What a difference a year makes. Late last September we caught up with Piña Napa Valley winemaker Anna Monticelli, who told us about the 2007 growing season, fruit quality and picking times.
Fast forward to November 2008 and we’ve got quite an interesting update from Monticelli. She echos what we’ve heard from several other local winemakers–namely that 2008 was extremely challenging on a variety of levels, but perhaps most significantly in terms of overall yields.
Here’s Monticelli’s synopsis of the ’08 harvest:
“…the 2008 vintage was approximately 1-2 weeks earlier than average. We had two heat-waves back to back at the beginning of harvest (end of August/early September). This resulted in some shriveled berries and very rapid sugar accumulation. These heat waves were also a contributing factor to the extremely low yields. Our grape yields are down approximately 40% lower than average. After the initial heat waves, the weather remained very mild and temperate ensuring optimum slow ripening and extended hang time conditions. It rained on October 3rd into the 4th, but the amount of rain was very small and the good weather before and after the rain resulted in no negative effects on the crop. The 2008 growing season started with below average winter rainfall, which primarily fell in early winter, for the second year in a row. This predicated smaller than average berry size and lower cluster counts. The combination of an early bud-break and freezing spring temperatures that continued for weeks on end between mid-March and mid-April had devastating effects on many vineyards in the Napa Valley. Some say this was the worst spring frost in Napa Valley in the past 30 years. Some of the young shoots were affected in our D’Adamo and Buckeye vineyards but our other vineyards amazingly escaped unscathed. During bloom, the extremely hot temperatures coupled with high winds made for a poor berry set. Although this greatly decreased our yields, we benefited from loose medium-sized Cabernet clusters. During the summer there were many wildfires here in Northern California. Many winemakers and viticulturalists worried about the possibility that the grapes could be tainted with smoke flavors. Thankfully, not only were our Piña vineyards unaffected, but I haven’t heard of any Napa Valley vineyards with this problem. The resulting 2008 wines are very promising. They have great color accompanied by good tannin structure and mouth feel. Although we may not have a lot to drink this year, it will surely be enjoyable.”
Full Harvest 2008 coverage can be found here.