Tag Archives: Napa Valley

Harvest 2015: Weeks 1-3, Meanwhile Back in New York…

It was a year ago today that the earth shook at 3:15 am and I turned to my husband and said “That’s it! I’m ready to go home now.” After seeing twitter light up over a 4.3 or so quake in Oakland last week I’m reminded to be grateful that I’m on much more stable ground this harvest in more ways than one.

At the first of last year’s harvest posts, I was musing that I may need to add a week 0 to the round of posts and this year I definitely would have needed that week as much of California got off to a fast start at the end of July for one of the earliest harvests on record. (Unfortunately I am unable to link last year’s week 1 post since it has been deleted some how…)  This was largely due to a very warm January and February which led to an early bud break.   This has been another drought year and the fires have been terrible this year. I hope that the rumors of it not impacting the vineyards have been true.  Having lived through selling the 2008 wines of Alexander Valley, I know it can be problematic.  I have heard rumors of 25 and 26 Brix Cabernet Sauvignon in some areas meaning that everything is coming ripe (at least sugar wise) around the same time.  I shutter to think about the amount of water which will go into the fruit this year to try to tame the rapidly climbing brix.

Meanwhile, back in New York…

 Cabernet Franc on Keuka Lake

After one of the coldest winters on record which included snow on Easter this year, we are getting back on track after a season which has spent much of the year behind.  We saw 7-8 inches of rain in June with only 8 days in the entire month without rain.  We are accustomed to rain here but that was pretty intense.  One grower stated that he didn’t get a chance to get off the tractor on the clear days when he could get into the vineyards.  The good news is that the growers out here are used to the wet stuff and I have seen very little mildew issues.  The remainder of the summer has been lovely.  We’ve flirted with 90 a few days this month but the majority have been a very nice 75-85 range for the highs and most nights are cool enough for the windows to stay open.  We are still waiting for veraison in Cabernet Franc but Lemberger (aka Blaufrankish to the rest of the world) was turning about 2 weeks ago.  Most of the vinfera fruit will be ready to harvest in October and we won’t get started with Natives and  Hybrids until the end of this month.  While California is looking at another harvest spread over 3 months, I’m enjoying the last days of summer and looking forward to smelling the first fall mornings sometime next month.

A friend’s Riesling vineyard overlooking Cayuga Lake

I’m also frantically trying to get my Visa for China and can’t wait to see what that harvest will be like.  Hopefully it will oblige with a late September harvest which will put me back in New York just in time for the vinifera varieties to be harvested.

What NOT to do When Traveling in the Wine Country: An Open Letter to Wine Tourists

As the weather warms and the vineyards grow green something else happens in Napa County; tourists appear in flocks. As in all wine growing regions, wine tourism, is a huge source of revenue and we’re happy to see the visitors come, however there are some common sense rules that need to be adhered to if you or someone you know are visiting a wine region. 


If you are the designated driver on a wine tasting trip it should be very high in your mind that while your group of fun-loving folks is enjoying the spoils of harvest, YOU need to be able to navigate the roads in a legal and courteous manner.  Please, Please, Please either spit during the tastings or refrain from tasting at all. We want everyone to have a great time so maybe switch off days with other members of your party but don’t think that you can get behind the wheel of a car just because you haven’t been drinking full glasses all day.  Just because you don’t see a patrol car doesn’t let you off the hook either.  If you are obviously drunk and driving, we, as the residents of said region, WILL call your license plate into the Hwy patrol. We just want every one to be safe.

2)      Please pay attention to the drivers behind you.

Going 20 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone is NOT acceptable; I don’t care how beautiful the scenery is.  Some of the people you’re sharing the road with are not on vacation and do have somewhere to be at a set time.  If you notice that you have a line of cars (say 3+) behind you and you still want to go slow, do the responsible thing and pull off to the side to let everyone else by.  This will keep everyone’s day going on track.  If you have 10+ cars behind you, follow the above procedure then keep an eye out for the next speed limit sign and adjust accordingly.  If you don’t pull over and we’re forced to pass when allowed, don’t give us the stink eye just because we passed you.  You know who you are!!

3)      Don’t bash the last place you stopped.

There’s a reason the saying “Heard it through the Grapevine” came about.  While we all love to hear how much you enjoyed our wines but if you’re upset about the last place you went it’s probably not a great idea to complain about it to the next tasting room.  This is a small industry and word gets around quickly.  There are many wineries owned by the same companies or individuals and you may be bashing a sister winery unknowingly.  Also by saying how fabulous your last place was it does sometime motivate the tasting staff to top your last experience with their own.  Stay positive and rave about the great tasting rooms.  Just leave the bad ones where they are.

4)  Don’t get mad at the farm equipment on the road.


You’re visiting an agricultural region which does need agricultural equipment such as tractors and big rigs hauling fruit around.  If you’re in the wine region and you’re behind a tractor don’t get upset.  They are very good at following Rule #2 and will generally pull off when safe to do so.  Be sure to wave and smile as a sign of “Thanks” on the way by.  It will make you and the driver of the tractor feel better.  As for the grape trucks during harvest, just think about all the lovely wine those grapes will make once they reach their destination winery.  It’s part of the wine lifestyle so enjoy it if you’re in this situation.

4)      Don’t assume you can wander through the vineyards on the side of the road.


While vineyard lined roads are fantastic to drive down please don’t think this is an open invitation to wander on in.  This can, at minimum cause minor harm to the vines and at worst can expose you to whatever chemical was just sprayed that morning. We don’t go wandering through your flower garden at home so please stay to the allowed areas. Keep your vineyard wandering confined to wineries that invite you to get a closer look and enjoy the views of the vines from the side of the road elsewhere. 

5)      Watch for Bicycles!


I personally know a number of people, including myself, who love to get on a bike and ride out the stress of the day in a winery (yes even at wineries there is stress!) after work or on the weekends. Getting on a bike is also a very nice way to explore the areas around Napa sans auto!  While you’re driving please be careful of bicyclists, especially on sharp corners.  Slowing down and widely passing when safe is greatly appreciated.  We’ll try to give you as much room as possible.

By following these guidelines your trip to the wine country can be enjoyable for both you and the people who live there.  Be safe. Be smart. Don’t be an obnoxious tourist.