As we said in July – it’s been interesting, so far, and continues to be. In our last update, we reported virtually no damage from the various challenges that have come our way: frost, heat, wind, rain, smoke. But, once the clusters were more developed, Geoff Gorsuch, our Winemaker, noticed a higher incidence of “shatter”1 than he had anticipated earlier. He says that it occurred, most likely, due to either the heat, wind or rain during flowering in May. When these things happen while the vines are in flower, pollination may be impaired and by now we can easily see the places where grapes are missing from the clusters. Fortunately frost damage and shatter won’t affect quality, but they certainly have an impact on quantity, and various levels of loss have been reported throughout Napa Valley.
Regarding the smoke, some local growers are hypothesizing that the smoky haze that hung around at the end of June and early July might have actually provided some protection, when we had a few days of extreme heat, by keeping the temperature down. In some regions, such as Mendocino, there were concerns that the heavy smoke they experienced would slow down photosynthesis and possibly even cause smoke taint. We were very fortunate that our haze was relatively light and we don’t necessarily view delayed ripening as a negative, unless it’s taken to the extreme.
Veraison, the time when the grapes begin to change color, began right on time, around the middle of July. Veraison is the vine’s way of telling the grower that its energy has shifted from shoot development into fruit ripening. Shortly after veraison is complete, it’s time to being gathering grape samples to monitor fruit maturity. Geoff walks the vine rows, collecting grapes from each section of our vineyard, then measures the average sugar, acid and pH. Once the section has reached an average of 20% sugar, he’ll begin tasting, which is the over-riding consideration in deciding when to harvest.
We were surprised when many local growers began harvesting their Sauvignon Blanc the second week of August and in tandem with the sparkling wine growers. In a year of many quirks, this is just another odd twist. Normally the grapes for sparkling wine come in earlier than table-wine grapes because they need to be picked at lower sugars (usually around 18-20% for sparkling wine and about 21% and up for table wine). But, the first reported harvest, here in the valley, began with Sauvignon Blanc on August 7 – about three weeks ahead of normal according to that grower. Following that announcement, quite a few other Sauvignon Blanc producers jumped into the pool. Geoff predicted that our Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc wouldn’t be ready until pretty close to Labor Day, but he took the precaution of getting the cellar all shipshape and sanitized by middle of August, just in case. As of this moment, he plans to bring in the Chenin Blanc on August 27, just very slightly early.
We expect to see the Sauvignon Blanc very soon after we crush the Chenin Blanc and then it will be non-stop until, most likely, mid October. It all depends on the weather!
Be sure to check our Harvest Calendar, frequently, to experience “crush” along with us! For the July 1 update, click here.
1. Shatter: This term is used to describe crop loss due to impaired pollination. Normally this will mean missing grapes from within the cluster rather than the loss of the whole cluster. The most common cause of shatter is heavy rain, hail, strong wind or extreme heat.