2009 Napa Valley harvest: from ‘all in’ at Swanson to waiting on Cabernet Franc on Spring Mountain

by TrevR on October 7, 2009

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Last week we reported that harvest was in full gear and things continue to be busy in these parts.

Each morning as we make our pre-dawn trek to St. Helena we’re seeing crews in the vineyards picking in hopes of beating the heat of the day and we’ve noted a dramatic increase in the number of large trucks travelling up-and-down Highway 29 and Silverado Trail carrying tons and tons of grapes.

Read on to learn what’s up at Piña Napa Valley, Swanson Vineyards and Smith-Madrone

Piña Napa Valley
Winemaker Anna Monticelli noted that Cabernet Sauvignon picking is in full swing, but the winery’s Howell Mountain fruit will continue to hang on the vine for a while longer as it is their coolest appellation.

Last week we had very temperate weather. We brought in the rest of our Oakville and Rutherford fruit located on the eastern hillsides of the Napa Valley. The majority of our Yountville fruit was also harvested.

We are definitely moving into fall weather. The highs have moved into the seventies and the lows are in the forties. Sunday was even cooler with the high in the sixties and the low in the thirties.

On Monday this week, we began harvesting our D’Adamo Cabernet, located in between the Atlas Peak and Oak Knoll AVAs. Our Howell Mountain Cabernet will continue to hang on the vine as it is our coolest appellation. We must carefully watch the forecast as there could be potential rain a week from now.

When we began harvest, our earliest ripening vineyards came in 1-2 weeks later than in the past 2 years. Slowly, the other vineyards caught up and are now at the same level of ripening as they were the past couple years. At this point, this harvest is more condensed. The fruit quality is great. Sugars are lower for corresponding levels of phonological ripeness. Hopefully the weather continues to cooperate for our cooler vineyard sites.

Swanson Vineyards
Vineyard Manager Ross Hall informed us they’re done harvesting their own fruit in Oakville, leaving only the fruit from their growers to go before calling it a wrap on this year’s harvest.

Swanson’s own grapes are “all in.” The only harvesting we have left is Cabernet Sauvignon from our growers. When that is all in, sometime next week, then “Harvest 2009” for Swanson will be complete. And what a harvest it has been. The fruit berry size is consistent, flavors and colors are wonderful, complexity and aroma is truly amazing.

Our excitement in anticipation of what we feel are going to be the spectacular wines to follow is contagious. Both white and red varieties should produce some of the decades best wines. Prepare yourself for the 2009 vintage wines. They are going to be a great tasting experience.

Managing partner Stu Smith provided an update from Spring Mountain, where some wineries still have white varietals out and others should completely finish their harvest this week.

It appears that this week will be much more active than last week, with a big push into Cabernet Sauvignon. Francois at Cain says they’re “working hard” on the Cabernet, as is Schweiger. Most are waiting on Cabernet Franc. Spring Mountain Vineyard still has some Sauvignon blanc out and Pride still has some Chardonnay out. Several wineries should finish this week.

For Smith-Madrone the 2009 Chardonnay and Riesling produced a smaller crop than in 2008. With the exception of the Cabernet franc crop being larger than last year, the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are about the same as 2008, which means below average yields of approximately 2 ½ tons per acre. Most of the winemakers and growers that I’ve spoken to agree that this is a very good vintage. Yet as all harvests go, this one seems to have its quirks too; there seems to be less predictability as to tonnage and maturity between blocks within vineyards and from vineyard site to vineyard site. More of the subtle quirks of the harvest won’t be recognized until the holiday parties start up and we all get together and begin to compare notes.

Visit the Harvest 2009 category for full coverage.

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

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has written 723 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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