Thursday, October 28, 2010

Napa Valley Harvest Nearly Complete

Last week the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) and the Napa Valley Grapegrowers reported on the wine grape harvest to date at the annual report to media and trade held in San Francisco. As of that time, with fewer than 10% of grapes remaining on the vine appellation-wide, winemakers across the region reported excellent quality and flavor in the developing wines of vintage 2010.

See the 2010 Harvest Report.

As predicted by the National Weather Service, a Pacific storm system brought anywhere from 1-5 inches of rain to the Napa Valley floor, and in even more in some higher elevation areas throughout the region. Working literally around the clock, winegrowers, by in large, raced to get the final push of grapes to the wineries. Most vintners are reporting as of this week that their grape deliveries are complete.

Some hillside districts, which account for a fraction of the region's overall production, are either bringing in their final tonnage between this week's storms, or are riding it out awaiting the break predicted for later this week and into next week. The goal is to achieve optimal ripeness and have safe conditions in the field for crews to bring the grapes to the wineries.

"Interestingly we were in almost the similar pattern as 2007 and 2009 at harvest--heavy rains when the last of the hillside districts had some fruit remaining. We survived to make spectacular wines. There is a lot of Armageddon-like chatter out there, but still, from every winemaker I've spoken with, everyone is delighted with what they are tasting in these young wines--all across the board," said Bruce Cakebread of Cakebread Cellars whose family has a 38 year history in winegrowing in the Napa Valley.

Tom Ferrell, executive director of the Spring Mountain Appellation said, "Given that we're up on Spring Mountain, the rain we received last week was quick to run off and our grapes, smaller and tougher than those on the valley floor, stand up well to inclement weather. I've spoken with member wineries throughout the district and am hearing that winemakers are really encouraged about this vintage and excited about what they have in their tanks. Those still with grapes hanging are getting very close to picking."

Jac Cole, of Spring Mountain Vineyard, said "We're seeing great flavor development in what's left on the vine and have great anticipation about what we'll bring in over the next one to two weeks. This year is going to produce some really lovely, balanced wines."

Andy Schweiger of Schweiger Family Vineyards on the Napa-side of the county line said, "The grapes we've brought in thus far are looking fabulous. What's left on the vine is right on the cusp of being ready to pick. Looking at the long range forecast, over the next week or so we'll get 1-2 inches of rain and maybe some drizzle. Then we're looking at 70-80 degree days in early November, which will be just the little push we need to finish this year's harvest."

Wesley Steffans, of Spring Mountain District's Vineyard 7 & 8 Winery said, "We're actually finished with this year's harvest and to be completely honest, this vintage could be fantastic. We've seen less dehydration than in other years and wineries have been diligent in their crop load. Everything we've brought in is at moderate sugar levels and is tasting incredible. Even though it's been a difficult harvest, that doesn't mean that great wine can't be produced."

"Though every harvest has its challenges, we're savvy farmers and respond to what Mother Nature throws our way--if we thought it was going to be easy, I don't know how many of us would be in the business," Cakebread said.

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