Mother Nature has delivered the perfect balance of winter rain and
warm summer sunshine.
The 2017 Napa Valley winegrape harvest has begun in earnest, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Napa Valley Vintners associations announced in a joint statement today. Wine lovers everywhere can follow along as the 2017 vintage unfolds in America’s leading wine region.
Although the first grapes for Napa Valley sparkling wine were picked on August 7, persistent fog and cooler daytime temperatures slowed the pace of this year’s harvest by mid-month. Thanks to a string of warmer days, grapes are now coming in at a steady pace from several corners of the Napa Valley.
NOTES FROM THE VINEYARD (from the Napa Valley Grapegrowers)
At long last, rain fell from the skies over Napa Valley. Throughout the winter of 2016-17, it rained, and rained and rained, replenishing reservoirs and recharging vineyard ground across Napa Valley. It was a welcome end to the 4-year drought and growers started the year with tremendous optimism.
“We had stable groundwater resources even during the drought, but the high amounts of rainfall this winter ensured that groundwater resources were recharged and aquafers refilled. That’s good for Napa,” said Garrett Buckland, Partner at Premiere Viticultural Services and President of Napa Valley Grapegrowers.
That optimism continued at bud break mid-March, when tiny buds emerged from the dormant vines and growers began to get their first glimpse of the 2017 growing season. Bud break was consistent and light rains through the end of April kept the risk of frost away.
Once the days grew longer and warmer weather graced the valley by mid-May, vines sprang to life. Shoots reached for the sun, the first indication that canopy management would play an important role in developing the highest quality fruit this year. With ample water and sunny days, vineyard canopies swelled and growers worked long days through June and July managing vine canopies for optimal grape development.
Buckland noted, “We expect exceptional quality due to timely vineyard work and weather. Early heat events resulted in vigorous vine growth, where keeping up with canopy management was key. In the early stages of berry ripening, when it matters most, we experienced fantastic weather with no major heat spikes.”
Bloom and fruit set occurred under ideal conditions – no frost, no rain and no blistering winds; just the nurture of warm sunshine. Early summer was warm, with several heat spikes, but the vines weathered them well and everything moved along at a steady pace. It was at this point in the growing season when vineyards benefitted the most from the winter rains, as healthy soil moisture levels acted as a natural heat buffer, allowing for long, well-balanced fruit development.
Harvest started early, with Napa sparkling wine houses, who pick at lower brix levels, bringing in fruit during the first week of August. Some varieties, like pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are just now starting to come in. In the weeks ahead, Napa Valley grapegrowers will start harvesting red varieties: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, malbec and cabernet franc will be ready to be picked.
Harvest is the most exciting time of year and the optimal 2017 growing season has set the stage on which Napa Valley’s winegrapes will deliver a memorable performance. Yield and quality will converge, and growers are looking forward to bringing this year’s fruit to the crushpad.
NOTES FROM THE WINERY (from the Napa Valley Vintners)
Meanwhile, at wineries up and down Napa Valley, vintners are gearing up to receive their grapes. Throughout the summer, cellar crews have been bottling recent vintages to make room for the 2017 wine they are about to make.
Cleaning and sanitizing are also a priority in the winery this time of year. This is another way Napa Valley’s winemakers ensure the wines they make are of the highest quality. At some of the region’s more than 60 Napa Green Winery facilities, water and energy-saving practices include sanitizing barrels with steam rather than washing them with water; replacing standard tank and equipment cleaning products with biodegradable ones; and using on-site water treatment systems that capture and recycle rinse water.
“Harvest only comes around once a year,” said Michael Honig, president of his family’s Honig Vineyard & Winery and 2017 chair of the NVV Board of Directors. “We have just one shot with each vintage to make the best possible wines. Winemaking can be resource-intensive, so it’s also a great time to employ sustainable practices that help protect and preserve Napa Valley for generations to come.”
In addition to getting their cellars ready for the impending grape crush, winemakers are also working with their grower partners to ensure grapes are in optimal condition for picking. Following the wet winter, which produced tremendous vine vigor, this includes canopy management to allow perfect sun exposure on each grape bunch; ‘dropping’ fruit to maximize the quality of the grapes left on the vine; and carefully managing irrigation to protect vines from late summer heat while also helping the grapes achieve desired flavor profiles.
LEARN MORE ABOUT NAPA VALLEY’S HARVEST
More information about the 2017 Napa Valley harvest, considered the valley’s ‘championship season,’ can be found at harvestnapa.com, including:
· Photos and stories shared directly by vineyard and cellar crews on social media
· Regular updates chronicling the stages of this year’s harvest
· Educational videos about harvest and winemaking
· Winery event listings
· Wine-friendly recipes
· Links to a Spotify playlist of favorite harvest-time songs submitted by winery crews
· The chance to win a Napa Valley 2017 harvest t-shirt (contest open September 1-15)
2017 Harvest Press Conference
On Tuesday, September 26th at 9 am, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG) will give a complete report on the season via its annual Harvest Press Conference, streamed live on video and through their Facebook page. NVG speaker members will include:
· Meaghan Becker, General Manager at Quintessa
· Rory Williams, Assistant Vineyard Manager & Assistant Winemaker at Frog’s Leap Winery
· Oscar Renteria, CEO and Owner at Renteria Vineyard Management and Renteria Family Wines
For more details, visit napagrowers.org.