Exactly one year ago we were just finishing our harvest when the fires broke out in Napa and Sonoma counties. It was a crazy time to be in the valley but after a relatively short period of time we have all but completely bounced back and you have to look pretty hard to see evidence of that scary time. The most interesting thing about this anniversary is the difference between the vintage in 2017 and 2018. Instead of almost being finished with harvest at this time last year, for 2018 we are just getting started (with Cabernet anyway).
October 10th was the first pick on Cabernet Sauvignon compared to last year’s first Cabernet Sauvignon pick on September 9th. One full month behind!
What is behind this late harvest timing? Mild weather (the winemaker’s favorite kind of weather) takes credit. As I have noted before, most years in Napa have some periods of really hot temperatures which accelerate the ripening of the grapes. With a year like 2018 there were no significant heat events which means a more natural and slow accumulation of flavors in the grapes. Generally, the longer the growing season the better the grapes. In some mild years like 2011 we had a similar temperature pattern but we had a lot of late season rain.
This year’s forecast shows sun and no rain in sight through October which puts us in about the best winegrape growing position possible. I’m looking forward to these wines!
That time of year again. After a few weeks of denial, I realized that harvest is starting once again! It seems like a hardship because of the amount of time that it requires but it really is the most exciting few months of the year.
As a winemaker, we always seem to be telling people that the season is lining up to be the "vintage of the century". Most of the time we are exaggerating and doing our best to react to what mother nature is throwing at us (heat, cold, rain, hail, fires, flood etc.). This 2018 harvest is different, at least so far. The mild weather caused by a cold trough from Canada/Alaska has been remarkable. The usual August and September 95+ degree days have been replaced by 75-80 degree perfection. This is giving us a greatly expanded ripening window which is developing great flavors in the grapes and will let us slowly and carefully get those ripe characters without the drying out that excessive heat causes. This great weather along with all the amazing changes at Clos Du Val (Hirondelle House!) this time I "know" it’s going to be a great vintage!