Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Harvest 2009: Game On!

Harvest season is a contact sport. Game on!

If wine growing/making were a sport, this past week would have been the start of playoff season. The "regular season" typically begins in March for most varieties grown in Napa Valley, with bud break.

Sticking with the sports season analogy, you can think of bud break as tryouts where the crop of hopefuls make their intentions known. Some make it, some get cut. Strength training of the selected vine shoots constitutes the spring routine, progressing into the season opener: bloom. Bloom, typically in May for most of Napa Valley, is when the young grape clusters flower and things get a bit more serious, and vineyard folks start keeping score. A good bloom is akin to an impressive, winning-streak jump start. A good start gives you momentum and options. A bad start (foul weather, like high winds or rains) can interfere with pollination and cause poor fruit set, meaning that the vineyard team will need to run a tight ship the rest of the season to produce a profitable harvest. Veraison is the mid-season progress report, when the grapes color and analysts weigh in with opinions. And then, five or so months into the season we get to this past week...the first round of regional playoffs.

The sparkling wine houses always go early, as evidenced in this video. Close behind is Sauvignon Blanc, with reports from both Honig and St. Supery that they've begun receiving grapes. Over the next 2-4 weeks the other varietals will start coming in from the fields, too, as the season ramps up to a traditional state of semi-mayhem for most of September.

There you have it; harvest = playoffs. It's sleeves up, head down, dig deep and push hard time. You just have to love this time of year!

For Napa Valley vintage recaps and super-informative harvest charts going back to 1990, click here.

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