2009 Napa Valley harvest: an already slow harvest delayed further by Mother Nature

by TrevR on September 16, 2009

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This past week has been an interesting one from a weather standpoint. Following a few days of hot weather, the weekend brought us a bit of rain, a lot of clouds and an overall sense that Summer is rapidly giving way to Fall.

Read on to learn what our three local wineries, Smith-Madrone, Swanson Vineyards and Piña Napa Valley, had to say about the rain and the current state of Harvest 2009 in the Napa Valley…

2009 Oak Knoll grapes

Piña Napa Valley
Assistant Winemaker Macario Montoya noted harvest remains about a week to a week-and-a-half behind last year…

Saturday and Sunday brought us our first rain in quite some time. Although the rain seemed heavy at times, the overall affect was not very noticeable. If anything, the rain washed the dust off the grapes. If it had continued to rain, then there would have been some concern as the vines would take up the water and transfer them to the grapes, creating bigger berries and altering the sugar levels. If the rain was followed by cool, humid conditions, those varietals with thinner skins would be susceptible to rot. Lucky for us this did not happen and the grapes remain content. This coming week will see us bringing in the first grapes of the season. That would currently put us about a week and half later than last year.

Swanson Vineyards
Vineyard Manager Ross Hall shared his thoughts on the wet weather, the state of the white grape harvest and the early stages of the red grape harvest…

Rain? What rain? Yes, some rain did fall in the Oakville area, true, but so little fell on Swanson Vineyards that the canopy completely protected the grape clusters. When we sampled this Monday morning, the clusters were dry. Not a bit of water or moisture on any of the grapes. All of the vineyards we buy grapes from were contacted this Monday, and all reported back to us the same conditions we observed at our own vineyard. So, obviously, we expect the little bit of rain we had to have absolutely no impact on sugar levels, pH or TA.

Harvest is progressing nicely, and all of our white grapes have been picked. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay clusters were all beautiful in color, nicely sized and produced some great tasting, clear, clean juice. We are all anticipating some really fine wines here in short order and our winemaker is expecting a banner year for our white wine products.

We’ve picked only a small amount of Syrah, which will be used to produce our dry style rose wine, which we call “Rosato.” Our red variety harvest has yet to start in earnest, with the cloudy weather that came with the rain slowing down sugar production somewhat. This could be beneficial as it gives more time for tannins to smooth and vegetative flavors to dissipate. The red varieties are looking really good on the vine, with well developed clusters, very little shatter and good consistency in berry size throughout.

Smith-Madrone
Managing Partner Stu Smith checked in from high atop Spring Mountain…

A lovely and welcome rain on Sunday night brought up to ¼ inch of rain to the upper reaches of Spring Mt. The rain settled the dust and cleaned off the vines. It is not at all unusual for late August or September have have such a storm bringing 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch of rain. Monday morning brought cool windy weather – perfect conditions for drying out the vines. I love these first little rains.

Had the storm been an inch or more and the following days warm and still…what can happen is the fog sits in the Valley until late morning and rot can start in some of the white varietals and can be especially bad in the Zinfandel. The Bordeaux varieties can take copious amounts of rain before any harm comes to them.

More: See Harvest 2009 for full coverage

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

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has written 724 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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