Sauvignon Blanc harvest in Napa Valley is only days away! Winemaker Joel Aiken takes us into the vineyards to tell us how he knows when it’s time to make the call to pull in the grapes.
Our Sauvignon Blanc harvest is only days away and Joel is checking the grapes daily for flavor development. Hear what he’s looking for, and how he knows when it’s time to make the call to pull the grapes in for crush:
Verasion in the vineyards is well underway! Verasion is the process of grapes ripening and sugar levels rising and from this shot taken in the Morisoli Vineyard on Saturday, you can see that the cluster is almost completely colored up. The photo shows an example of what is a typical cluster for this year, large and healthy-looking. Note that even though the cluster is fairly large, there is still plenty of space between the berries for air movement and for filtered sunlight to get in which helps color development. According to Joel, it looks like this season is about two weeks ahead of last year at this point, and the weather forecast is for continued warm and sunny days. Stay tuned for more harvest updates here as we head towards Harvest 2012!
There’s lots of encouraging talk in the valley about how this year’s vintage is shaping up. We caught Joel in the vineyards last week and asked him what he thought about the progress of Vintage 2012, and here’s what he had to say:
I know, I should have my wrist slapped for writing a title like that in June, with the entire summer growing season and the fall harvest still ahead of us. It’s just that, after two consecutive vintages of unpredictable weather, everyone around Napa Valley is looking for a perfectly predictable season, something that we sometimes take for granted growing grapes here in California compared to, say, France.
With an assortment of odd weather phenomena during 2010 and 2011, from June rains to cool summers to early fall rains (all interspersed by periods of our typical beautiful warm weather) those vintages truly tested the mettle of winemakers here in the valley. Those with experience were successful when making the gut calls on when to pull in the grapes and when to let them hang to further ripening. We felt fortunate in 2010 and 2011 to have a winemaker with 27 consecutive harvests in Napa Valley under his belt, but let’s just say Joel had a bit more hair in 2009.
If grape growers and winemakers are ready for a good harvest, it seems that the vines are in agreement. One look at the clusters on the vines today, and you can see something noticeably different from the years past: huge clusters point towards yields significantly greater than those of recent years. Having produced low yields for several successive vintages, the vines have extra energy stored and look like they want to use it.
So far, Mother Nature is cooperating for Vintage 2012. We started off with a dry winter, but thanks to several drenching rainstorms in March and April, the vines got a deep soak and reservoirs are full. The summer growing season is progressing as it should, with sunny skies and warm but not hot weather (a primary indicator of this year’s normalcy is that Auction Napa Valley, held the first week of June, was warm and sunny, not wet and muddy like 2011).
Sometimes “typical” and “predictable” are welcome terms. Here’s to 2012, and the hopes that it goes down in the books as one boring year. So far, so good.