As we approach the peak of harvest activity in Napa Valley, early indications are that 2014 will be another outstanding vintage. Following one of the driest winters in recorded history, California grapevines got off to an early start and ripened under nearly ideal conditions all summer long.
The 2014 vintage officially began in Napa Valley with a Chardonnay harvest on the morning of July 30th. Sparkling wine producers continued their harvest of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes during the first three weeks in August. As we enjoyed warm days and cool nights, early-ripening varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon reached full maturity in mid-August and continued to be harvested into early September.
On August 24th at 3:20 a.m., Napa experienced a 6.0 magnitude earthquake centered just south of town. It was the largest earthquake recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989. Those in the city of Napa were hardest hit with extensive damage to several older buildings. Many wineries close to the city of Napa had various degrees of damage to their structures and wine loss from fallen barrels and broken glass. Fortunately, most wineries in the region are located further up the valley and were only moderately affected by the tremors. Early estimates indicate that the Napa earthquake has caused more than $400 million in property damage.
As the people of Napa recovered from the earthquake, the harvest continued unabated. The weather warmed up in early September, pushing varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to full ripeness. By mid-September, varieties like Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot were ready to go. Warmer areas of the valley also started to see fully-ripe Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
We received our first light rainfall of the season on September 18th. In most areas, there was just enough rain to wash the dust off the grapes and leaves. We are expecting another moderate shower later this week, which will slow the harvest activity for a just a couple of days. Hopefully these early showers are an indication of more winter rains in the months ahead. Our usual Indian summer weather will return to the valley next week and will help push the remaining Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot closer to the finish line.
As the wonderful fruit aromas fill the winery, we couldn’t be more excited about the 2014 vintage. We are very fortunate to live and work in a beautiful wine region that is the hallmark of consistently great wines.