As you know, an earthquake hit an area of Napa called American Canyon early Sunday morning. As luck would have it, that is where we, and many others, store and make our wine.
We have received lots of calls, texts and posts with concern and good wishes. Our homes may be broken, but our families and friends are safe and we are cleaning up with good cheer.
While our wine in bottle survived, sadly 1/3 of our Howell Mountain blend in barrel is lost, as well as a number of other empty barrels waiting for the 2014 vintage. This is quite a financial hit, as most small wineries cannot afford earthquake insurance.
Some have been asking what they can do to help the region, and the best thing we can suggest is to buy Napa wine, especially from small producers who took the largest hit.
It goes without saying we appreciate your concern; this event reminds us to take stock in how lucky we are to have such great friends.
We’ll dust off and move forward to 2014’s vintage, which should be a good one.
Right now we have just about finished veraison, or the turning of the grapes from green to red that signals the start of onset of ripening. This is a significant development milestone for grapes as it indicates how the flavors and sugars are developing and when harvest might begin. We are early with veraison this year, which makes sense because we had the earliest bud break since the mid-90’s this spring. This also means we’ll have an early harvest.
For all of you who have read articles or posts on “hang time” and are thinking an early harvest might adversely affect wine quality; think again. Early harvests are historically better vintage years. And, in truth, it takes roughly the same amount of time for a vine to go from bud to mature fruit every year – it just varies how early or late in the season it starts and finishes. In years when the season starts late so harvest is pushed into October, there is the risk of rains, disease such as leaf curl, and cold weather setting in. All these factors hurt the wine quality. Thus, when we can pick mature fruit while the sun is warm and the weather dry, we have better quality fruit.
Many have been asking me if the drought is affecting the vineyards. Unlike our friends in central and Southern California, Northern California vineyards are doing just fine. We had two big storms this spring that filled our reservoirs and we’re seeing average yields this vintage.
For the second half of the year we will be focusing on canopy management. This is a process where we remove shoot laterals (the vines that strike outward) to allow gentle dappled, sunlight to reach the ripening grapes. We don’t want too much sunlight or they will raisin, but too little sunlight won’t promote ripening. We will also likely do a pass and drop some fruit in congested clusters to keep airflow and sunlight all around the clusters. These adjustments will help us get the best quality fruit leading into harvest.
Overall, we’re looking at a fantastic year in the vineyard.