been lingering low on the valley floor is not affecting our grape maturity, the vine canopies are fully exposed to the sun from the very early morning throughout the day. The warm days and cold nights we are experiencing on the mountain are also the perfect condition for ripening grapes – we are seeing sugar accumulation and acidity intact. This week harvest will be in full swing, with picks of Malbec blocks scheduled already from today (Monday) through Saturday. We are still waiting and watching Cabernet Sauvignon to ensure full flavor development. As long as the weather stays warm and no rain is on the forecast we will be moving through this harvest cherry-picking each corner of every block at the perfect maturity and so far this vintage looks very promising.”

Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards — “With the warm weather, the grapes have advanced considerably and there is a lot of Cabernet coming off the vine this week. Brad Smith, winemaker for Silenus Winery, reports that they are picking Cabernet from two local growers as well their own estate. Steve Moulds indicates that they finished picking last week. Steve said that the winemakers are excited about the quality of this year’s crop and that he found the vintage to be remarkable ‘both for the even temperatures we enjoyed and the unexpected bounty.’ Here at Trefethen, we are continuing with our estate Cabernet and still have a lot of Petit Verdot out there enjoying the October sunshine.”

Coombsville — Tom Farella, Farella Vineyards — “It’s quiet in Coombsville today after harvesting in fits and spurts but the Cabernet harvest is about to get going in earnest. The north winds are diminishing with pulses of bay breezes arriving and getting the weather back to a mild pattern. The vines are starting senescence so the remaining days will be shorter and limited as far as vines actually metabolizing. We anticipate the last of our fruit coming off in the next week to 10 days and the forecast looks great. The quality, overall, is exceptional and 2018 should be another high-ranking vintage with tonnage almost 25 percent higher than average for us.”

Carneros — Christopher Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — “With cold nights and warm days, harvest continues. Northern winds have dried up the fields. An ideal harvest season continues here at Hyde Vineyard.”

For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2018 website at

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