2009 Napa Valley harvest: large clusters, small berry size, compact veraison period

by TrevR on August 21, 2009

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As promised, our three local vintners have checked-in with their first round of updates on the 2009 Napa Valley harvest.

As you’ll read below, things are just beginning to pick-up in the vineyards, particularly for those wineries working with mountain fruit. If all goes according to plan, by this time next week harvest will be in full-swing…

Berry set Oakville

Piña Napa Valley
Partner Davie Piña noted that the winery’s hillside cabernet has recently caught-up to the Valley-floor cabernet in terms of maturity, which may make for an interesting harvest…

The growing season from bud break (mid March to early May) was extremely dry. This changed in early May with a rainfall that ended up putting over two inches across the Valley floor and well over three inches on Howell Mountain. This late rain gave the vines ample moisture to allow for very good growth with minimal inputs.

The pre-set cluster numbers looked very good heading into bloom. The bloom period was cool and extended which resulted in a poor set in numerous merlot and cabernet sauvignon vineyards. Veraison was expected to be extended as well due to the bloom experience. Surprisingly, the veraison period has been extremely compact, particularly in cabernet sauvignon, which will create very uniform ripening. The hillside cabernets—from Howell Mountain and other eastern flank locations—have moved along remarkably fast during this period and now seem to be almost at the same maturity as the Valley floor cabernet. This may create an interesting and very tight harvest period from the Valley to the hills.

Looks like some sauvignon blanc will be harvested toward the end of this week and the beginning of next week. With little to no frost, very few heat spikes and beautiful moderate temperatures so far, the 2009 season is shaping into an ideal year. We have a long way to go before the fruit crosses the scales, so there is plenty of work ahead.

Smith-Madrone
So what’s the status up on Spring Mountain? Stu Smith, the winery’s managing partner and Enologist, provided an entertaining synopsis of where things currently stand…

It’s been a very cool June, July and August at our mountain vineyards on Spring Mountain. The harvest is 10 days to 2 weeks behind. The crop looks normal to slightly above normal. The berries appear to be quite small. Right now it’s like when a guy jumps off the 50th floor. As he goes by the 20th floor, someone sticks their head out and asks him, “how are you doing?” “So far, so good.”

Swanson Vineyards
Meanwhile, down in Oakville, vineyard manager Ross Hall is anticipating a high quality harvest following an ideal growing season…

Alternating between hot and warm during the day and cool in the evening and early mornings, spring and summer has alternated between fantastic and great for the 2009 wine grape crop in our Oakville estate vineyards. These almost ideal weather conditions, for most of the season, has virtually guaranteed notable vintage wines from the 2009 harvest.

Put it altogether, and we’re looking forward to a high quality harvest with moderate to average yields, depending on variety.

Grape clusters are tending to be large, but with smaller berry size and a more open structure. Canopies have required less than normal management to obtain the speckled sunlight penetration so desirable for the maturing and flavor development of the fruit.

For us here at Swanson, it has been an almost perfect growing season to date. We are looking forward to beginning the 2009 harvest within a week with white varieties followed by an early September start to the harvesting of our red varieties. We fully anticipate a fine crop of great grapes and we know the winemaker will really enjoy turning them into some wonderful and memorable wines.

As always, check out the Harvest 2009 category for full coverage.

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, harvest 2009, napa harvest, napa grape harvest, Piña Napa Valley, Smith-Madrone, Swanson Vineyards]

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has written 725 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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