Harvest 2014: It’s quiet out there. Too quiet.
The Scene: A craggy-faced farmer straight out of Central Casting scratches his grizzled beard. A scattering of clouds scuds across the horizon but down on the vineyard floor all is mid-afternoon heat. No birdsong. The leaves barely rustle in the rumored breeze of a Carneros afternoon. “It’s quiet out there. Too quiet.”
Cue the Spaghetti Western “wah-wah-wah” music because though the vineyards have been seemingly taking a siesta, they’re about to open up with all guns blazing. With no frost to worry us this spring and a nice warm growing season with no heat spikes and no rain events (so far), Harvest 2014 is coiled and ready to strike.
Bunches are sizing up, red grapes have just about gone 100% through veraison and the crop size is looking healthy. I don’t expect the giant crop we had in 2013 but it’s not going to be a pipsqueak either. That means wineries (mine included) are scrambling to empty barrels, to create master blends and to bottle when possible in order to clear the decks.
Harvest 2014 will also be earlier than average and perhaps a few days earlier than 2013. Looking at my first Brix (sugar) readings from certain blocks over the weekend, I was surprised to see one block of Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir in Carneros come in at 19.0. In classic Carneros fashion, while Stanly Ranch is indeed cooled by stiff breezes and is moderated by the influence of the San Pablo Bay, it still gets quite a lot of Napa Valley heat. Additionally, Pinot Noir is an earlier-ripening red grape so it’s no surprise that Stanly is my bellwether “harvest indicator” vineyard. Last year I started picking Stanly Pinot for Garnet Vineyards on September 3 and this year it looks like it might start on Labor Day weekend.
Like many winemakers I’ve had my eye on this tropical weather pattern we’ve experienced in Northern California over the last week and am keeping my eyes peeled for mildew potential. So far so good; the canopies have been opened up nicely, enough breeze has been blowing to keep things dry and I like what I’m seeing.
We still have a few weeks. Go ahead, take that last day off before the grapes start flying. Do the farmer’s market, catch up on those last projects around the house. Enjoy the quiet of the vineyards on a summer morning while the 85 F weather sets up those sugars for a runaway gallop to the finish line. Don’t worry about the eerie silence. It’s about to get real loud real quick.
Alison Crowe lives in Napa and makes wine for Garnet Vineyards and other wineries and projects.
Copyright Alison Crowe 2014