Napa Valley Harvest Update

Such an “interesting” crush this year! Well, we don’t like interesting – we prefer things to be blissfully boring (as my husband pointed out, I’m acting like I’m a grower or winemaker this year – I’m not. But after upteen+ years of working for wineries and having friends who own vineyards and/or wineries I feel 100% invested in what happens).

Napa Valley is famous for blissfully boring weather. Warm, sunny days… cool, foggy nights… month after month of dry weather during the growing season… It works out really well! Not this year. 

We had a wet, rainy spring, even into June. Rain during flowering disrupted pollination, effectively thinning the crop. Never really had a summer, so a season that was already running late got even later. 

And then Mother Nature had the temerity to drop a bucket of rain on us the first week of October! As it turns out, it had a major impact on growers who still had their white varieties and their Pinot Noir out – yucky, rotten grapes. Those who hustled to get them in before the rain should have quite a good vintage. Probably lower in alcohol than normal, but that’s certainly better than rot! In fact many sommeliers see it as a real plus! Late ripening, thick skinned varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon came through quite nicely.  

So, the weatherman said that we were supposed to have dry weather for at least a week after the rain. Wrong (again)! On the 10th we got a really good soaking of warm rain. Uh-oh – my grower friends start talking about bunch rot in their Cabernet and Syrah. That’s not supposed to happen!

What do they do about the rot? They’ve already stripped away leafy growth to improve air flow so things don’t get worse. The only thing left to do, other than give up and call if a loss, is to thin out the rotting clusters quick, like a bunny, because the rot spreads rather quickly. Not every grower has that kind of man power. Hoo-boy!

What can the winemakers do? Sort, baby, sort! Keep the good and throw out the bad. Accept the fact that a crop that was already pretty darned small is about to get smaller. 

Now the forecast is for warm, dry weather through the end of the month. This would be an excellent time for them to be correct.

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