Napa, CA – October 12, 2016 – The 2016 Napa Valley Winegrape Harvest is officially “in” this week, just as the season’s first storm heads towards Napa Valley. The current forecast calls for up to 3” of rain throughout Napa County, beginning on Thursday, October 13. While many growers hustled to bring any remaining fruit in, three growers sat with Sara Schneider, Wine Editor for Sunset Magazine, at the Napa Valley Harvest Press Conference Wednesday, to discuss the growing season and some of the major issues facing vineyard owners today.
With smiles on their faces, all three speakers confirmed the reports that both the quality and the quantity of this year’s fruit were exceptional.
According to panelist Caleb Mosley, Senior Viticulturist for Michael Wolf Vineyard Services, the relatively even growing season and lack of heat spikes this year contributed to, “Beautifully resolved tannins, in-depth, deep color in all varieties, freshness and acidity in the fruit”, and he noted that he is looking forward to winemakers’ interpretations of the 2016 vintage.
Each growing year presents unique challenges and 2016 was no exception. Speakers all pointed to the availability of labor as a primary concern. A labor shortage has created heightened interest in workforce retention; including higher wages, benefits, and increased training and education.
Michael Silacci, Winemaker at Opus One and Napa Valley Grapegrowers board member, stated that vineyard workers – the people – are the most valuable resource in Napa Valley, and the secret to success for any company. “We invest heavily in education and all of our crews participate in the educational programs put on by the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation. Professional development is important and we are committed to their success”, he said.
After 4 years of drought, water availability and use is front of mind for all vineyard owners. Mosley addressed the importance of smart farming when managing water use, “We are exceptionally fortunate in the Napa Valley, to be framed by 2 mountain ranges that direct water into the valley. That coupled with the fact that we’re growing European winegrape varieties that don’t require an overabundance of water, allows us to design irrigation plans that are sustainable. To grow the finest winegrapes, we irrigate only when we need to and only the amount we need to. Technological advances help us a great deal in finding the right balance”.
And of course, climate is a front-of-mind topic for all growers. Speakers discussed how their companies are adjusting, which included incorporating more drought-tolerant rootstocks, managing water use, and supporting all programs that encourage growers to manage the natural resources on their land. Brittany Pederson, Viticulturist with Silverado Farming Company, added that “Napa is always the first to adopt new technologies that help us monitor those shifts, so that we get it down to farming on a vine-to-vine basis. We are watching the macro trends and managing how we deal with it in the most sustainable way on a local basis.”
2016 Napa Valley Harvest Highlights:
- Vineyards started the season with a full soil moisture profile
- Bud break was earlier than the “average” for Napa Valley by at least 5-10 days
- Adequate and well-timed rainfall in March and April brought Napa to field capacity
- No significant frost issues this year
- As of September 1 the total precipitation in Napa was 24.42” for the water year (Oct-Aug) – this is 89% normal for the water year to date and 88% of the entire water year we have received to date
- Comparatively, in 2015 at this same point in time, the total precipitation was 20.53”, or 3.89” less
- Our biggest rainfall came in Jan with 7.47” and March with 8.36” that month, which helped to sooth drought concerns and mitigate irrigation needs (taken from CNRFC.NOAA.gov)
- With light spring rains and no major heat events, rapid shoot growth was more than consistent throughout the valley in all varieties and led to vigorous growth
Drought and Water Use
- For frost protection, many growers are converting from sprinklers to wind machines and where possible, they integrate cold air drainage as an important feature of their frost protection plan. With over 80% of growers employing these practices, they can dramatically reduce water use on a vineyard from between 30-40%.
- Drones are a developing tool and growers are incorporating them into vineyard surveying, aerial photography, crop protection, and other uses
- Technology is being used in the vineyard to better monitor water availability: sap flow and surface renewal technology, pressure bombs, soil probes, and related innovations
- GIS mapping is becoming a big part of vineyard development and management
Pest Management and Eradication Success – European Grapevine Moth
- A major achievement for the Napa Valley was the announcement that the quarantine restrictions on grapes grown in areas of Napa and several other areas of California were lifted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, who declared in August that this invasive threat to California’s grape industry had been eradicated. This was great cause for celebration among growers!
- Originally from southern Europe, this pest feeds on grape berries, contaminating the fruit and exposing it to Botrytis and other infections
- The EGVM was found for the first time in North America in 2009 in a Napa County Chardonnay vineyard
- By 2013 the quarantine restrictions covered 2,334 square miles in Fresno, Mendocino, Merced, Nevada, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Joaquin, Solano and Sonoma counties. That was reduced to 446 square miles in 2014
- The state mounted an aggressive program to eradicate the EGVM involving NVG growers, researchers and state and federal officials
Caleb Mosley, Senior Viticulturist, Michael Wolf Vineyard Services
Brittany Pederson, Viticulturist, Silverado Farming Company
Michael Silacci, Winemaker, Opus One
About Napa Valley Grapegrowers
The Napa Valley Grapegrowers is a non-profit trade organization that has played a vital role in strengthening Napa Valley’s reputation as a world-class viticultural region for over 41 years. Our mission is to preserve and promote Napa Valley’s world-class vineyards. NVG represents over 690 Napa County grapegrowers and associated businesses. For more information, visit www.napagrowers.org. Follow NVG on Facebook and Twitter.