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Napa Valley harvest report: 'Lovely ripening weather' continues
Napa Valley harvest report

Napa Valley harvest report: 'Lovely ripening weather' continues

From the Napa Valley Grape Harvest Reports 2019 series

Grapes hang near Starr Avenue in St. Helena.

The harvest of white grapes continues, while reds enjoy what Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock Winery described as “lovely ripening weather.”

Chris Phelps reports that Inglenook finished its Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon harvest on Sunday.

“Average yields, good acidity, moderate Brix, all indicators of a refreshing, well-balanced 2019 wine,” Phelps said. “With early blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot at 22 Brix, we may only have a 10-day break before red wine winemaking is underway.”

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

Calistoga — Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “Another warm weekend to close out August. Walking the vineyards, cluster sizes and berry weights seem to be up across the board, no doubt due in part to the uncharacteristically wet May. The dry-farmed vineyards in particular have really benefited from the additional late rains with healthy canopies and plenty of vine growth. Flavors are coming along slowly, whereas sugar levels have been galvanized by the heat, especially in well-drained areas or those at elevation. In general, harvest activity has been pretty quiet across the AVA this week as many wineries have just begun or are set to receive their first white grapes from down valley.”

Howell Mountain — Laura Barrett, Clif Family Winery — “This week brought a few days of hot weather, which pushed many of the later Cabernet Vineyards of Howell Mountain through the end of veraison. Final green drops have been completed and these vineyards are in place for the ripening season. Other earlier varietals used these hot days to accumulate some sugar and I saw the Clif Family Estate Zinfandel jump 1.5 Brix. It will likely be several weeks before the real harvest action hits the Howell Mountain AVA, but we could see some of these earlier blocks come off the vine in about 10 days. In the meantime, Howell Mountain producers have likely enjoyed their Labor Day at home.”

Chiles Valley District — Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate — “Harvest 2019 in the Chiles Valley district has begun. Several vineyards are picking Sauvignon Blanc as well as Semillon. So far the yields look to be about average with outstanding quality being reported. Veraison is now complete in the Cabernet and flavors are developing nicely in the other red varietals.”

Spring Mountain District – Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone — “Similar to last year on this date, the mountain is finally finishing veraison for the reds. Spring Mountain Vineyard will start this week with some Sauvignon Blanc, and Smith-Madrone will start with some Chardonnay. Ed Ewing at York Creek is several weeks off for any reds and is seeing a slightly larger crop than last year. Most everyone is still seeing growing tips on the vines, thus it seems the vines are not in a big hurry to ripen their fruit.”

St. Helena — Stephen Taplin, Taplin Cellars — “From where I sit south of St. Helena on the valley floor, it is slow and steady progress. The recent heat may accelerate ripening, but we’re anticipating harvest of Cabernet in the second or third week of September. We have what appear to be evenly developed clusters with somewhat smaller than average berries. As usual, white grape harvests start earlier and some vineyards are harvesting them now.”

Rutherford — Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — “After a slow start, we are knee deep and heading quickly to chest deep in Sauvignon Blanc. The test run on Aug. 22 was followed by a break until Aug. 28. The pace of harvest has quickly gone to a sprint as we schedule pick dates and max out press capacity. The weather has been providing us with perfect ripening conditions and it looks that we will have most of our Sauvignon Blanc in by mid-September! Newly fermenting tanks are showing an abundance of deliciousness as fermentations get started.”

“And from the neighborhood, Chris Phelps, from Inglenook, reports that, ‘Inglenook completed Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon harvest on Aug. 29: average yields, good acidity, moderate Brix, all indicators of a refreshing, well-balanced 2019 wine. With early blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot at 22 Brix, we may only have a 10-day break before red wine winemaking is underway.’”

Oakville — Jennifer Rue, Oakville Ranch Vineyards — “If you listen closely, you’ll hear a few rumblings of white grapes getting picked in Oakville. Cameron Parry, winemaker at Groth, reports their first Oakville fruit, Sauvignon Blanc, will be coming in toward the middle of this week. Still, with north of 80% of Oakville planted to red varietals, most of the fruit arriving at Oakville wineries is Pinot Noir or Sangiovese for rosé and earlier ripening white varieties from other parts of, or just outside of, the Napa Valley. What about the recent above-average temperatures? Luckily even 2-3 days of marine layer mornings before another handful of hot days brings respite and continues the rolling weather pattern we’ve enjoyed to date in 2019. So far, we’re seeing graceful ripening: well-paced Brix increases, acids holding nicely and excellent flavor development even at low Brix. It is an excellent sign we’re in for a high-quality vintage.”

Atlas Peak – Mark Castaldi, Acumen Wines — “Our area dodged the typical Labor Day heat event. We are getting results from our maturity sampling that look very nice going into the month of September. Overall acid levels are still high, but our malic acid is respiring fast, which should lead to a little earlier harvest than previously expected. First reds are still on track for the end of September, with our Sauvignon Blanc anticipated well before then.”

Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery — “It was a quiet Labor Day weekend in Stags Leap District for winemakers this year. Michael Beaulac, winemaker at Pine Ridge Vineyards, says he was ‘just chilling on a long weekend.’ They were busy training their international interns and he doesn’t see any fruit for another 10 days on what he calls more of an ‘average yield year.’ At Silverado Vineyards Jon Emmerich was working on Sauvignon Blanc from Yountville but no reds from Stags Leap District yet. At Chimney Rock, we also enjoyed a long Labor Day weekend and we probably have another two weeks before anything is ready. We all agree that this is lovely ripening weather for Cabernet Sauvignon!”

Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards — “After getting started in August, we will be ramping up to full-speed with Chardonnay quite soon. The cool spring weather had us expecting a later than usual harvest and that may hold for the red varieties but our timing for the white varieties, including Chardonnay and Riesling, seems pretty typical. The recent weather has been great but we are keeping an eye on the long-term forecasts. Until all the grapes are picked, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature!”

Coombsville — Tom Farella, Farella Vineyards — “The weather has been perfect and the grapes are advancing at a moderate pace as the last touch-up passes to drop fruit continue. Very little activity in the area with no signs of picking going on yet. We are poised for our Sauvignon Blanc at the end of this week to get the party started, maybe a little Coombsville Pinot Noir for a client but it will be a few weeks before any reds come in. With weather like this, it’s hard to complain but there is the back end to be aware of.”

Carneros — Christopher Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — “As the weather in Carneros continues to shift between warm and cooler patterns, things have slowed down over the Labor Day weekend. Sparkling wine harvest is in full swing, and ripening has slowed down from the rapid pace we saw last week.”

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

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