August 22, 2018
Harvest of wine grapes is under way in California’s prime growing region of Napa and Sonoma counties, and one organization says a “picture perfect growing season” has vintners optimistic about this year’s vintage.
Industry leaders and workers in the Napa Valley met in various vineyards recently for their traditional blessing of the grapes, kicking off a season of picking that is expected to last into October.
“It’s an exciting time of year,” says Viticulturist Patrick Riggs of Domaine Chandon, Youngville, Calif., in a Napa Valley Grapegrowers news release. “We’re expecting fantastic fruit character expression from these grapes being harvested.”
Domaine Chandon and several other wine producers were the first to get started after sundown Aug. 14.
The grower organization says February rains left high moisture levels in the nutrient-rich soils, and mild spring weather made for an extended bloom. Later, conditions at set were perfect — lots of sunshine, mild temperatures and no winds.
BALANCED FRUIT DEVELOPMENT
Temperatures in Napa and Sonoma ranged between 85 degrees and 100 degrees from June to early August, without the heat spikes that occurred in the Central Valley through much of July. Veraison continued over an extended period, allowing for balanced fruit development.
Sparkling wine and white varieties will lead the parade to the presses, while thicker-skin grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon will be picked in the fall.
The Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance held a celebration mid-July to mark the coming 194th wine grape harvest in the Sonoma Valley. And a mid-August noontime community-wide celebration marked the first day of harvest, as people were encouraged to ring their own bells and horns.
Work crews started at about 2 a.m. Aug. 16, picking about five acres of Pinot Noir grapes at the Kiser Vineyard just south of Sonoma, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported.
SMOKE TAINT CONCERNS
The harvest comes as wildfires throughout California, including in Mendocino and Lake counties, have left many areas in a shroud of smoke that has raised concerns about tainted grapes. However, sparkling winemakers were hopeful that smoke taint wouldn’t be much of a problem, partly because smoke has mostly remained high above the ground, according to Wine-Searcher, an industry database and news site.
After last October’s wildfires in the northern San Francisco Bay area, Napa Valley growers say they have much to be thankful for this season. Though 95 percent of the area’s grapes were in at the start of the fires, some vines were exposed to high heat, NVG says. While in winter dormancy, the vines repaired themselves and collected the needed nutrition to make for one of the best growing seasons to date, according to the organization.
The first grapes coming in are of “exceptional” quality, portending a “landmark Napa Valley vintage,” NVG says. The organization will livestream a press conference in September, featuring growers talking about their harvest.
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