Napa Valley wineries: Great growing season

Napa Valley wineries: Great growing season

September 5, 2012 7:58:50 PM PDT
Napa Valley grape growers are starting the harvest as they try to beat the rain. The picking is going on day and night in the valley and so far, the weather has been just what the vineyards ordered.

Hang around long enough in a place like the tasting room at the Napa Valley's Plump Jack Winery and it feels as if all the world's connoisseurs pass through. On Wednesday, they found an extra visual bonus -- the first sauvignon grapes from this year's crop. It's a wine maker's delight, with most still on the vines.

"We see seeds starting to turn brown. Skin starting to soften," said John Conover.

Conover manages Plump Jack, Cade, and Odette wineries -- three premium brands that can fetch $90 a bottle or more. Wine brought some $11 billion to the county last year. Based on that number, when local growers hold a State of this Season's grape conference, people listen.

"It's truly a hand-made product. There's aren't many things left in the world that's truly hand-made, hand-pruned, hand-harvested, hand-crushed, hand-fermented," said John Wilkinson from Plump Jack Vineyards.

The winemakers say this year's vintage has been exceptional because of the weather.

"When I think of this summer, it actually felt like summer," said Jon Rule of Trefethen Vineyards.

Grapes like warm days, cool nights, and this year they got them. Wine makers compare the potential of this crop to 2005, maybe 2007... assuming the good weather holds.

"If you have both the right growing season, you can have both quantity and fruit," said Wilkinson. He says we're having "a great growing season."

And to assure more of them, notice bare spots in the vineyards. This has been a year for growers to pull old vines and replace them with new ones. Some vines now sit in rows facing north to south and have more vertical growing canopies. It's a matter of consistency and production.

"It's like a person growing up. You have youth and then you come into maturity, which might be only 15 years of that 25," said Wilkinson.

Figure three years for a white grape vine to mature, five for a red, and next month, for the final verdict on this year's vintage.

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