Super-Early 2013 Harvest? Hold those horses….
Ah, it’s that time of year again….when we dust off the picking bins, spiff up the barrels, train the cellar interns how to use the winery barbecue (oh wait, I mean the presses) and generally work ourselves into a lather talking about the impending harvest and whether or not we’ll get Labor Day off. The last couple of weeks in Napa and Sonoma, all the dither seems to be about Harvest 2013 being super early. I’m just not seeing it, folks.
Though a couple of brief heat waves in late spring followed by earlier-than-normal north coast wildfires hinted at a hot, dry (and therefore early) growing season, the recent cool weather has really modulated grapevine ripening. About a month ago gossip at the Napa Farmer’s Market and around town was all about the first picking being three to four weeks earlier than normal state-wide.
Granted, the first grapes for sparkling wine have already been picked in Napa Valley and friends of mine who crush grapes from the hot California interior have started to bring in the very first Pinot Gris and other early-ripening whites. The same sources, however, report that Lodi really hasn’t started to heat up (so to speak) on its picking activity and my bubbly-making buddies in Sonoma admit that they are still taking a relaxed attitude toward scheduling grapes and that the first headline-grabbing (done on purpose one wonders?) photo-op picks were only about a week earlier than normal.
This all tallies with what I’m seeing around Garnet Vineyard’s neck of the woods in the Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Monterey County appellations. Looking at my historical brixes, Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir in Carneros is set to be picked the first week of September and my Sonoma Coast Rodgers Creek Pinot noir, which at its high elevation always ripens a little more slowly, are tracking about 5 days earlier than last year. Since 2012 was a slightly later than average harvest, I’m betting 2013 will track about 5-7 days earlier than average. Not super-early, and just about right.
Yields are mixed, with some areas looking like an average to slightly average-plus crop size, while some areas are looking like weaker-than-average. Sometimes higher tons per acre can delay a ripening date while less crop can ripen earlier, but I’m estimating those effects will be felt in just two to three days on either side, not weeks. In Napa and Sonoma we are looking at a very moderate and seasonal weather pattern for the next 10 days, which means perfect grape-ripening conditions with no heat spikes on the horizon to speed things up.
So I’m still making plans for a relaxing Labor Day weekend. Put a few bottles of bubbly on ice, get out the cooler and fire up that barbecue (the interns can always use more practice, right?). We might even pack up the car, the dog, the kids and head out of town….we just won’t go very far.
Copyright 2013 Alison Crowe