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Thursday, October 24, 2013, 6:54 pm

Napa County winegrape harvest ‘early, even, excellent’

2013 harvest: ‘No stress, all blessed’

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    ST. HELENA — The 2013 winegrape harvest in Napa County is anticipated to be mostly complete by the end of October, according to trade group Napa Valley Vintners.

    Last grapes for Rombauer arrive at the winery on Oct. 22.

    Vintners and growers described the growing season as “early, even and excellent,” according to the St. Helena-based trade association.

    “In a nutshell, this vintage has given us the extraordinary gift of enabling us to pick exactly what we wanted, when we wanted, at perfect ripeness and ideal hang time,” noted Paul Colantuoni, winemaker at Rocca Family Vineyards.

    A warm, dry spring brought early “bud break,” when vines start showing visible signs of growth after winter. That helped with “canopy vigor” and berry size and created ideal conditions for flowering and fruit set under sunny skies, according to the trade group.

    A late June, early July heat spike as an anomaly for what was otherwise a season dominated by temperatures that were consistently in the range considered optimal for vine activity, according to Napa Valley Vintners. That resulted in notably healthy vines as the fruit went through veraison — when grape berries change color — and started ripening.

    Harvest highlights

    The Aug. 1 start of the harvest for table wines in Napa Valley was the earliest in recent history, according to the association. White wine grapes came in at a “furious” pace throughout that month, followed by lighter-color red grapes by early September.

    Two brief mid-September rains had virtually no impact on the grapes, the trade group said. The vast majority of the more delicate-skinned grapes had already been harvested, and sunny weather with breezes after the rains quickly dried the remaining grapes on the vine — thicker-skinned cabernet sauvignon.

    The cooler, sunny weather throughout October allowed the final grapes still on the vine to linger longer, developing more phenolic and flavor maturities with sugar levels remaining steady.

    As this harvest comes to a close, it is about two weeks earlier than other Napa Valley harvests in the last decade. Yields on the whole have been above average.

    Winemakers from around the valley agree the 2013 vintage holds exceptional promise and potential and exceeded expectations following on the heels of 2012 — another year that has been described as “nearly perfect.” The following are reports from association members from the American Viticultural Areas of Napa County.

    Harvest reports from around Napa County

    Calistoga

    Fully flavored and richly textured yet well balanced whites and powerfully concentrated reds seem to be the rule this year from Calistoga and throughout the Napa valley as a whole. I thought it would be difficult to surpass the 2012 vintage over the course of the next few years, but I was happily mistaken- two great vintages in a row like 1990–1991, 1994–1995 and 2001–2002. —Richard Sowalsky, Clos Pegase

    Yountville

    We couldn’t be more thrilled with the quality with the quality we’re seeing so far — thorough ripeness, profound aromatics, explosive flavors and tons of color and gorgeously resolved tannins. We’ve already had multiple growers compare 2012 and 2013 to 2001 and 2002: back to back spectacular vintages, with different but equally compelling personalities. —Paul Colantuoni, Rocca Family Vineyards

    Stags Leap District

    I never thought I would use the words “relaxed” and “harvest” in the same sentence, but I think that will be my memory of 2013. With the span of our cabernet sauvignon harvest almost double the usual amount of time we have to harvest cab, we had lots of time to experiment with our optical sorter, try different soaking methods, and were truly able to spend lots of time with each tank. —Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery

    Oakville

    We had the feeling we were in rush hour traffic this vintage in the sleepy little village of Oakville. We started and stopped on three occasions due to weather … a heat spell in early September and later it rained on two occasions. ASt.fter a weather event, it is important to be patient and to wait for the grapes to rebalance. Although we received “normal” rainfall this year, most of it fell in November and December of 2012. Soil temperatures, average air temperatures, and solar radiation were higher than normal in spring. This was a season of quantity and quality. The balance between the two Q’s is reflected in the wines of 2013. Aromas and flavors are complex, and the wine has good concentration and freshness. —Michael Silacci, Opus One

    Rutherford

    What a fantastic vintage it has been. Our mid-August start was fast and furious with the larger than normal sauvignon blanc crop. Having some extra fruit on the vines this season was a plus as it allowed the flavors to develop without sugars skyrocketing. The mid-September rains gave us a chance to catch our breath and settle the dust. Fall has been beautiful in Napa Valley. Nice warm days and cool nights have given the cabernets a chance to ease into full maturity and us a chance to finish at an unhurried pace. The crop seems to be about average or slightly less in size. This vintage could be epic! —Kristin Belair, Honig Vineyard & Winery

    St. Helena

    2013 was an early harvest with a luxurious amount of hang time giving the grapes plenty of time to develop big rich color and flavor. The harvest itself was like a big rolling sea: waves of fruit perfectly synched to the completion of prior fermentation before the next waves of grapes rolled in. My final our words about this harvest: no stress, all blessed. —Pam Crocker, Crocker & Starr Wines

    Spring Mountain

    Harvest kicked off about two weeks earlier than normal. Throughout various vineyards, ripeness was very consistent, leading to a very compressed and quick harvest season – 2013 was about three weeks of intense work. Overall, flavors and aromas are very impressive with deep, intense color on all the bordelaise varietals. Complex aromas and supple flavors are already developing in these young wines. Yields were about 15 percent below normal on cabernet sauvignon, average on merlot, and a little above average on chardonnay, malbec, and cabernet franc. —Andy Schweiger, Schweiger Vineyards

    Howell Mountain

    Like everyone we started the season on the earlier side of average, and had no “pauses” from that point forward. A dry spring season kept our berry size smaller than usual so I think the 2013 vintage will have significant structure. The Zinfandel produced a crop 45% above average and in 34 years I have never seen the Zinfandel ripen so evenly. —Mike Lamborn, Lamborn Family Vineyards

    Chiles Valley

    When you read this, the harvest is all but over. It is the earliest finish in years. We are at least two weeks ahead of normal. This concludes a year that was in many ways easy and did not present any real problems, yet the year was overshadowed and heavily influenced by the driest weather in 114 years. Ultimately this is the real explanation for the lower yields than last year’s. However, all the quality parameters pointed to excellence and if one wants to venture a guess it will turn out to be a very good vintage. —Alexander Eisele, Volker Eisele Family Estate

    Los Carneros

    Mother Nature was again very generous to Napa Valley in 2013. Both the yields and quality exceeded expectations. With a dry spring and summer and a bit warmer temperatures, everything ripened very quickly making it a very fast and compacted harvest. We are about 85% finished and will be done this week or shortly thereafter with our Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Thankfully we have had a relatively dry and warm October. Yields were higher than expected across the board. All the grapes looked very clean, healthy and free from disease. —Anthony Truchard, Truchard Vineyards

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