Yes, indeed, and about two weeks ahead of “normal,” whatever that is. It’s interesting that the Santa Rosa paper (Sonoma) reported this before the Napa papers – what’s up with that?
The first grapes were harvested on August first, destined for Mumm Napa Valley. It’s typical that the bubbly producers start ahead of still-wine producers because they pick the grapes at slightly lower sugars than everyone else – which is a discussion in itself.
What’s really interesting is that a friend, who was talking to one of the winemakers at Robert Mondavi Winery, said that they harvested some Sauvignon Blanc on the first. Now that’s early!! We think of Sauvignon Blanc as a late August/early September variety.
Why is crush early? Because of a really warm spring and early summer. It really pushed things along, just as it would the tomatoes in your back yard. Great year for tomatoes, here, by the way – they love the heat and are sweet as candy! Yum!
If the whole growing season is hot it makes for an okay-quality harvest, but nothing great. The heat pushes the sugars up faster than the flavors mature, leaving the winemaker two choices: Either pick the grapes at an appropriate sugar, perhaps sacrificing flavor maturity; or wait for peak flavor maturity and cope with a hefty alcohol, which could throw the balance off and make the wine feel hot on your palate later on when the wine is released. Not very good choices, really. Many winemakers will go with the second option and then send the wine off to a facility that can reduce the alcohol later on. This is something that is extremely common but rarely discussed.
At least for the moment it seems that Mother Nature is looking after us. We’re in the second week of cooler than normal weather which will, no doubt, slow things down out there in the vineyard. Nice timing!
So, will it be a good harvest? Too much remains to be seen to make any kind of prediction. It all depends upon the weather between now and the end of October. I’ll keep you posted! Cheers!
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