The beginning of the 2019 growing season was defined by copious rainfall and late soil moisture. The long, warm summer saw very few extreme heat events, with foggy mornings setting the stage for vibrant and expressive wines. The long, relatively mild finish to the season, not without its moments of unpredictability, helped to preserve freshness and finesse in the fruit with abundant hang time teasing out great color, structure and soft tannins. Volume is looking to be about average to a little less than average. All in all, exceptional fruit with bright acidity and ample texture promises an amazing vintage.
February saw abundant rains, followed by lots of filtered light in spring and early summer. Both bud break and flowering occurred a bit late, but under ideal weather conditions, creating plentiful and even fruit set. Summer brought generous sun during the day and cooler marine influences, virtually uninterrupted by major heat spikes.
The relatively mild summer followed by extended fall sunshine and moderate heat created near-ideal conditions for winemakers to allow their fruit to accumulate flavor complexity with gradual increases in sugar levels. Volume is looking great, up 20-30% increase over average crop quantity.
The year began with abundant rainfall, followed by a mild Spring resulting in extended flowering with little shatter. A Labor Day weekend heatwave kicked harvest into high gear, then cool weather allowed sugar levels to return to normal. By October 8 nearly 90 percent of the 2017 grape tonnage was in when warm, fierce winds fueled an unprecedented firestorm.
Napa Valley's winemakers remain committed to upholding the region's reputation for making some of the world's finest wines and early articles about the 2017 vintage describe the wines with words such as "finesse," "great complexity of flavor" and "elegant."
The near-perfect 2016 growing season started early, saw ideal weather conditions throughout and wrapped up as the valley's first significant fall rainstorm arrived on October 14.
Thanks to a relatively steady and mild July and August and then a series of warm days at the end of the growing season, vineyards were able to progress to perfect ripeness. Wines from the 2016 vintage are now quietly developing in cellars throughout Napa Valley and vintners are pinching themselves and smiling for the gift it appears Mother Nature has given them: a fifth consecutive vintage of stellar quality Napa Valley wines.
The 2015 growing season in Napa Valley started out with unseasonably warm temperatures in the late winter and early spring. This resulted in an early bud break and bloom. Colder temperatures in May (during the peak of bloom) caused uneven fruit set which ultimately resulted in much smaller crop in 2015, compared to both average yields and also the three abundant years that preceded it. As a result, winemakers worked hand-in-hand with vineyard crews and also employed new technologies, like optical sorting, to ensure they picked and crushed only the best quality grapes.
The harvest was one of the earliest on record in Napa Valley, beginning on July 22 with the picking of grapes for sparkling wine, and concluding for most all vintners and growers in the valley by mid-October. While ongoing drought was of great concern to farmers around California, Napa Valley received 75% of normal rainfall for the water year, bringing far fewer water concerns for Napa Valley's vintners.
Perhaps the most notable natural occurrence of the year was the devastating Valley Fire that broke out in Lake County to the north in mid-September. Although the fire was tragic for the Lake County residents who lost their lives and their homes, prevailing winds blew the fire's smoke away from Napa Valley. At the time of harvest, there were no reports of smoke taint affecting Napa Valley wines.
In spite of the drought and the South Napa earthquake, vintners are using words like “quality,” “depth of flavor” and “excellent” to describe their expectations for the 2014 vintage in Napa Valley.
Many are also noting “perfect weather,” “abundant crop” and “good fortune” among the blessings they are counting in a season where Mother Nature threw a rockin’ curveball. Harvest started and ended earlier than usual. The first grapes for sparkling wine picked on July 30 and nearly all harvest activity was completed by the third week in October – for many, a full two weeks ahead of the normal harvest schedule.
“Early, even and excellent” are three words being used to describe this year’s growing season and the Napa Valley wine grapes that have come from it, reflecting the consistent quality for which this world famous wine region is known.
A warm, dry spring brought early bud break, helped with canopy vigor and berry size and created ideal conditions for flowering and fruit set under sunny skies. With the exception of one heat spike in late June/early July, temperatures were consistently in the zone for optimal vine activity, resulting in notably healthy vines as fruit went through veraison and started ripening.
"Classic" and "perfect" are just two accolades being bestowed upon the 2012 Napa Valley growing season and harvest. Textbook conditions saw near-ideal spring bud break, steady flowering, even fruit set, and a lengthy stretch of warm days and cool and often foggy nights during the long summer months. Late and light rains held off until Napa Valley's treasured wine grapes found optimal ripeness, bringing exceptional quality to the crush pad and into the cellar.
The abundance of perfectly ripe grapes--with a smooth balance of acids and sugars--provided a broad sweep of opportunities for winemakers to cull only the most select fruit. The vineyards of Napa Valley are intentionally farmed at lower yields bringing only the very best grape to harvest. Growers here, year-in and year-out, bring an average of 4 tons per acre to crush overall, which is consistently half the California state-wide average. This is one of the many reasons that Napa Valley wines are so consistent vintage-to-vintage and acclaimed for their high quality in the bottle. This vintage, while as much as 30% higher than the past two years' smaller crops, is on par with near-normal quantity.
Stay tuned as the fruit, now juice on its careful and intricate way toward wine, develops in the cellar. We can't wait to see how the flavors of the 2012 Napa Valley harvest reveal themselves.