Harvest Report: Growers harvest whites, celebrate good weather

Jesse Duarte
Harvesting of early varietals like sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir is under way in many appellations, as growers continue to revel in mild weather.
Volker Eisele of Eisele Vineyards explains that “the cool nights, down to the low 40s, and moderately warm days are preserving the acidity and keeping the sugars from exploding.”
Here’s another installment of the 2012 harvest report, organized by American Viticultural Areas:
Calistoga — Paul Smith, Vermeil Wines at OnThEdge Winery: “Calistoga’s recent weather defines ‘perfection.’ Most sauvignon blanc is fermenting or soon will be as we wait for even, deeper colors and richer flavors in the zins. Cab sauvignon is ripening quite nicely and I expect early blocks of cab franc and syrah to be harvested this week. Fruit quality continues to be exceptional.”
Diamond Mountain District — Dawnine Dyer, Dyer Vineyards: “We’ve had beautiful ripening weather this last week but not much action on Diamond Mountain. As predicted, the von Strasser Gruner Veltliner came in last week, and merlot and malbec are tracking around 23 Brix. Best guess is that the first red grapes will come in the last week of September and that the real action will be in October.”
Howell Mountain — Pat Stotesbery, Ladera Vineyards: “The white harvest is nearly complete, if not totally so. The reds are fully colored with only minor exceptions, but no one is ready to pick at this stage. With perfect weather, the ripening is moving toward higher numbers and we are enjoying the waiting game to picking.”
Chiles Valley District — Volker Eisele, Eisele Vineyards: “As you read this, almost all sauvignon blanc and semillon will have been picked in the Chiles Valley District. By and large the results are excellent. Good yields, in some cases much higher than normal, and wonderful flavors. Generally the fruit is unusually clean and free of blemishes. So far the crop is quite a bit larger and better than last year’s. The cool nights, down to the low 40s, and moderately warm days are preserving the acidity and keep the sugars from exploding. The reds are of course not ready, but exhibit better and better color and wonderful flavors.”
Spring Mountain District — Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery: “Most of the wineries with white grapes expect to start later this week. Those that have harvested chardonnay have seen great chemistry in the grapes along with a substantial rebound in crop size from last year. For many of us, the cabernet sauvignon crop is appearing smaller than first thought.”
St. Helena — Wendi Webster, estate director, Edge Hill: “Grapes grow sweeter each day at Edge Hill and we are expecting a phenomenal vintage. Our Mixed Blacks vineyards show complex flavors and we expect to bring in our first block this week and will likely have fully harvested within 10 days, depending upon the whims of Mother Nature.”
Oakville — Molly Williams Hodgins, Komes and Garvey Ranches/Flora Springs: “The sauvignon blanc harvest is winding up, and most, if not all, of the SB in Oakville will be finished by the end of the week. Wineries have been delighted with the quality of the 2012 SB crop. Flavors range from spice to honeydew melon. We are also picking our bumper crop of pinot grigio, which, like the sauvignon blanc, tastes great.”
Yountville — Jennifer Waite, Tamber Bey Vineyards: “Grape trucks are buzzing up and down the valley and the Yountville Appellation is a hive of harvest activity. Picks have been going on all week at Gamble Family, Napa Valley Wine Company and Tamber Bey Vineyards. There is an air of anticipation in the Deux Chevaux Vineyard as Tamber Bey gets ready to make a first pass through the young vine Dijon clone chardonnay block — this will be the first fruit from this block. The old block will be picked at the end of the week, as will chardonnay from the Nord’s vineyard on Solano Avenue at the south end of the appellation. By next week the harvest of white grapes should be completed across the appellation.”
Stags Leap District — Elizabeth Vianna, winemaker, Chimney Rock Winery: “This week I heard from Aimee Benzuly, assistant winemaker at Stags’ Leap Winery, who reports that nothing has been harvested on the SLD Estate, but that merlot will be coming soon. The local fauna seems to be a theme in SLD this week. Jon Emmerich, winemaker at Silverado Vineyards, is trying to keep the ‘pesky deer away’ before he picks and at Chimney Rock we are observing the birds and the bees delight in our hillside merlot. Nature seems to be telling us the fruit tastes very good this year!”
Atlas Peak — Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards: “Harvest is starting on Atlas Peak with chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. The weather remains close to perfection. Bordeaux varietals are developing stellar flavors.”
Mount Veeder — Brian Nuss, Vinoce Vineyards/ Twenty Rows: “Fruit and the vines are in great shape. Weather is perfect. The guys from Robert Craig Winery came up last Friday to take a look at their blocks and seemed pleased. Waiting to talk to 2480 on their run through block 7.”
Oak Knoll District — Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyards & Winery: “In the Oak Knoll District, harvest activity has moved beyond the grapes for sparkling wine and into just the earliest blocks for still wine including some sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir. We are looking forward to more warm and sunny weather!”
Carneros — Lee Hudson, Hudson Vineyards: “Carneros has experienced another beautiful mild harvest week. The sparkling harvest continues to progress to its approximate halfway point with perfect maturation levels. For still wine, the early blocks of pinot noir and chardonnay are in full harvest and the coming week will be very busy. Memories of perfect years like 1997 come to mind as our early harvests start to bubble into wine. Knock on wood.”
Wild Horse Valley — John Newmeyer, Heron Lake Vineyard: “We had a close look at the vines Sunday. The pinot noir harvest is getting closer: The field average was 21.5 Brix, with some raisining and yellowing of leaves but otherwise a fine-looking crop, possibly the biggest since 2007. The chardonnay field average was 19.0 Brix, also a fine big crop but with a touch of powdery mildew in the top rows.”

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