The weather was cooperative, the pace was even, and the quality of the Napa Valley's 2021 grape harvest looks to be top-notch.
That's the verdict from grapegrowers across the valley. The vast majority of them have either already completed harvest or are finishing the final blocks this week.
"The quality and concentration we are seeing is through the roof so it will undoubtedly be known as a small harvest of very high quality," said Tom Farella of Farella Vineyard in Coombsville.
Best of all, this harvest was free of the wildfires that marred the 2020 season. Now growers are busying themselves with punchdowns, pumpovers, preparing the vineyards for the rainy season, and praying for rain.
"As cover crops are being seeded and erosion control measures are being taken, we can only hope for plenty of rain during the coming months," said Alexander Eisele of Volker Eisele Family Estate.
Here’s the last harvest report of 2021, organized by American Viticultural Area (AVA):
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Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “The arrival of cool, breezy weather early this week cemented the fact that it is October and autumn is officially upon us. In the winery there are fewer pumpovers and punchdowns each day while new activity in the vineyard is centered around winter erosion control and seeding cover crop. It’s not uncommon to feel both sad and relieved, as the most dynamic, intense part of the year comes to a close for many of us in Calistoga. At Montelena, only a few acres of Petit Verdot remain before we can begin to stow our crush gear. Wine quality at the press continues to be excellent with ample structure and aromatics.”
Diamond Mountain District
Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyard — "Almost done here on Diamond Mountain — the last grapes will be in by the third week in October and that sets a new record. We started the harvest three weeks ahead of average but the month of September reduced it to two weeks. That elongated time frame, along with the light crop, provided for a gentlemanly paced harvest. All of us, but especially those of us who lost our crops to fire and smoke last year, are very happy. It's a wrap!"
Laura Barrett, Clif Family Winery — "Cabernet is the name of the game this week. Whether it’s the last days of picking, tasting fermentations, or pressing off tanks, Howell Mountain producers have their hands in Cab, Cab, Cab. Early evaluations of the wines have us full of promise for the 2021 vintage. Juice and new wines are concentrated, fruit-driven, big tannins, great acidity and well balanced. As we wrap up the last of vintage, we are now hopeful for rain!"
Chiles Valley District
Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate — "A very early and uneventful harvest season with quality fruit across all varietals, just not enough are the words most commonly heard. The direct result of back-to-back very dry winter seasons. As cover crops are being seeded and erosion control measures are being taken, we can only hope for plenty of rain during the coming months."
Spring Mountain District
Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery — "Just three wineries are still harvesting on the mountain and none seem to be in any hurry to finish. Matt Sherwin reports that they’re about two-thirds done, but are holding out for some warmer weather and likely won’t finish until early next week. Ron Rosenbrand at Spring Mountain Vineyard is now steadily harvesting and is very pleased with the quality but not so happy with the low tonnage; he will likely finish sometime late next week. At York Creek Vineyards Frank Schaefer reports that he is just over half done and couldn’t be happier with their 'excellent bumper crop that’s looking just incredible with just a few shot berries.' Frank continues, 'After last year, it’s like a miracle, it’s just an incredible harvest and vintage.'"
Katie Hayne Simpson, Chase Cellars — "Harvest 2021 at Chase Cellars has been pretty smooth. Little to no drama was a welcome relief from the past few worrisome years. Our Hayne Vineyard heritage vine Zinfandel (planted around 1903) set a great big crop this year. Thank goodness we’ve dry-farmed for the past 100-plus years — our vines have been through droughts before and their roots run deep enough to find the water they needed to bring this year’s crop to maturity. We picked in early September and we’re happy to say that all indications point to a fantastic vintage of Zin. A week later, we harvested our Hayne Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. While not a bumper crop, it was a solid fruit-set of beautiful, concentrated clusters. A delicious and powerful wine is now barreled down. We look forward to tasting all our wines’ progress during the next year as flavors and nuances develop. Along with the harvest hub-bub, we’ve welcomed many happy visitors from all over the country. They’re thrilled to be back and are enthusiastic for all things ‘Napa’ — the scenery, food, hospitality and wine! Harvesting continues and everyone’s exhausted, but we should all take pride that our collective efforts are being so appreciated."
Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — "The low-angle sun makes for such beautiful light as fall colors wash over vineyard canopies. It feels like the end of a marathon, and we are so excited to be crossing the harvest finish line on Tuesday, Oct. 12. As we settle into the season of pumpkins and soup, we’ll be waiting patiently for each fermenter to let us know when it is time to press and hope to have the new wines pressed out and into barrels over the next month or so. Sauvignon blanc is promising abundant tropical, citrus, and stone fruit characters and the Cabernets are densely colored, packed with bright fruit and good acidity. All in all, this vintage is an absolute winner!"
Jennifer Rue, Oakville Ranch Vineyards — "Overnight lows are dipping into the mid-30s, the north winds are blowing, walnuts are falling, canopy changes are accelerating, and there is a chance of rain looming next week. It’s time for the last seating of the 2021 vintage! Many Oakville properties have picked their last fruit or are down to the last agonizing 10%. Oakville Ranch Winery is bringing in our final block this Wednesday, leaving just a few picks for our winery clients by the end of the week or early next week. The bittersweet happiness of the last scheduled pick. The winery and vineyard worlds once again split. In the winery, we focus on transformation. The first reds are happily in barrel undergoing ML. The last blocks, just beginning to ferment, and the crescendo lots are getting drained and pressed. In the vineyard, our attention is already on the next vintage and rejuvenation: sowing winter cover crops, spreading compost or other soil amendments, removing blocks earmarked for replanting, and installing erosion control measures for the rains we all pray are coming."
Louis Kapcsandy Jr., Kapcsandy Family Winery — "The finish line is within sight, with the last of the Cabernets coming in over the next eight days. Post-harvest work in the vineyards is in high gear; compost spreads, seeding cover crops and fertilization ahead of a much-anticipated rain event next week. Concurrently, fermentations are running smoothly with excellent color and tannin extraction. Phenolics are off-the-charts, similar to 2019 and 2013. As noted by several of my colleagues there is widespread enthusiasm for the overall quality of the vintage and significant relief that the heat experienced in September was tolerable. That and the fact that the valley was spared from devastating fires is ample cause for celebration. There will be many stories to share about this vintage to future generations, and the best wines crafted will age effortlessly for at least 30 years. Most importantly, the root of each story and every wine begins with a human being. From those who tend the vines, to those who handle the fruit and gently move the wine in the cellars, to the passionate visionaries that take the road less travelled on their journey to craft a legacy, we are honored and indebted."
Stags Leap District
Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery — "This week brings the end of harvest in the Stags Leap District. Michael Baldacci reports Baldacci Family Vineyards has brought in the final SLD Cabernet Sauvignon. He is looking forward to 'the opportunity to make great wine.' Jon Emmerich, winemaker at Silverado Vineyards, reports they completed harvest. He too says he believes they will have a 'lovely 2021 vintage.' Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer Vineyards, reported that all their SLD fruit would be in by the end of this week. He remarks, 'Such an interesting year with hot then cold then hot then cold again — made for an easy crush with great quality on all Bordeaux varietals.' I can’t help but agree with Elias. At Chimney Rock, the pace of harvest has been balanced compared to other years and we will finish this week as well with our last Cabernet blocks. We all have much work ahead of us before the wine is in barrel to age, but we are all smiling with the promise of another great vintage to share with the wine-loving world."
Oak Knoll District
Jon Ruel, Trefethen Family Vineyards — "We are nearly done picking at this point, with just a few blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot still outstanding, and we expect to be all done in just a few days. That said, the cellar will remain busy for weeks to come, with punchdowns and pumpovers on the active fermentations, and then moving the young wines into barrel. We are absolutely thrilled with the quality of the grapes that we brought in and thoroughly grateful for the smooth harvest season this year. Cheers to the vintage!"
Lorenzo Dalla Brea, Hess Collection — "This week will likely be the last of our harvest season on Mount Veeder. The last Cabernet Sauvignon blocks are scheduled to be brought in early this week, followed by Petit Syrah and the last of our Malbec. This brings the projected end of harvest to mid-October, about 2-3 weeks before when we’ve brought in our last fruit load historically. While each year’s vintage come with different challenges, this year will be remembered for low yields and fruit with high concentration of flavor. We are already seeing the early Cabernet Sauvignon grapes we picked a few weeks ago turn into wines that are fully colored, bold and elegant."
Tom Farella, Farella Vineyard — "The last of the Cabernet has been rounded up, for the most part, as dry north winds arrive and remind us of some of the dangers that come this time of year. With the small crop and early start, the pace was modest from start to finish and a nice return to some sense of normalcy after recent years. The quality and concentration we are seeing is through the roof so it will undoubtedly be known as a small harvest of very high quality. All the best to everyone as we finish up the 2021 harvest!"
Christopher Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — "Harvest at Hyde Vineyards wraps up this week, with old vine Sémillon and Merlot harvested at daybreak. Weather conditions, aside from drought, have been ideal and the 2021 vintage promises excellent quality across the range of varieties. We are now hopeful for a long cold and wet winter ahead."
For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2021 website at harvestnapa.com.