It was almost cold at 6:30 a.m. when dawn started to break and I considered heading back to my truck to get a jacket. But by 9 a.m. it was already hot. Winemaker Kari Auringer and I were out to sample the fruit in all of our Napa Valley vineyards and to start to pick harvest dates. By 2 p.m as we finished it was pushing 100 degrees.
Some wine regions worry about rain and hail. In the Napa Valley this year we are worried about the heat. It has always been my belief that the problem vintages in the Napa Valley are the hot ones, not the cool ones. This has been a odd year, as they all seem to be these days. We started with a very early bud break due to the warm, nonexistent, winter, which was followed by a cool, damp spell at flowering. This meant an uneven fruit set and a lot of unripe bunches needed to be dropped before veraison completed. This, of course, means a smaller crop for us this vintage. Fortunately, what’s left looks great. Summer itself was mild by Napa Valley standards, but as we approach harvest a serious heat wave is upon us.
The results of our vineyard tour is setting things in motion for what is sure to be a hectic vintage that could even be over before the end of September. Crazy. This Friday we will be bringing in merlot from two vineyards and cabernet franc from another. The Oakville Station Cabernet Franc should follow the middle of next week and cabernet sauvignon looks to be about two weeks out, but who knows with this heat.
This late season heat spike is forecasted to be over by Saturday so our remaining sites will be able to finish ripening in a more civilized environment. Just what we like, letting them coast over the finish line.
Saturday I’m headed up to Oregon to start our chardonnay and pinot noir harvest. Strange as it seems, up to now, Oregon has had more days over 90 degrees than the Napa Valley. Things seem a bit upside down when it comes to the climate these days. I’ll update you on Oregon this weekend.