Tag Archives: Napa Harvest

Harvest 2014: Week 9 – So Where Are We Going to Put That?

After the events of last week, my thoughts are that we are pretty much finished with the normal ripening process for this harvest.  We had another rain storm that dropped an additional 1/2 in of rain on Calistoga and thunderstorms on Friday that brought a massive hail storm and lightning to the valley.  Luckily it doesn’t seem that any fruit was severely damaged from the hail but all the moisture in the air has started to take its toll and some of the green mold that comes with rain is starting to show up.  The canopies look tired and the vines have fully lignified signaling their start towards dormancy.

When one looks around the valley more often than not the vineyards are picked now and slowly turning to the beautiful yellow of fall.  Harvest now becomes a logistics game.  Who has tanks?  Who has crews to pick? Who has trucks to haul the fruit if the first two questions are met with answers.  With the rain during week 7, some of the high Brix that we had been seeing went backwards a bit so we aren’t going to be seeing the incredibly high brix harvest that I had feared.  Flavor concentration still looks good so that is a blessing.

I couldn’t help but think about anyone doing dessert wines because I bet this year would be stellar for botrytis and combined with the ripe fruit concentration that was reached before the rain, it has the potential to be a fantastic year for desserts.  I’ll have to reach out to my winemaking buddy and dessert specialist, Roger Harrison, to get his take on it.

Some growers are already seeing the end to their season while for the rest the end is almost in sight.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and barring any major fermentation issues this harvest should wrap up smoothly and very early.

Harvest 2014: Week 8 – What Do Harvest and Home Renovation Have in Common?

Harvest is racing along now.  With the rain last week (0.25″ in Calistoga) and the threat of yet another storm this week bringing the same amount or more on Wednesday and Thursday, we are starting to make triage calls.  This can hang, that needs to come in, etc… This may be our last week of whites, leaving only the Bordeaux reds hanging out.  Quite a few of our reserve blocks came in last week with the balance coming in early this week (planned before the rain so excellent timing on To Kalon’s part!)

At home we are still working on our Master Bathroom.  The drywall is going up today and tomorrow and the tile installation will start on Friday.  It is going to be great but with our hard work over the weekend it got me thinking about the ways that both home installation and harvest are similar.

1) Both are weather dependent.  The moisture in the air causes drywall mud to cure more slowly as well as thin set on tile so it slows down the process even if it is dry in the house.  Same is true of moisture with harvest.  Rain brings harvest to a halt completely and excess moisture slows down the ripening process and can cause rot (luckily we haven’t seen any major issues this year!).

2) Both feel like they take FOREVER! When you are in the midst of a crazy project or harvest it seems like it has been going on a LONG time and the end is no where in sight.

3) But when they are over you look back and think “That wasn’t so bad.” It seems like such a fun thing in hindsight that you forget the lost sleep, the setbacks, the sluggish tanks, the blown reno budget, and just appreciate what all your hard work has given you.  Amazing wine and hopefully an amazing bathroom!

4) Both are super exciting to plan.  I love picking out tile and vanities.  I also love selecting the next blocks and putting them on the schedule.  It is the best feeling in the world when you have a tank that stubbornly doesn’t want to finish fermentation yet you are somehow able to coax the yeast out of their funk and get it to go dry.  There is no better feeling than that!

5) Both need the little wins celebrated.  When we finished the demo of the bathroom this weekend it was a mess.  I HATE drywall dust.  Seriously! However, as my husband and I were sweeping it all up I realized that we had reached a critical point in our project.  The point where you stop tearing apart and start putting back together.  At this point, we are over 50% finished with the fruit that is scheduled to come into the winery.  That is also a tipping point.  We have started down the home stretch and while it seems like it will be a dramatic finish with the high sugars and the early rains, there is a light at the end of the tunnel now.

As to the rains, I welcome them.  We desperately need them.  We need rain more than we need a stellar vintage right now however I definitely don’t think these few small rainstorms will have a detrimental effect at this point.  We are not looking at another 2011 simply because in 2011 we were struggling to reach 24 Brix.  This year it seems like we will be very lucky if our average Brix stays at 26-27.  We could use some more hang time so bring on the cool weather and the rain! The Cabernet can take it!

Harvest 2014: Week 7- Bring on the Bordeaux

This past week’s heat wave has really kicked things off in the Bordeaux world. We started bringing in a significant quantity of Merlot and some Cabernet Franc last Thursday and it will only continue through the next few weeks. So far we are seeing good quality but very high Malic acids. At harvest the pHs and TA’s look great until you factor in the loss from the ML conversion. That reveals a different story. We had a similar problem last year resulting in higher than normal pHs. Our average was around 3.8 which probably seems normal for many Napa winemakers but is a bit high for our house average which tends to be lower. We are true to the vintages however, and both 2013 and 2014 have very clear personalities. Overall extractability seems lower this year than last year and the colors don’t seem as dense although I have no color numbers to back that up this year. It’s more gut feeling based on what I’m seeing in the fermentations. What does that mean for winemaking? We are having to work the skins harder to get the same amount of material (color and tannins) out of them than we did last year when the skins just threw color at you. That means cap management is critical this year and controlling the rate of the fermentation is important. The faster the fermentation, the less time you have to extract positive attributes. So far the yeast seem very happy and willing to ferment quickly. Even a few tanks of Pinot Noir wanted to go native so we allowed them if the fruit was clean.

The whites have seen similar good fermentations with speedy drops and healthy yeast. Chardonnay is about 1/2 finished and we brought our last Sauvignon Blanc in this past week. We have also picked our first Muscat from Wappo Hill for the Mocasto d’Oro.

I’ll start sleeping better once all the Pinot Noir is dry but so far so good. It’s too early to tell if the Bordeaux varieties will be as nice to us.