Start of sparkling wine grape harvest comes 3 weeks late in Napa County

Domaine Chandon in Yountville began harvesting for its sparkling varietals Aug. 24, according to Teresa Hall, spokesperson with Napa Valley Vintners. Mumm Napa in Rutherford followed Aug. 28.|

At a glance

Signs of wine grape harvest are appearing across Napa County.

Grapes being picked now: Pinot noir and others for sparkling varietals, sauvignon blanc

When did it start: About Aug. 24. Domaine Chandon was among the first to harvest sparkling varietals.

Isn’t it late this year? Yes, but many winemakers aren’t complaining as it feels more like “normal conditions” from years ago.

Why the delay? A rainy and wet winter, followed by a cool start to the growing season.

Growers in Napa County have started harvesting sparkling-wine grapes, kicking off the sparkling harvest about three weeks later than in previous years.

But for some, it feels like a return to normal.

Schramsberg Vineyards celebrated the start of the sparkling harvest Aug. 24 with the traditional “Blessing of the Grapes.” Winemakers sabered sparkling wine bottles then poured the wine into bins of the first grapes harvested.

Chandon California in Yountville began its 50th sparkling harvest the same day, according to Teresa Hall, spokesperson with Napa Valley Vintners.

Workers there brought in 9 tons of pinot meunier and 12 tons of pinot noir.

Mumm Napa in Rutherford followed with its pinot noir grapes Aug. 28, as did workers with Piña Vineyard Management in St. Helena, picking sauvignon blanc.

A cold and wet winter, along with a cool start to the growing season, “pushed things back,” said Kurt Niznik, winemaker at Sylvie Estate in Oakville.

Harvesting of other varietals is still a few weeks away, according to many growers. Cabernet sauvignon, for instance, may not be picked for another four weeks, according to Napa Valley Grapegrowers, an advocacy group comprised of wine industry leaders.

“It’s definitely later than the last 10 years or so but feels like we are finally ‘back to normal,’” said Allison Wilson, director of vineyard operations at Cliff Lede Vineyards in Yountville.

“Those of us who remember making wine back in the old days know that picking (cabernet) at Halloween or even in early November used to be a normal thing,” Niznik said.

So far, this year’s quality looks great, Wilson said.

Canopies are full. Veraison — the point at which grapes ripen — has been “nice,” she added, even with no “significant weather events.”

Cliff Lede plans to bring in its first sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes after Labor Day, she said.

At a glance

Signs of wine grape harvest are appearing across Napa County.

Grapes being picked now: Pinot noir and others for sparkling varietals, sauvignon blanc

When did it start: About Aug. 24. Domaine Chandon was among the first to harvest sparkling varietals.

Isn’t it late this year? Yes, but many winemakers aren’t complaining as it feels more like “normal conditions” from years ago.

Why the delay? A rainy and wet winter, followed by a cool start to the growing season.

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