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Napa Valley harvest report

Napa Valley harvest report: The heat is on

Grapes

Grapes hang in south St. Helena following Monday's record-setting temperature of 114 degrees.

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A flurry of harvesting preceded this week's record-setting heat wave, with some growers harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon as early as this week.

"As we work through this intense period, we are looking forward to the anticipated cooler temperatures at the end of the week," said Kristin Belair of Honig Vineyard & Winery.

Some growers are still taking a wait-and-see approach.

"Since vine metabolism shuts down in the mid-90s, we expect to see some sugars rise but acids and flavors not changing much as we wait for cooler weather before any harvest decisions," said Tom Farella of Farella Vineyard in Coombsville.

"While there is an eerie silence during the intense heat of the early week, it brings the end of harvest 2022 a bit closer," said Jennifer Rue of Oakville Ranch Vineyards. "All eyes are on the weather, monitoring vine health and preparing for the crescendo of grapes to come."

Here’s this week's harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Area:

Calistoga

Matt Crafton, Chateau Montelena — “A hot start to September has led to a flurry of activity across the AVA. Beginning with head-trained, non-irrigated vines, some winemakers elected to bring their fruit in early, especially on the east side of the valley, which tends to absorb more afternoon sunshine. Heat over Labor Day is a fairly regular occurrence but thankfully this current acute event has been absent of hot, dry winds from the northeast. However, with nighttime temperatures looming above average and little fog to help the vines recover, the necessary jolt to kick-start the red grape harvest is here in earnest. Most wineries are still ramping up so tank space is plentiful and crews are fresh.”

Howell Mountain

Laura Barrett, Clif Family Winery — "This week’s heat wave has pushed many Howell Mountain producers into near-harvest mode. 'The heat is on!' said Cimarossa winemaker Mia Klein, who may pick a few early blocks of Cabernet and possibly their Nebbiolo later this week. So far, the canopies and fruit are in excellent shape. At Clif Family, we are riding out the heat wave with irrigation and patience, and plan to bring in Cabernet from our Croquet Vineyard next week. Mike Dunn of Dunn Vineyards will harvest his high-elevation Syrah later next week and feels that most of his Cabernet is two weeks out. Overall, Howell Mountain vintners seem to be keeping a watchful eye on their vineyards, but not quite ready to commit to picking Cabernet!"

Diamond Mountain District

Bill Dyer, Dyer Vineyards — "During August, some small blocks of white grapes were harvested on Diamond Mountain. Dirk Fulton reported that the Vineyardist’s Estate Sauvignon Blanc came in on Aug. 23 “with perfect acidity and freshness.” Recent activities in the Diamond Mountain District have been in anticipation of the current heat wave pushing forward our red varieties. This includes getting cellars ready for an early harvest, and in some cases laying out shade cloth for protection against sunburn. Winemakers are keeping a close watch on grape maturity, considering rising sugar contents versus flavor and aroma concentrations. Vineyard (511) is thinking they will harvest mid-month while Andrew Geoffrey Vineyard is on track for a late-September harvest instead of their usual October target. There has also been major activity to upgrade prevention and defense against potential wildfires, with cooperative efforts between our growers, our Diamond Mountain Firewise Council, and governmental agencies. This has included efforts to reduce density of brush along our roads, create fire breaks, and eliminate the invasive Tree Of Heaven, which not only adds to the fuel load, but also potentially hosts the spotted lanternfly, which has endangered grape wines in other regions."

Chiles Valley District

Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate — "The last of the Sauvignon Blanc was harvested right before the heat wave began, the first Zinfandel has also been picked, and now we are all holding our breath hoping to get through these extreme temperatures. Canopies look healthy and prepared to protect the fruit as we look forward to the return of cooler temperatures to what is more the typical diurnal variation for this time of year."

Spring Mountain District

Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery — "The extended heat is clearly the center of all our discussions and decision-making. The vines are doing remarkably well. We even have dry-farmed vineyards with growing shoots. Do we pick or do we wait out the heat spell? Matt Gardner at Keenan Winery has brought in a lightly cropped block of Merlot, but is waiting for more maturity for their Cabernet Sauvignon. Smith-Madrone has brought in some Cabernet Sauvignon, but is waiting for more maturity from their Merlot. Nancy Walker says they’re waiting several weeks before harvesting their Grenache, Zinfandel and Syrah. Andy Schweiger is also waiting several more days for more maturity. Clearly, the consensus is to wait for more maturity."

Rutherford

Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery — "The significant warm-up forecast last week has become a record-shattering heat wave both for length and temperature. Harvest activities continue with mindful attention to the heath and wellness of both people and the vines. At Honig’s estate vineyard, all but a small block of Petit Verdot that is protected by shade cloth will have made it into the winery by mid-week. Nighttime or very early morning harvest is a necessary adaptation to the current conditions. We continue to monitor each vineyard closely and are bringing in Cabernet from Upvalley locations each day. Meanwhile, the Sauvignon Blanc lots that came in a few weeks ago are completing fermentation and starting to demonstrate remarkable flavors and textures. As we work through this intense period, we are looking forward to the anticipated cooler temperatures at the end of the week."

Oakville

Jennifer Rue, Oakville Ranch Vineyards — “September rushed in with a flurry of rosé and the last white picks across Oakville as crews harvested any ripe and ready fruit in anticipation of this week’s well-advertised heat storm. Most Oakville wineries enjoyed a last pump-over-free weekend with a few bringing in their first early red blocks. The reds picked late last week were ready to harvest and unlikely to benefit from hanging through the heat, experimental style-shift lots, or partial block picks to compare with later picks from the same block. Canopies are looking great across the AVA and still able to respond to irrigations to protect the current year’s crop and overall vine health for future vintages. While there is an eerie silence during the intense heat of the early week, it brings the end of harvest 2022 a bit closer. All eyes are on the weather, monitoring vine health and preparing for the crescendo of grapes to come."

Stags Leap District

Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery — "The big Labor Day week heat wave has created the real first challenge of the vintage among winemakers in Stags Leap District, as we keep very close watch on our grapes. The heat will propel us into some harvest activity. Carmel Greenberg, winemaker at Clos du Val, reports she might harvest some Merlot by mid-week. Josh Widaman, winemaker at Pine Ridge Vineyards, is not planning on getting started in SLD until the week of Sept. 12, although he was resampling fruit this week to see how everything was holding up. Michael Baldacci, winemaker at Baldacci Family Vineyards, anticipates harvesting some young vines by the end of this week. Elias Fernandez, winemaker at Shafer Vineyards, was expecting to harvest some Merlot and hillside Cabernet Sauvignon the week of Labor Day. At Chimney Rock we are waiting and watching closely as our hillside Merlot is getting ever closer. We expect to allow the fruit to recover for a day or two after the heat wave and then start the week after Labor Day. All signs point to an earlier harvest as we predicted."

Oak Knoll District

Jon Ruel, Trefethen Family Vineyards — "As we endure this prolonged heat wave, it feels great to have already picked the more delicate early varieties, such as Pinot Noir and Riesling. Chelsea Barrett reports that Materra is in a similar spot, having recently completed their Chardonnay. She said they were happy with the chemistry and that they saw a slight increase in yields over last year. At Trefethen, we are moving right into the Bordeaux varieties as we expect to begin both Cabernet Franc and Merlot this week. It feels like a compressed harvest, which can present some logistical challenges, but we are thrilled with the quality so far."

Coombsville

Tom Farella, Farella Vineyard — "With the heat, everything basically stopped as we all take a beat to get past the heat wave and resume milder conditions. The canopies look good almost everywhere and little vine stress is evident at this point — a little surprising as we get further into September. Since vine metabolism shuts down in the mid-90s, we expect to see some sugars rise but acids and flavors not changing much as we wait for cooler weather before any harvest decisions. Most of the white grapes in Coombsville were harvested before this heat, thankfully."

Carneros

Christopher Hyde, Hyde Vineyards — "With harvest entering its fourth week at Hyde Vineyards and a heat wave projected to last through the week, we expect things pick up with more Chardonnay and Pinot Noir coming off the vine and sparkling wine harvest wrapping up on Tuesday. Merlot harvest started on Saturday, with a continuing trend of increased yields from the previous vintage."

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

 

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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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