Last weekend I did a dawn bike ride through much of Napa’s wine country.  My route took me through parts of Oak Knoll, Stag’s Leap, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St Helena, Howell Mountain and Chiles Valley.    The heat had been on for a day and I fully expected to see the pickers and the hoppers operating at full.  Imagine my surprise to see NO activity on the last Saturday in September.  Harvest was late but all reports said it had started.  In an average year, harvesting from dusk to dawn is often considered preferable.  Not this day.  Once again the week had been cool and the sugars had not developed for harvest.

That day and several to follow saw temperatures in the high 90’s and breaking over 100.  I had a concern that there would be a repeat of the crop damage from August’s heat wave but have since learned it did not happen.  This weekend, while hot, did not have as radical temperature fluctuations which would have increased the problems. 

So what about the fruit?  Universally, the berries and clusters are smaller and most forecasts are anticipating a below average harvest weight.  Typically, a longer hang time benefits the resulting wines’ color and complexity.  This year we clearly don’t have fruit ripening too quickly but with this tricky year and at this early stage, it is too early to judge the results.  Like the growers and winemakers, you and I will have to wait and take this saga one day at a time.


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