Wine lovers can follow the progress of the vintage via the Napa Valley Vintners’ content-rich harvest website
The first of Napa Valley’s sparkling wine producers began picking grapes this third week of July, heralding an early start for the 2015 Napa Valley harvest season. The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) trade association invites wine enthusiasts around the world to experience the adrenaline felt by winemakers at this time of year by visiting napavintners.com/harvest.
So far, this year’s growing season has seen alternating weather patterns of warm and cool temperatures, resulting in an early bud break, followed by a long, relatively cool flowering and fruit set period and culminating in what looks to be one of the earliest harvests in recent memory. The cool weather in May, coupled with a summer of limited heat spikes, has also helped Napa Valley vintners keep water use to minimal and highly-targeted amounts in this fourth year of California’s drought.
“At this point in time, we are seeing another year with great quality potential in Napa Valley vineyards,” notes Ludovic Dervin, winemaker for Mumm Napa Valley, the winery that began picking today. “Because of the long flowering period this spring, there is fair amount of maturity variability from vineyard to vineyard, block to block, vine to vine, and even cluster to cluster on the same vine. Winemakers and vineyard experts will be working hand in hand over the next few months to create balanced flavors for another successful Napa Valley harvest season.”
To create uniformity of ripeness and concentration of flavor in individual grapes, Napa Valley vintners typically farm for low yields, including culling or “dropping” fruit that is not perfectly ripe. They also employ sophisticated canopy management strategies to create optimal conditions for heat and sun exposure. More than 80% of NVV winery members own vineyard land in Napa Valley allowing them to cultivate the grapes they use to produce the high-quality wines for which the Napa Valley has become known.
Harvest is considered the most popular season for visitors to the Napa Valley, but for those unable to experience it first-hand, the NVV will add continuously to its extensive online coverage, including:
-Up-to-the-minute photos and social media posts from wineries around Napa Valley capturing the excitement from the vineyard to the crush pad using #napaharvest.
-Regular updates as picking progresses from grapes for sparkling wine to grapes for white wine and finally transitioning in a few weeks to grapes destined for red wine.
-Stories and timelines that provide a glimpse into the lives of the heroes behind harvest and the process of growing grapes and making wine.
-Harvest recipes and wine pairing suggestions, for the warm days of August through the cooler mood of fall.
-Sample Napa Valley travel itineraries and a link to the NVV’s Winery Map & Trip Planner where visitors can customize their own wine tasting routes.
-Winery event listings for the harvest season.
-Videos explaining how Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are made.
While the first grapes destined for Napa Valley sparkling wines came to the crush pad today, it is still too soon to predict how long this year’s harvest will last. Weather in the latter part of July through August will determine the rhythm and pace of the season, which can continue until late October or early November.
Although vintners won’t begin picking the region’s most widely planted variety, Cabernet Sauvignon, for several more weeks, the prediction is for lower yields, but good quality. “The 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet vintage has great potential,” said Steve Leveque, director of winemaking for HALL Napa Valley, which grows or sources Cabernet Sauvignon from 13 of the region’s 16 nested AVAs. “A dry and warm winter led to an early start to this year’s growing season and yields will be down significantly due to uneven flowering and set. The season has provided lower vigor conditions with small berries on small clusters, all of which bodes well for creating dense, concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon. I am hopeful that we will have our fourth great consecutive vintage.”
Across the board, Napa Valley vintners are expecting yields to be less abundant than the last three bountiful harvests, but of average size based on a ten-year statistical perspective.
About the Napa Valley Vintners
The Napa Valley Vintners nonprofit trade association has been cultivating excellence since 1944 by inspiring its more than 500 members to consistently produce wines of the highest quality, to provide environmental leadership and to care for the extraordinary place they call home. Learn more at www.NapaVintners.com
Photo credits: Bob McClenahan of Bob McClenahan photography