2009 Napa Valley harvest: white grape crop heavier than normal with very high acidity, still waiting on reds

by TrevR on September 9, 2009

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Another week is already half-over, which means it’s time to check-in with our three local vintners to see how (or shall we say if?) the 2009 harvest is coming along (others in the valley are much further along).

In the early mornings we’ve certainly noticed the sweet smell of fermenting grapes hanging in the air.

Read on for the updates…

Piña Napa Valley
Still waiting for harvest to kick in to high-gear, winemaker Anna Monticelli shared a few technical details on how the weather patterns this time of year can impact the fruit on the vines.

At this time of year, it is crucial for winemakers and viticulturalists to closely follow the weather. We look at warming and cooling trends, sun and fog exposure and rainfall. Warming trends accelerate ripening and more extreme heat spikes with strong sun exposure can cause grape dehydration, shriveling and raisining. Really high temperatures can shut down the vine stopping photosynthesis altogether and can cause yellowing of the basal leaves in the vine. Cooling trends and fog can slow ripening allowing for flavor development and tannin maturation without disproportionately high sugar accumulation. However, too much cooling can halt ripening in cooler climates. Small amounts of rainfall during harvest are insignificant but larger quantities can dilute flavors and can cause rot. Therefore it is imperative that we watch the weather so we can pick the grapes at their optimum ripeness during a particular vintage and so we can make any amendments to the vineyard if possible.

We just had a heat spike a week ago at the end of August with temperatures going above 100 degrees throughout the Napa Valley. Thankfully this intense heat was short lived. Our Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards at Piña Napa Valley fared well through the heat. There was hardly any shriveling or dehydration and the flavors continue to develop nicely. We are still at least a week away if not longer from beginning to harvest.

Managing Partner Stuart Smith provided an overall update on the status of harvest on Spring Mountain and noted that his winery expects to start bringing in Chardonnay and Riesling late this week.

Stony Hill has started off the Spring Mt. District harvest with gewürztraminer and plans to go full bore this week with Chardonnay. Smith-Madrone will start late in the week with both Chardonnay and Riesling. The Keenan Chardonnay is still a week or more away from being ready to harvest. Most of the wineries on Spring Mt. don’t grow whites and thus are several weeks away from starting with reds. The white grape crop is heavier than normal with very high acidity, low pHs and small berries.

Swanson Vineyards
Vineyard manager Ross Hall detailed the winery’s Pinot Grigio crop and noted that Chardonnay was expected to start coming in right around now.

All our Pinot Grigio has been harvested and is at the winery in fomenters’. The fruit looked great, the juice after pressing looked, smelled and tasted fantastic. Lab analysis supports our personal sensory perception which has all of us here at Swanson’s excited about the marvelous prospects of our wine achieving our finest expectations. There’s little doubt now that our 2009 Pinot Grigio is going to be a sought after wine to go to for lighter fare, oriental foods and white meat entrees. We fully expect to produce a wine that will also be a delightful treat served alone as an aperitif.

I hate to sound overly optimistic, but I’m also looking forward to starting our Chardonnay harvest around the middle of [this] week (8 or 9 September), if our Oakville micro-climate remains as good to us as it has been for us in the past couple of weeks. The fruit on the vine looks wonderful and tastes wonderful too. Ideally sized clusters with small to medium size berries, almost perfectly colored with an excellent pH, TA balance.

Our Chardonnay wine style purposely avoids oak to ensure the Oakville terroir is strongly reflected in our wine without oak overtones diverting attention from the Chardonnay flavors we strive to achieve. We produce only a small lot of a very straight forward, fruity characteristic Chardonnay. Light, appealing, very approachable and uncomplicated. It is the detailed management effort devoted to our vines that allows us to bring Oakville from the field into the bottle. Our winemaker appreciates the effort made in the field to achieve our goals and approaches the fruit to apply the full extent of his knowledge and experience in carrying forward what was started in the field. The result is, to us, very satisfying with the end product being a work of art.

Be sure to hit up the Harvest 2009 category for additional coverage.

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, harvest 2009, napa grape harvest, 2009 napa valley harvest, napa wine grape harvest]

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has written 726 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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