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Harvest Report

Harvest Report: The last hurrah


Workers carry bins of grapes as the Napa Valley’s harvest nears its end.

With rain in the forecast, many correspondents report they’re very close to being finished with the 2016 harvest, if they’re not done already.

Growers seem pleased with this year’s harvest, with its good yields and high quality.

“The early start in the spring and the mild weather over the summer resulted in long hang time, with great flavor development and very reasonable sugars,” said Jon Ruel of Trefethen Vineyards & Winery.

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

Calistoga — Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “With only a few fields still hanging at the beginning of the week, the little bit of precipitation that did materialize last Monday allowed us to make some space in the cellar for the final push. Amazingly, grape chemistries and flavors have stayed in balance despite the whirlwind of conditions we’ve experienced this harvest. As of this morning, there’s still cabernet on the vine in Calistoga and the recent weather has been more than amenable for continued ripening. There’s no question that this has been another solid year amidst a string of excellent vintages. The next few weeks should bear that out as we press off tanks and the real character of 2016 comes into focus.”

Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards — “There has been a flurry of activity as ripeness has caught up with weather. Most people will try to finish before the forecasted rains begin. There may be a few stragglers that will have to carry over but the bulk of the harvest is complete. There are many full tanks and lots to press but things are bullish for an outstanding vintage; decent quantities and wonderful quality.”

Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — “The final vineyards to ripen on Diamond Mountain are always those at the highest elevations and this year is no exception. As of this writing, most of Constant (elevation 2,100 feet) and some blocks at The Vineyardist (elevation 1,300 feet) and Andrew Geoffrey are still at play. The rest of us are now occupied with monitoring fermentations and liking what we’re seeing — sleek wines with loads of fruit and supple tannins. With the near-perfect weather last week and rain on its way, it looks like this week will bring in all but the most stubborn vineyards. See you all next year!”

Chiles Valley District – Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate – “When you read this report, the last cabernet fruit of 2016 will be peacefully fermenting in tanks, right before the rain. Another outstanding year in the books. Time for seeding, straw, silt fences and hopefully what will be a winter season with some much-needed, evenly spread rainfall.”

Spring Mountain District – Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery – “‘Great vintage,’ ‘looking really good,’ ‘very happy with the fruit,’ ‘spectacular’ and ‘what an easy harvest’ are many of the comments describing the 2016 harvest. Clearly the crop was up from 2015 and even a few wineries were at traditional averages for their merlot and/or cabernet sauvignon. Spring Mountain Winery, Pride, York Creek and maybe both Paloma and Sherwin will have some fruit that will weather upcoming rain.”

Rutherford – Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — “While many wineries may be wrapping up harvest by the end of this week, there is still quite a bit of valley floor fruit remaining to be harvested. Derek Cronk of Colinas Farming in Rutherford reports, ‘The threat of significant rains has finally opened the floodgates on the valley floor fruit. We will need to see how long wineries want to wait to start picking again next week. Hoping to be done around the 24th.’ At Honig, the last of our Rutherford cabernet sauvignon crossed the crush pad here on Oct. 10 and it is with great anticipation that we are looking forward to final bin of grapes from the 2016 harvest going into the crusher on Friday, Oct. 14, rain or shine! With all of the fruit in, and all but one of the tanks full, we can take a breath, reflect on a remarkable vintage, while we shift into a more predictable rhythm of pressing and barreling down the new wines.”

Oakville — Linda Neal, Tierra Roja Vineyard — “2016 is wrapping up as a perfect vintage. We experienced the cool weather needed for maturation of all complex flavors, with enough heat to keep ripeness moving forward. Yields were average to slightly above. Every winemaker I spoke with is loving the resulting wines. Gamble, Opus One, Tench, Schlein, Rudd, Groth, Meyer, Stanton, Paradigm, Groth, Spoto, Rydman, Muessel, Dominus, Tierra Roja and Tor all reported wrapping up for the year. Dominus’ Tod Mostero: ‘bright, intense and high-toned fruit aromas, deep rich color and velvety tannins. We have drained off the first lots and already perceive the excellent wine this vintage has delivered.’ Groth’s Cameron Parry: ‘In the famous words of Jim Morrison, “This is the end, beautiful friends, the end.” To close out what has been another great vintage – excellent quality, surprisingly good yields, and wonderful pacing.’ Frederick Ammons reports for Rudd: ‘Fermentations have been very straightforward and are yielding beautiful aromatics and color.’ Tor Kenward reported on the fruit from Tierra Roja: ‘Fruit looked good, and came in at exactly 26 Brix. Thanks, again for delivering us some little gems for us to polish.’”

Yountville – Bill Nancarrow, Goosecross Cellars — “Most of the 2016 fruit in Yountville has been picked, with the remaining pockets scheduled for this week in an attempt to beat the forecast rains. Kudos to the vineyard managers and picking crews for working their butts off these last 10 days getting fruit picked and delivered to the wineries! And it doesn’t stop there, as already crews are spreading compost, drilling cover crop seed, and placing erosion controls in order to prepare the vineyards for the winter months and start of next season. There has been plenty of overtime hours in the wineries as well, tanks and ferments needed to be turned over to accommodate the last flurry of fruit, interns have blurry eyes, cellar masters are barking out orders, and winemakers are fretting over skin contact time, extraction rates, and glu/fru conversions. It’s been a great season, potentially epic. The quality and quantity of fruit and resultant wines are fantastic. It’s almost time to have a harvest celebration dinner at Lucy, Bottega, Protea or Hurley’s. And who knows, maybe a wine made from the fabulous 2016 season will garner rave reviews and warrant a ‘reward’ dinner at The French Laundry.”

Atlas Peak – Melissa Apter, Antica Napa Valley-Antinori Family Wine Estate — “Atlas Peak is still running at full speed through the 2016 harvest at this time. In conversation with Samantha Rubanowitz of Stagecoach Vineyards she mentioned that they have been picking 100-plus ton days for a while now trying to get everything in before the weekend storm hits. Here at Antica we have increased the amount of picking crews this week and will be cranking up the daily tonnage to try to get in all that we can before the rain. Overall the early wines of the year are tasting stellar. We have chardonnays finishing up their secondary fermentation and are receiving their routine battonage to try to build body early on. The cabernets are fermenting away and keeping our cellar crew working nonstop. All aspects of the winery are busy at this time but the end is near.”

Mount Veeder — Sander Scheer, Hess Collection — “Still more fruit to harvest on Mt. Veeder at this point. Down to the spots where we’re looking for that last little bit of flavor development. Cabernet is holding together nicely but we’ve got a close eye on the weather of course. Very pleased with quality and yields overall this year.”

Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery — “Almost all of the grapes in our area have already been picked. There are just a few blocks of cabernet that may need to wait out the upcoming rain. We also have our late harvest riesling still on the vine. Overall, OKD growers and winemakers have been thrilled with the quality of this year’s grapes. The early start in the spring and the mild weather over the summer resulted in long hang time, with great flavor development and very reasonable sugars.”

Coombsville — Tom Farella, Farella Vineyard — “That’s a wrap! The final flurry is over barely into October. Coombsville has a few blocks waiting but it’s become very quiet as everyone retreats to the cellar for punchdowns, pumpovers and press-offs. There’s a palpable sense of the other shoe dropping but, then you look around and… it’s over. Hurry up and wait – not. Not in 2016, anyway. Cheers!”

Carneros – Chris Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — “As harvest wraps up in Los Carneros, another storm approaches that will bring rain toward the end of this week, bringing to a close a slightly more impacted harvest than we have seen in the past few years. There are indications that the quality of this year’s wines will be high, and the hopes for greater yields have been for the most part fulfilled. With the end of harvest, vineyard removal, cover crop planting and erosion control becomes the focus for farmers as we hope for a winter that will bring us much needed rainfall and cold weather.”

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

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

Pop the cork on Napa Valley wine!

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