Thursday, November 10, 2011
Challenging year in the vineyard reaps rewards in the cellar
"Although it may be stretching to compare our harvest with one of the greatest ever games in the history of baseball...but like the 2011 World Series, we had our ups and downs, and finally pulled it out. This was one of our most exciting harvests ever!" said Cain Vineyards' Winemaker and General Manager Chris Howell. And once again the excitement of the finale of the American baseball season seems to parallel that of the vintage at harvest from America's premier winegrowing region, the legendary Napa Valley. Today the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association of more than 420 wineries representing 98% of the appellation's wine production offers its annual report on harvest.
"2011 was a challenging and as well as what I am calling 'an educational vintage,' the third in a row," said Oakville Ranch Winery General Manager Paula Kornell who was born and raised in the Napa Valley wine industry. "What we found this vintage were flavors that developed at lower brix, giving us an opportunity to make truly elegant wines at lower alcohol levels."
"Harvest 2011--from tears to glory!" is how renowned vintner Tim Mondavi, owner of Continuum capsulized the year and winemakers appellation-wide are in agreement.
What began with a wet winter and spring continued with rainfall into mid-June that delayed bloom and disrupted fruit set resulting in shatter in parts of the region set the stage for a long, cooler-than-average growing season with a later-than-average harvest beset with autumn rain storms. The precipitation measuring season ending on June 30 found the region more than a third above normal in rainfall. While this is good news for water resources, the cloud cover and cool temperatures delayed vine development by several weeks at the onset of the growing season.
This timetable continued through the somewhat cool summer season where harvest for the first varieties for sparkling wines found the latest harvest start in anyone's memory, beginning August 29. Few high heat events occurred at any point this year, but growers managed more open vine canopies to ensure sunlight, warmth and good air circulation around the grape clusters. The shatter resulting from the rain events in June was variable by vineyard location hitting some locations harder with projected crop diminished by more than 30% while leaving other sites nearly untouched with near-normal crop.
New Media Resources Tell Story of Year in Real Time
New this year, wine lovers around the world were able to follow the Napa Valley harvest like never before. Twitter was a-buzz at #NVHarvest with thousands of tweets from the vineyards and cellars. Read the ongoing Twitter feed at the www.napavintners.com/harvest.
Napa Valley filmmaker Bret Lyman chronicled the vintage in a series of harvest videos beginning in August with the start of harvest for sparkling wines to the white varieties, Merlot and then Cabernet Sauvignon. Check out today's release of the final chapter of the harvest videos below.
The region's winemakers and vineyard managers participated in a week-long "Harvest Live" streaming video the week of October 17 with six days of morning and afternoon live chat painting the picture in clear detail of what was happening in the vineyard and in the winery in real time. Check out U-Stream to watch the archived programs hosted by Christophe Smith of Titus Vineyards along with his esteemed guests.
And, more than ever before the vintners themselves blogged all season on their experiences in written, photo and video posts on the NVV's official blog "Unfiltered."
Click to read the full release
Click to view the all 2011 harvest videos