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Harvest for SHHS viticulture class

While Ellie Blakeley cuts the Zinfandel grapes from the vine, Dyani Lopez holds the bin. Both are in Sarah Herdell's viticulture class at St. Helena High School. Sixteen students harvested Zinfandel grapes from both the Salvestrin Vineyard adjacent to the high school and the Davies Vineyard on Grayson Avenue. They picked 732 pounds of grapes on Friday morning.

Harvest is drawing to a close in the Napa Valley after what growers describe as a long and successful growing season.

Correspondents from some local appellations say they’ve already finished picking, and others say they will be finished by early November.

“Now the focus is on finishing up and monitoring fermentations and pressing off before the new wines are barreled down,” said Tom Farella, reporting from Coombsville. “It’s the season where everyone is a little weary and we all have to soldier on to finish the process.”

Jennifer Rue of Hoopes Vineyard in Oakville said, “Even with the threat of a second Public Safety Power Shutdown in the thick of crush, the 2019 harvest has been characterized by an unusual sense of ease and lack of urgency. The fruit arriving at the winery is in beautiful condition and is tasting great.”

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

Calistoga — Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “I would have laughed if you’d told me back in June that we’d be picked out by the middle of October. But here we are, finished harvesting with a very full winery. Warm, dry conditions throughout the second half of the summer and into September certainly accelerated ripening – more than many of us expected. Our Cabernet harvest at Montelena stretched about four weeks, on the shorter side of average and contributing to the methodical and at times grinding pace this fall. But as we plow further into October, there is still plenty of fruit to pick in Calistoga with many wineries taking advantage of the pleasant weather for additional hangtime.”

Howell Mountain — Laura Barrett, Clif Family Winery — “Howell Mountain Cabernet is rolling in. Daniel Cyrot, winemaker at Cade, is picking their estate vineyards this week, and she expects to continue picking until the first week of November if the weather holds. She also reports cold nights on the mountain and frost fans have been running. Frank Dotzler of Outpost Wines has a similar story. They began picking the majority of their estate cabernet this week and plan to wrap things up over the next 10 days. With another planned power outage and fire risk on the horizon, we cross our fingers for safe conditions to wrap up the 2019 vintage.”

Chiles Valley District — Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate — “The harvest is winding down at a wonderful relaxing pace with beautiful weather. The cool nights with perfect daytime temperatures have made the final fruit being harvested near perfect. The last Cabernet is being picked this week. 2019 should be an outstanding vintage.”

Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone — “The Spring Mountain District AVA harvest has finished for several wineries and is winding down for most. Yet several wineries including Pride, Sherwin and Spring Mountain Vineyards, will harvest into November. Wendy at Pride says this will be a ‘great week’ for harvesting her Cabernet blocks and Donna at Sherwin says they’ll be starting their Cabernet this week. The most common comments about the vintage are that there are excellent flavors at lower sugars this year, there is tremendous color extraction, the chemistry ratio between acid and pHs was excellent and the Cabernets are very well balanced. Francois at Cain Cellars sums it up best by calling 2019 a ‘stunning vintage.’”

St. Helena — Lindsey Wallingford, Saint Helena Winery — “We finished harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon on our Pratt Avenue estate on Oct. 9. The 2019 growing season was a challenging one due to overall cooler weather, with various heat spikes and frost threats; however we were able to achieve phenolic ripeness and ideal chemistry about a week before our 2018 pick dates. The wines are now fermenting in tanks and about halfway through fermentation. Color and tannin extraction are no problem this year! In the vineyard, we are currently fertilizing and applying compost to set our vineyard up for a successful 2020 season.”

Oakville — Jennifer Rue, Hoopes Vineyard — “A long string of beautiful days has led to a smooth even pace for picking over the last 10 days. Even with the threat of a second Public Safety Power Shutdown in the thick of crush, the 2019 harvest has been characterized by an unusual sense of ease and lack of urgency. The fruit arriving at the winery is in beautiful condition and is tasting great. Vintage 2019 is in its last days. Across Oakville, 60-70% of this year’s harvest was picked this past week and hot dry conditions will ensure the last few stragglers will be in before Halloween.”

Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery — “It has been another wild week in Stags Leap District as many of us reach or are close to reaching the finish line. Jon Emmerich, winemaker at Silverado Vineyards, brought his SLD harvest to a close on Oct. 17. Jon commented that ‘Weather really drove this vintage — with the late rains, the hot and extreme low humidity as well as lower than normal cool mornings.’ He sees it as a ‘solid vintage.’ Michael Beaulac, winemaker at Pine Ridge, concurs with Jon: ‘Smaller berries, slightly lower yields and a solid year.’ The Pine Ridge Team reached their SLD finish line last week. Remi Cohen, at Cliff Lede Vineyards, reports they brought in their final SLD lots on Oct. 14. Cohen said, ‘Our yields were significantly lower than last year due in part to smaller berries, and in part due to more thinning. We are pleased with the quality of the early lots, but we are just starting to press.’ Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer Vineyards, reports he will be finishing up by the next weekend and was excited to see ‘smaller berries than last year, great colors with big soft tannin structures, another good one in the books!’ At Chimney Rock, we are in a flurry of harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon from our estate and should reach our own finish line by early next week. Another menace of a power shutdown from PG&E will not affect us as we are generator ready!”

Mount Veeder – Lorenzo Dalla Brea, Hess Collection — “Mild daily temperatures and cold nights are generating a slow but steady sugar accumulation in the clusters, as well as full varietal flavor development. Harvest on Mount Veeder is moving at a slow pace, as we are carefully selecting the blocks to harvest and choosing only those which have reached optimum ripening levels. With there being no rain predicted for the next couple of weeks, we are taking advantage of the extra hang time to support full-fruit maturity. This week we will be harvesting Malbec on our Veeder Crest and Veeder Summit properties, as well as our premium Cabernet Sauvignon from the Veeder Hills vineyards facing the winery. Compared to last year, we are over three weeks later with the harvest of those particular blocks.”

Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards — “We are wrapping up, with our last pick of Petit Verdot this Wednesday, about a week earlier than last year. The cool and wet spring was followed by a warm and sunny summer and fall. And we are thrilled with the potential for high quality wines this year. Cheers to vintage 2019!”

Coombsville — Tom Farella, Farella Vineyard — “Harvest has been quite active this last week as the vines head for another senescence after a long growing season. The trend toward night picks has kept most of the activity for the larger parcels as a nighttime affair with islands of lights cruising through the darkness. Now the focus is on finishing up and monitoring fermentations and pressing off before the new wines are barreled down. It’s the season where everyone is a little weary and we all have to soldier on to finish the process. One chance per year to get it right, now the devil is in the details as the fall colors go psychedelic. Beautiful and rewarding times in the Napa Valley.”

Carneros — Christopher Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — “The weather has warmed up again for an ‘Indian Summer’ as we approach the end of October in Carneros. There are a few grapes left on the vine, after this week just Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon at Hyde Vineyards. It has been a long and good harvest season.”

For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2019 website at harvestnapa.com.

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