Heading into 2017, there was growing optimism about a spectacular grape harvest in Napa Valley, one of the world’s most important wine regions. And those hopes appear to have been met, according to the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Napa Valley Vintners associations.
In fact, it now looks as though Napa Valley has received the perfect balance of winter rain and warm summer sunshine for a stellar harvest. Thanks to a string of warmer days in mid- and late-August, grapes are now coming in at a steady pace from several corners of the Napa Valley.
One big reason for early optimism about this year’s grape harvest was the particularly rainy winter that helped to reverse the effects of an earlier drought. Throughout the winter of 2016-17, it rained on a consistent basis, replenishing reservoirs and recharging vineyard ground across Napa Valley. It was a welcome end to the 4-year drought and growers started the year with tremendous optimism.
“We had stable groundwater resources even during the drought, but the high amounts of rainfall this winter ensured that groundwater resources were recharged and aquifers refilled. That’s good for Napa,” said Garrett Buckland, Partner at Premiere Viticultural Services and President of Napa Valley Grapegrowers.
Throughout the spring, Napa Valley growers kept a close eye on growing conditions, especially around mid-March, when they had the first signs that this might be a bumper crop. Once the days grew longer and warmer weather graced the valley by mid-May, vines sprang to life. With ample water and sunny days, vineyard canopies swelled and growers worked long days through June and July managing vine canopies for optimal grape development.
Bloom and fruit set occurred under ideal conditions – no frost, no rain and no blistering winds; just the nurture of warm sunshine. Early summer was warm, with several heat spikes, but the vines weathered them well and everything moved along at a steady pace. It was at this point in the growing season when vineyards benefitted the most from the winter rains, as healthy soil moisture levels acted as a natural heat buffer, allowing for long, well-balanced fruit development.
Harvest started early, with Napa sparkling wine houses bringing in fruit during the first week of August. Some varieties, like pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are just now starting to come in. In the weeks ahead, Napa Valley grapegrowers will start harvesting red varieties: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, malbec and cabernet franc will be ready to be picked.
Harvest is the most exciting time of year and the optimal 2017 growing season has set the stage on which Napa Valley’s wine grapes will deliver a memorable performance. Yield and quality will converge, and growers are looking forward to bringing this year’s fruit to the crushpad.
Meanwhile, at wineries up and down Napa Valley, vintners are gearing up to receive their grapes. Throughout the summer, cellar crews have been bottling recent vintages to make room for the 2017 wine they are about to make. The plan now is for the Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG) to give a complete report on this year’s harvest at the annual Harvest Press Conference, scheduled for September 26.