Napa Valley winegrape harvest begins

The 2011 winegrape harvest finally is getting under way in Napa County, as sparkling wine producers start crushing a crop is later and appears to be lighter than normal and even last year's weather-wearied vintage.

Mumm Napa on Monday began crushing what little fruit comes outside the county -- pinot gris and some chardonnay from Solano County -- and plans to receive the first 80 tons of Napa Valley pinot noir grapes this coming Monday, according to winemaker Ludovic Dervin.

"That's a pretty big start," he said. Big but late for the Rutherford winery, about five days later than last year's already-late crush date.

Mr. Dervin is projecting Chandon's crop this year to be 4,200 tons, which would be light for the winery. Because of having Napa in the brand name, the winery is limited legally and marketing-wise in making up for seasonal shortfalls.

"I'd be happy to reach 85 percent of that," Mr. Dervin said. "It would be a tough time for us not to meet our targets. The brand is healthy and we need to meet sales expectations. The sparkling wine category is doing very well right now."

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