Winemakers share their thoughts as attention turns to the cellar following a challenge-free growing season that has resulted in another outstanding wine grape harvest
10/27/2016 – St. Helena, CA – From Carneros to Calistoga, Napa Valley’s winemakers are smiling from ear-to-ear over what appears to be yet another great vintage in the making, according to members of the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) nonprofit trade association.
Here are five things every wine lover should know about Napa Valley’s 2016 vintage:
# 1 – This year has the potential to be another outstanding Napa Valley vintage.
Napa Valley wines from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 are coming into the market to accolades and critical acclaim. Is it possible that 2016 will be the fifth great vintage in a row for Napa Valley? “I don’t know what to say other than somebody up there really loves us,” commented Linda Neal, owner of Tierra Roja Vineyards in Oakville.
Kristin Belair, winemaker for Honig Vineyard & Winery, summed up the growing season and harvest this way: “We had cooperative weather and problem-free fermentations which are resulting in intense, balanced wines.”
#2 – Technology and people combined to create high quality wines.
In the winery, more vintners are using optical sorters to ensure only the best grapes become wine. A few machine destemmers are popping up on the crush pad, gently processing grapes faster than before, creating efficiencies that allow vintners to bring in their fruit at the exact moment it’s ready to be picked.
“We brought in new equipment that did a great job of gently destemming all of our reds in a timely manner,” said Melissa Apter, winemaker at Antica Napa Valley – Antinori Family Wine Estate. “We were able to pick as much as we needed to in a day, even more than our past maximum tonnage, and it processed the fruit faster and in a higher quality than ever before. It was the star of the season.”
In the vineyard, evapotranspiration sensors help vintners and growers determine how often and how much to water their vines, information critical to efficient water management. Other vintners are experimenting with drones that can pinpoint vine vigor and identify areas that might need special attention during the growing season.
But, at the end of the day, according to Jon Ruel, CEO of Trefethen Family Vineyards, it’s still the people who make a difference: “It is the men and women of our vineyard and winery teams that deserve the credit for crafting yet another fantastic vintage,” said Ruel. “We still do so much by hand and, when checking fermentations, by nose. And we are not looking to change that any time soon.”
#3 – The grapes may be picked, but the work isn’t over yet.
“The grape harvest is, first and foremost, getting the grapes off the vine and to the winery,” said Dawnine Dyer of Dyer Vineyard. “It is replete with the unique question of ripeness, the status of the vineyard and the urgency of weather. It’s always a relief to have the crop in the winery where we begin the slower, more controlled, process of making the wines.”
Throughout Napa Valley, harvest duties have transitioned from 24-hour days and seven-day weeks in the vineyard to ‘pump-overs, punch-downs and barreling down’ in the cellar, terms that refer to the next phase of the winemaking process. “This is the tough time of year where the excitement of harvest wanes but there is still so much to do,” said Tom Farella, winemaker at Farella Vineyard. “I call it the ‘post-crush blues’ where motivation is difficult but so many details and tasks remain.”
Outside, vintners and growers are planting cover crops, installing straw in the vineyards and cleaning and putting away equipment so it’s ready for next year. According to Alexander Eisele of Volker Eisele Family Estate, “We are seeding cover crops within the rows and adding erosion control seeds in the vineyard roads as well as straw and silt fences; everything we can do to keep our precious soil from washing away.”
#4 – The first wines from this harvest will be on store shelves by early next year.
Aromatic white wines, like Sauvignon Blanc, will be the first Napa Valley wines to be released in early 2017. Rosé wines are typically the next to follow, just in time for spring and early summer sipping. Lighter reds, like Pinot Noir, will start entering the market by late summer and early fall of next year. The region’s renowned Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other red wines that require barrel aging will make their debut beginning in 2018.
#5 – There’s one stop for detailed information about Napa Valley’s 2016 wine grape harvest.
To see photos, videos, reports and social media posts about Napa Valley’s 2016 harvest, visit napavintners.com/harvest
About the Napa Valley Vintners
The Napa Valley Vintners nonprofit trade association has been cultivating excellence since 1944 by inspiring its more than 525 members to consistently produce wines of the highest quality, to provide environmental leadership and to care for the extraordinary place they call home. Learn more at napavintners.com.