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2009 Napa Valley harvest: ‘the worst Merlot crop ever’?

by TrevR on October 21, 2009

This week’s harvest update comes following several days of wet, rainy, windy weather here in the Napa Valley.

Read on to learn more about what has been taking place at Piña Napa Valley, Swanson Vineyards and Smith-Madrone.

Mid-October: A vineyard just off Yountville Cross Road in Yountville begins to show its post-harvest colors. More photos: www.krjphotography.uncork29.com

Mid-October: A vineyard just off Yountville Cross Road in Yountville begins to show its post-harvest colors. More photos: www.krjphotography.uncork29.com

Piña Napa Valley
Winemaker Anna Monticelli detailed how the recent rain has impacted the fruit left on the vines…

Last Tuesday it rained 4 inches in the vineyard. This is a substantial amount and it slightly diluted the sugar levels in the berries. The weather remained slightly cooler during the week and warmed up into the eighties on Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately it was humid last week which is a cause for concern. It is necessary to check the vineyards every couple of days to make sure there are no split berries and there is no mold growing. Thankfully we leafed the entire Buckeye Vineyard on Howell Mountain and we are also running the wind machine to help dry the grapes and prevent mold. Today it rained again, probably around 1/4-1/2 inch. The temperatures should be in the seventies for the rest of the week. Hopefully the air will be drier. I foresee picking the earliest blocks of the Buckeye Vineyard this Saturday and holding out on the last blocks unless we see some mold and are forced to pick.

Swanson Vineyards
Vineyard Manager Ross Hall noted things are pretty much complete, the fruit is in tanks and barrels…

It’s over. The 2009 grape harvest at Swanson Vineyards, that is. It was an exciting season from start to finish that kept us guessing, plotting and planning throughout the entire cycle. Cool weather, followed by warm weather. Then more cool weather, and lots of it, followed immediately by extended spells of hot weather.

What were the yields going to be? When will we start harvest? What sort of quality were we going to see? What’s the best canopy management strategy, crop management strategy, for this unpredictable weather? We were constantly trying to figure out the weather and its affect on our vines. The forecast of the last rains made us a little nervous, and caused concern, but when they arrived, they were too late to affect our harvest plans.

We must have gotten it right! Yields were as we forecast, and the weather cooperated and behaved as we had hoped. We’ve ended up with a good, solid yield of some of the best quality grapes we’ve seen in recent memory. We here at Swanson’s are all thrilled that we’ve been blessed with such an all around great year.

The grapes are in tank and barrel now, and everything we see as we ferment and process the juice has us excitedly anticipating a really great vintage. And that’s for both white and red wines. Not just ours, but the Valley’s 2009 wines will please the most discriminating tastes and thrill the casual connoisseur as well. We can’t wait for the 2009 vintage releases to begin!

Smith-Madrone
Managing Partner Stuart Smith also discussed the recent weather and noted some wineries expect to be harvesting into November…

The substantial rain of last week and the rain this Monday has stopped all harvesting. Most of the wineries have just a small amount of Cabernet or Cabernet franc left to harvest, which should come off later this week. A few wineries will be harvesting well past Halloween. There is unanimity that this years wine has good color, good flavors, soft tannins and good juice yields. The crop levels, however, are not uniform, ranging from “the worst Merlot crop ever” to 20% above average.

See Harvest 2009 for complete coverage of this year’s activity.

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

About the Author

has written 716 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 @TrevR.

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