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Napa Valley harvest report

Napa Valley harvest report: Here comes the heat

Harvest at Trefethen

Chardonnay wine grapes were harvested Aug. 15 at Trefethen Family Vineyards.

A forecasted heat wave is expected to quicken the pace of a harvest that's already well underway, with Sauvignon Blanc hitting crush pads throughout the Napa Valley.

"Like last year, the gap between whites and reds could be short or nonexistent, with the first red blocks coming in as soon as early next week," reports Jennifer Rue of Oakville Ranch Vineyards.

Matt Crafton of Chateau Montelena says flavors in white grapes are developing ahead of sugar levels, which could result in lower-alcohol white wines from 2022.

Kristin Belair of Honig Vineyard & Winery expects the upcoming heat wave will "drive harvest into a more intense pace."

"Harvest always seems to have a mind of its own," Belair said. "This one in particular seems to be traveling a very crooked path."

Here’s the first harvest report of 2022, organized by American Viticultural Area:

Calistoga

Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “Harvest is well underway in Calistoga with early Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon splashing into winery presspans almost three weeks ago. The weather has followed a familiar August pattern with periods of fog and afternoon breezes from the Pacific punctuated by short spells of intense heat. We know how to play this game. Flavor in the white grapes thus far has developed early, ahead of sugar levels. For some of us, that’s a positive, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see lower-alcohol white wines across the valley from 2022. The warm weather this week will give the red grapes a big push.”

Howell Mountain

Laura Barrett, Clif Family Winery — "Harvest is looking promising on Howell Mountain as most of our red grapes are in the ripening phase. Sugars are beginning to accumulate and some early reds, such as Zinfandel, are getting closer, especially on the Pope Valley side of the hill. Most growers are tracking to pick late September and into October and are expecting yields to be normal to slightly above average."

Chiles Valley District

Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate — "Even with the minimal rainfall, looking up and down the district, vineyards show little lack of moisture. Most reservoirs were filled with the December rain and effective water management has contributed to what looks to be so far a successful growing season. In the past week Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon have been harvested. Yields are down due to some losses during the spring frost though winemakers have been very happy with the quality."

Spring Mountain District

Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery — "The 2022 harvest is starting out very similar to the 2021 harvest with Bergman Family Winery, Keenan, Schweiger, Smith-Madrone and Spring Mountain Vineyards and Stony Hill all finishing their whites by Sept. 2. The Schweigers will also have finished their Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, nature has thrown some curve balls at us. Those rains in late April and early May that were so welcomed by the vines caused serious set problems, resulting in very short crops of Chardonnay, Riesling and some Zinfandel. There is good consensus that the Cabernet Sauvignon crop looks uniformly terrific with good even color, good normal-sized bunches and a slightly larger crop than normal."

Rutherford

Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — "Harvest always seems to have a mind of its own. This one in particular seems to be traveling a very crooked path. An early start and anticipation of a fast pace led to more of a stop-start pattern and ripening patterns that are hard to predict. At Honig we’ve brought in about half of our Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc and the other half is quietly waiting, continuing to develop amazing flavors. The weather forecast last week showed it to be continuing along its mild, calm track, giving us all time to reflect and enjoy a wee break in the action. Hold on! Now we have a significant warm-up forecast for end of the week that will certainly drive harvest into a much more intense pace and the start of Cabernet harvest. So it goes, along its own crooked path."

Oakville

Jennifer Rue, Oakville Ranch Vineyards — “The end of August finds the Oakville AVA midway through Sauvignon Blanc harvest with Saddleback starting and Mondavi finishing late last week with yields down roughly 10% from average. Ben Forgeron at Groth reports their Sauvignon Blanc will start coming off this week. Benefiting from fantastic flavor development thanks to the welcome run of cooler days, Oakville Ranch is kicking off harvest with our single block Chardonnay this Thursday in advance of a classically hot Labor Day weekend. Harvest 2022 is tracking fractionally early compared to last year depending on fruit set, relative drought tolerance and vine age. Like last year, the gap between whites and reds could be short or nonexistent, with the first red blocks coming in as soon as early next week."

Yountville

Louis Kapcsandy Jr., Kapcsándy Family Winery — "Harvest will pick up the pace this week, with Sauvignon Blanc nearly finished and Chardonnay coming off the vine all over the Yountville AVA. Tonnage is very near average, which is a welcome sight given the drought conditions. July and August, from a weather perspective, have been ideal for both the reds and whites, with excellent acid profiles in the juice and bold, early flavors extracting gently. Spirits are high running up to the red harvest, and as is always the case, the next few weeks will have a significant impact on the overall style of the vintage. Canopies are full and lush, the vines’ engines are cranking. Another marathon for our humble valley is entering the final few miles; it’s too early to know how intense the finish will be. At present, expectations are as optimistic as ever."

Atlas Peak

Igor Sill, Sill Family Vineyards — “An unusually hot week accelerated Atlas Peak's grape maturation, which returned to a more relaxed but steady pace as temperature variations between daytime and nighttime caused quicker than normal ripening. Atlas Peak's quality remains exceedingly high, but this year's yields are down, with some as much as 30%. Flavors have been developing nicely and the quality of the fruit looks to be outstanding thus far. I'm seeing much lower than average Cabernet Sauvignon yields due predominantly to the smaller cluster sizes, but then, they will offer greater complexity and nuance in our mountain fruit. I don’t anticipate this to be a long hang time-late season year.”

Stags Leap District

Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery — "Winemakers in the Stags Leap District are playing the waiting game on red grapes although Robert Smith, winemaker at Quixote Winery, did harvest a little Petit Sirah, for their delicious rosé last week. As we brace for our first real heat spike, Josh Widaman, winemaker at Pine Ridge, checked in this week and reports that they are 'expecting an average to slightly lighter than average crop, with exceptional quality.' They are busy cleaning and getting their interns from around the globe trained and ready for the 'tsunami of fruit that they are about to receive.' Robbie Meyer, winemaker at Malk Family Vineyards, reports, 'we are tracking a little earlier than last year, and I am seeing many similarities to 2015.' At Chimney Rock we continue to get things cleaned up for harvest, starting to sample grapes and we are very excited about the quality we are observing in the vineyards. The harvest adrenaline is about to start rising!"

Oak Knoll District

Jon Ruel, Trefethen Family Vineyards — "The mild summer weather allowed for fantastic flavor development in the Oak Knoll District, and many growers are deep into their white grape harvest. Silenus Winery is already done with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, noting generous juice yields, and their Grenache could come next. Here at Trefethen, we have picked almost all of our Pinot Noir and Riesling, and this week we are focusing on Chardonnay. Robert Biale Vineyards says their Zinfandel and Petite Sirah have been ripening evenly and beautifully, and they could start picking within the next 10 days."

Mount Veeder

Kassidee Kemp, Hess Persson Estates — "We just harvested our Mount Veeder Chardonnay on Friday (a little over 3 tons) and are still a few weeks away from the beginning of the red varieties. Even with this upcoming heat spike, we predict it will be a long harvest going all the way into November. With the relatively moderate weather, ripening is a bit slower and more spread out with our Mount Veeder fruit."

Coombsville

Tom Farella, Farella Vineyard — "An amazing growing season is a real treat as we commence harvest in Coombsville with our Sauvignon Blanc harvested Monday with perfect numbers, a nice healthy crop and nice weather to get it all going. We have had a few warm spells this summer but only a few days in the high 90s and, generally, typical fog patterns and cool nights. Some Chardonnay has been harvested and our friends over at Dead Fred vineyard are actually harvesting Cabernet today but things are quiet, otherwise. A warming trend starts today and we can expect things to kick in to higher gear, certainly by next week."

Carneros

Christopher Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — "The Los Carneros AVA had one of its earliest starts to harvest in many years, with harvest at Hyde Vineyards starting Aug. 12 with sparkling wine Pinot Noir grapes. So far yields are up significantly from last year. Weather has been cool most of August, but with the heat coming later this week things will ramp up as we head into September."

For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2022 website at harvestnapa.com.

Harvest celebration at Schramsberg Winery

 

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St. Helena Editor

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006. He became editor in 2021.

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