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The first grapes were picked at dawn on Wednesday, July 22, heralding an early start for this year’s harvest season. The grapes are destined to become Napa Valley sparkling wine and are usually the first to be picked. The reason? To ensure the bright acidity that winemakers are looking for in this style of wine.
After grapes for sparkling wines, Sauvignon Blanc and other wine grapes, often referred to as aromatic whites, are typically the next Napa Valley grapes to be brought from the vineyard to the crush pad. These grapes tend to mature earlier than most other grapes. Their sought-after and refreshing citrus, tropical and other fruit flavors are articulated at an acid/sugar ratio that requires less heat and time on the vine.
Late August begins the start of the Chardonnay harvest. Urged on by a recent spate of warm days, which were complemented by nighttime temperatures that dropped into the 50s and low 60s, the ripening process thus far has been balanced and in check. Although this year’s Chardonnay harvest is earlier than what is considered average, it is on par with last year’s timing. Depending on a winemaker’s stylistic preferences (and there are many different styles of Napa Valley Chardonnay), this grape variety will be coming in for the next three to four weeks.
As the calendar tips to September, we’re seeing Pinot Noir grapes spot-picked in certain pockets, mostly in the cooler Los Carneros area of Napa Valley. The white wine grape harvest is almost finished. Recent hot days and cools nights have created ideal conditions for the slow ripening that winemakers seek for even development of tannins and other phenolics, while also allowing grapes to retain fresh and flavorful acids. The refrain for this year’s harvest? Early, inspiring fruit quality and significantly lower yields than the last three above average years. Merlot, Malbec and a little bit Cabernet Sauvignon are coming in, too! It’s that crazy harvest time of year.
Keep up to date on the 2015 Napa Valley Harvest with the Napa Valley Vinters: http://www.napavintners.com/harvest/