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Chardonnay grapes go through a destemmer

Chardonnay grapes go through a Pellenc destemmer.

A heat wave resulted in a flurry of harvesting in the Napa Valley this week.

“We are off to the races this week with chardonnay coming in strong,” said Melissa Apter of Antica Napa Valley-Antinori Family Wine Estate in Atlas Peak. “We are also seeing increasing sugars in our high-elevation cabernet blocks after last week’s hot spell.”

Bill Nancarrow of Goosecross Cellars in Yountville reports that cabernet sauvignon “is not far away.”

“Similar to last year we are seeing another early and compressed harvest season,” he said.

Here’s the latest installment of the 2016 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:

Calistoga — Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “Things are really starting to roll in Calistoga. The sun has been peeking through the marine layer on the early side this week and temperatures have followed suit with a few days topping out in the 90s. While there has been activity throughout the AVA as zinfandel on the flats has steadily come off the vines, the volcanic northeast side of the hills has been the most active, as the afternoon sunlight and spartan soil tend to push ripening along quickly. Yields have been good and flavors outstanding. The return of onshore flow early next week should give us a chance to catch our breath.”

Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards — “Thank goodness we do not have the fire scare we had last year. And while some folks picked reds by now last year, it doesn’t seem like that is going to occur on any widespread basis for some time yet to come. Whites sound to be pretty much complete, what little there are on our mountain. Little or no vine stress and the fruit is holding and developing well.”

Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — “Last week’s predicted heat wave fizzled rather than sizzled and devolved into a cooler than normal period this week. On Diamond Mountain we’re now back to waiting. The good news is that the fruit looks great — small berries, even ripeness, no raisins or sunburn and the canopies are still green and healthy with minimal signs of stress. We should see a little merlot by the end of the week and cab in the next week or two.”

Chiles Valley District – Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate – “Slow and steady, a very calm continuation of the harvest. Overnight temperatures in the 50s with highs in the mid or upper 80s. This week saw chardonnay as well as the first hillside zinfandel being harvested. The chardonnay showing about average yields and the zinfandel showing average or better yields with 24.5-25.5 Brix. The first hillside cabernet is about a week away. With the ideal weather sugars and flavors continue to progress nicely. Overall yields look quite good so far.”

Spring Mountain District – Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery – “This week seems very similar to last week. Moderate to cooler weather with sporadic picking across various varieties. School House and Spring Mountain finished their pinot noir and chardonnay last week, along with Stony Hill finishing both their chardonnay and riesling. Keenan also finished their chardonnay last week and along with Cain are both going strong this week with their merlot and some small outlier blocks of cabernet sauvignon. Schweiger, 7 & 8 and Pride are still waiting to start their chardonnay.”

St. Helena – Matt Reid, Benessere Vineyards — “Harvest got off to an exciting but measured start at Benessere. Our first St. Helena grapes came in from the Collins-Holystone vineyard on Aug. 31: Zinfandel planted in 1923, with sangiovese and syrah from our own vineyard following the next week. Yields are close to average, and quality is outstanding.”

Rutherford – Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — “No need to hit the gym this week, if hiking up and down rows of vines counts. The cabernet sauvignon looks amazing – wow! We’ll finish the last bit of sauvignon blanc and a little bit of semillon and muscat this week, which will conclude harvest for the white varietals in Rutherford as well as other sub-appellations here at Honig. Cabernet sauvignon is hot on the heels of the whites with the first reds expected across the crush pad later this week. Some comments back from our growers as we have reported cabernet sauvignon vineyard sampling results over the last week: ‘Looks like things are on approach.’ ‘Nice to see we don’t have any slackers.’ It is going to be an excellent vintage!”

Oakville — Linda Neal, Tierra Roja Vineyard — “The Oakville Winegrowers Association welcomed harvest with the Annual Summer Social. This year we were hosted by Clarke and Elizabeth Swanson at their beautiful home, featuring John Sorensen’s famous lobster boil and lots of great wines. Groth was again the hub of action, receiving sauvignon blanc from night crews at O’Shaughnessy, Ehrlich, Garvey’s Komes and their own vineyard. As we finish up the sauv blanc this week, we also started the true reds. Kendall Hoxsey of Yount Mill Vineyards reports that Saturday they picked their first cabernet sauvignon in Oakville, destined for a vineyard designate wine. ‘Emulating great cabs of the past, we picked at 24.5 for a lower alcohol,’ she said.”

Yountville – Bill Nancarrow, Goosecross Cellars — “The little heat spike we got last week has pushed the fruit along and with that harvest activities are heating up as well. Chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, and red grapes for rosé have been coming off the vines lately, with more of the same, zinfandel and some syrah already scheduled. Cabernet sauvignon is not far away, so, similar to last year we are seeing another early and compressed harvest season. In the wineries fruit is now coming from all directions and destinations of Napa County, so some longer hours are being spent on the crush pads, and the need to order pizzas from Redd Wood for dinner.”

Atlas Peak – Melissa Apter, Antica Napa Valley-Antinori Family Wine Estate — “We are off to the races this week with chardonnay coming in strong. We are also seeing increasing sugars in our high-elevation cabernet blocks after last week’s hot spell. So far our yields are better than last year’s but still not as large as ’13 and ’14. The last few cooler days are welcomed as we are enjoying the brief slowing down of things before another spike in temperature is forecasted for later this week.”

Stags Leap District – Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery – “It looks like things just may start to get rolling in Stags Leap District this week. Michael Beaulac, winemaker at Pine Ridge Vineyards, started with some hillside cabernet and young malbec vines. He sounds excited to be ‘off to the races!’ Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer Vineyards, had only harvested a little albariño from Carneros, but says that merlot comes in Tuesday and he hears, ‘Hillside cabernet and syrah knocking at the door.’ At Chimney Rock, we will start a happy Monday with our first red fruit, merlot from our North Hill block, and undoubtedly we’ll see more grapes in by the end of week. It is safe to say Stags Leap District winemakers are about to get busy!”

Mount Veeder — Sander Scheer, Hess Collection — “At this point we have a few more blocks of Mount Veeder chardonnay still hanging. Quality in the white blocks picked so far is very good. We are hopeful that malbec is not too far off. The fruit that’s come off so far is picking at or above estimates. Weather forecast shows warmer weather on the horizon so the earliest reds should begin to trickle in soon.”

Oak Knoll District – Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery – “Weather has continued to be quite mild but the grapes are moving. We are picking chardonnay this week and are getting very close to picking some cabernet franc, merlot and malbec. Harvest dates for individual blocks have definitely been earlier than average but later than last year.”

Coombsville — Tom Farella, Farella Vineyard — “Things in Coombsville really picked up this last week. The vines responded to the warm week and are showing more stress and elevated sugars with falling acidity. It’s a bit surprising how it’s almost like a dam burst on the ripeness scale, though nothing too scary. It’s definitely got us scrambling to be ready for another surge of fruit. Merlot for sure this week with syrah, cabernet and malbec coming into the harvest window. Sadly, with the whites all in, we had even lower crops than last year’s low numbers.”

Carneros – Chris Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — “With this past week of warm weather in Carneros, harvest sped up a bit. Pinot noir and chardonnay harvest is winding down, as growers shift their attention to later season varietals such as merlot and syrah. There has been a cooling trend, with long cool foggy mornings and intense winds, which could slow things back down into the coming week.”

Wild Horse Valley – John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard – “As of Saturday, all grapes from Heron Lake Vineyard have been picked. The vineyard has more of the aspect of October than of September: vine tip growth stopping, basal leaves drying up and dropping off, fall colors rapidly developing. A strange season indeed.”

For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2016 website at napavintners.com/harvest.

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.