The 2016 harvest has already ended in some parts of the Napa Valley, while other vineyard operators are still busily bringing in cabernet sauvignon.
“The recent heat persuaded all the grapes to ripen at once,” reports Matt Reid of Benessere Vineyards in St. Helena, which just picked its last late-harvest moscato.
In Rutherford, light rain early this week did little to slow the pace of harvest, reports Kristin Belair of Honig Vineyard & Winery. “With warming expected for later in the week many folks will be wrapping up the season,” she said.
Here’s the latest installment of the 2016 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:
Calistoga — Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “After an exciting start to the week, with daytime temperatures flirting with triple digits and very low humidity even at night, September gave way to much more typical, breezy, mild conditions. Calistoga saw its first rain of the season with a few light sprinkles on Sunday – just enough to wash the dust off the vines. As we plough into October, most of us have moved off the hillsides and benchlands toward the more fertile valley floor. Unsurprisingly, labor has been tight and picking crews have been in high demand especially with the weather in transition. With almost 90 percent of our fruit in, it’s great to be able to take stock of what’s in the cellar. While our yields have been lighter than our neighbors’, especially in the early-ripening blocks, I’m very pleased with what I’m tasting in tank and in the barrel. All in all, 2016 is shaping up to be another great one.”
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards — “Most everyone was almost complete at this time last year but that’s not the case today. While picking has moved to a more active level, there is still a great deal out there. Quantity-wise it is looking to be very average (a blessing after 2015) but the quality, based on the limited amount fermented, is very, very high. The weather, while cool to start this week, has been excellent and has contributed to near perfect fruit and excellent remaining plant health.”
Chiles Valley District – Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate – “We aren’t quite ready for the rain but a small amount for some dust control can be useful. Harvest is in full swing. Beautiful fruit is coming in; merlot, petit sirah, and cabernet sauvignon all being harvested. As far as timing is concerned, some vineyards are reporting harvest dates a bit later than the previous couple of years though still much earlier than historical averages. In fact one vineyard is reporting that this year will be the earliest completion since the mid-1970s.”
Spring Mountain District – Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery – “The tiny rainfall on Sunday and Monday settled the dust and was a pleasant relief, yet with many of the Spring Mountain wineries continuing their fast pace of picking. This little rain respite is allowing them to catch up with some sugars that took a little jump with last week’s heat spike. Depending on exposure, slope and/or tree shading, other wineries are holding out for more hang time and maturity. Fortunately, pHs are holding up well, tank space isn’t a problem and everyone harvesting is thrilled with the great flavors. By the middle of next week, a majority of the wineries should be finished with harvest.”
St. Helena – Matt Reid, Benessere Vineyards — “The recent heat persuaded all the grapes to ripen at once! The cooler temperatures that followed allowed us to relax, but we brought in even late-ripening varieties such as Sagrantino and Aglianico before the end of September. Moscato for dessert wine was our only October pick, capping a beautiful vintage.”
Rutherford – Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — “What an action-packed week! The record warm temperatures of last week brought the pace of harvest into high gear, leaving us at the end of the week with roughly half of our reds harvested. Cool weather at the end of the week was welcome, allowing for continued flavor development for the remaining fruit and giving the cellar a bit of a break. Somewhat unexpected rain on Monday did not seem to slow the pace as many trucks could be seen hauling fruit and crews busy harvesting at many sites despite the damp weather. With warming expected for later in the week many folks will be wrapping up the season. We are expecting to have everything in by the middle of next week!”
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Oakville — Linda Neal, Tierra Roja Vineyard — “Today (Monday) we are experiencing our first light rain. Though not enough to affect fruit quality, all are aware of the signal we are nearing the end of harvest. Ren Harris writes, ‘This is my 53rd harvest and it has been among the best. We will finish on Tuesday. Quality is top notch and the tonnage slightly above average.’ Here at Tierra Roja I have the perfect view of massive traffic of boxes and bins of fruit coming and going from Oakville, but few people have had time to fill me in on the details. Most of the crews I have found working are at the same as mentioned before, To Kalon, Opus, Groth, Rudd, Screaming Eagle.”
Yountville – Bill Nancarrow, Goosecross Cellars — “Well, the precipitation hasn’t really amounted to much, thankfully. Harvest activities in Yountville are still at full pace. Some winery estates, Dominus, Gemstone and Goosecross, report that they have completed their harvesting, Keever is almost done, Blankiet has finished merlot but still has all its cabernet sauvignon to pick. Yount Mill Vineyards expects to finish in a few weeks. Everyone is still very buoyant about the fantastic quality we are seeing this year. No doubt there will be some tired, yet smiling faces of winemakers, and vineyard managers to be seen at Bouchon, ad Hoc, or Bistro Jeanty as they enjoy a ‘pick me up’ bite to eat.”
Atlas Peak – Melissa Apter, Antica Napa Valley-Antinori Family Wine Estate — “Well, it is safe to say that we are in the heat of harvest. Even with the past few days of bone chilling temperatures we are still moving quickly through the rows to get the fruit picked at the opportune moments. While the valley had some heavy downpours during the late morning on Sunday, we managed to get a lighter dose of the storm coupled with strong winds allowing us to remain calm about any potential threat to the fruit remaining on vine. The crews up here have been working non-stop and we are hoping for more stellar fruit to come in during the next few weeks. It’s been a prolonged season so far, but all of our patience has helped create some amazing 2016 Atlas Peak AVA wines thus far.”
Stags Leap District – Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery – “One of my favorite times during harvest is when driving to the winery while it is still dark and seeing all the night harvesting lights illuminating the sky around me. There is a sense of a unifying rhythm, everyone working hard at the art of making the music of cabernet. That was this past week in Stags Leap District. I saw lights at Clos Du Val, Regusci and Hartwell. Checking in with Marcus Notaro, winemaker at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, he tells me they were still picking in both Fay and SLV, but ‘probably close to being wrapped up by the end of the week.’ Elias Fernandez, at Shafer Vineyards, finished SLD fruit and just had some miscellaneous fruit to bring in, announcing that ‘the end is near.’ Michael Beaulac, winemaker at Pine Ridge Vineyards, finished last Thursday. ‘What a great harvest. I am finding amazing color and flavor. And while we certainly were/are busy – a smooth vintage.’ At Chimney Rock, by the time this prints, we also will have finished our 2016 harvest. I concur with Michael: it was a beautifully paced harvest, and the quality is impressive. Now back to the cellar to get ready for the last fruit.”
Mount Veeder — Sander Scheer, Hess Collection — “After the last round of heat we saw a jump in Brix but overall pleased to have seen only minor dehydration on our rockier soils. Proof that an adequate canopy and proper leaf removal make all the difference when it comes to late season heat spikes. The rain we saw at the beginning of the week was minor enough that we don’t expect issues in our cabernet. Plenty of fruit to go for now!”
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery — “The rain earlier this week amounted to less than a quarter of an inch in our vineyard, just enough to settle the dust. We are still picking cabernet sauvignon and won’t wrap up for another week or two. Bill Hanna from Muir-Hanna Vineyards reports that they finished picking everything except their cabernet by late September. He mentioned yields about 10 percent above long-term averages and mature flavors at lower sugars than usual.”
Coombsville — Tom Farella, Farella Vineyard — “The short heat wave really ramped things up in Coombsville last week and most remaining varieties surged ahead, putting us in a situation to bring in the remainder of our cabernet, merlot, malbec and syrah. Trucks loaded with bins have been headed in every direction so it really has been a classic early-harvest-everything-piled-on-top-of-each-other season. Crop levels are light with amazing quality – second year in a row where it’s tough to be a farmer but the winemaker side is outstanding. The rain in the forecast seemed to really wake up the later-harvest group, though they backed off on the prediction at this time. Amazing how much yellowing of the leaves compared to recent years – a photographer’s paradise.”
Carneros – Chris Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — “As the seasons change and the weather cools down, harvest is coming to a close in Carneros. Last weekend’s heat saw a surge in harvest action, and this weekend brought cold weather and a small amount of rain, just enough to settle the dust in the vineyards. If the weather holds up, there will be potential for two or three more weeks of hang time.”
For real-time harvest photos and updates, visit the Napa Valley Vintners’ Harvest 2016 website at napavintners.com/harvest.