If its September, it must be harvest – Napa actually began harvesting grapes for the sparkling wine houses in July.  One of the earliest harvests in the last fifty years, it’s worth remembering that it began with an early bud-break this warm, very dry spring.  The relatively even summer temperatures have contributed to nicely even ripening, and only the recent heat spells have produced any serious issues of raisining.  The cool, humid spell in mid-spring affected many areas and varietals during bloom and set.  Our Chardonnay here in southern Napa on the valley floor was affected, (we lost about 25% of the crop), but so was Cabernet sauvignon up on the northerly slopes of Howell Mountain.  So, it seems that although there was only one season, there have been different outcomes throughout the valley, from vineyard to vineyard.

The only universal remark I’ve heard is that crop load is smaller than hoped for.  Whether the clusters are shorter, the berries are smaller or shatter prevented production in the first place, fewer tons are available this year.  Fortunately, smaller berries often bode well for intensely flavored wine – the skins are proportionately a bigger part of the fermenting must, lending color, flavor and even fragrance to the new juice.  At BELL, we expected to bring in 40 tons of Syrah and only received 18, but the juice in tank is so deeply purple it looks black.  Our Sauvignon blanc, which arrived today, is beautifully pale blonde, and the cloud of perfume floating above the tank door is intoxicating all by itself.  Our Cabernet sauvignon, still on the vine, is hovering between 20 and 24 degrees brix.  Not quite ready yet, but soon.  Anthony  predicts that within the next three weeks we will be knee deep in Cabernet – the heart of harvest.

We’ll be whirling away for the next couple of months, which reminds me to mention the upcoming event, STOMP.  Our October STOMP party is sold out and promises to be a great time.  What’s the only thing that could make a BBQ, with lively Latin acoustic music and a grape crushing competition any better?  BELL wines being poured, of course, and we look forward to sharing a fun afternoon with BELL aficionados.  In the meantime, we’ll keep our attention on the grapes arriving, making the best wines we can make.  Thank you for all the good wishes we’ve had for harvest – enjoy September!