Far Niente Harvest Q&A: Oakville Cabernet is in!


Far Niente Harvest Q&A: Oakville Cabernet is in!

The quick harvest pace has finally slowed. Our Napa Valley Chardonnay is completely off the vine and the last of our Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon came in last week, literally one to two days before the first real rains of the season. It’s a thrilling – even heady – time of year for us, and not just because the sweet smell of fermenting fruit winds its way through every floor of our historic stone winery on a daily basis.


Our harvest days began in the vineyard before the sun rose and ended in our Oakville winery well after sunset, but as we brought in the final lots early last week, the pace didn’t feel quite as unforgiving as it did in the earliest days. In fact, Winemaker Nicole Marchesi even managed to look up from the sorting table long enough to answer this super-quick Far Niente Harvest Q&A.

Interview with Napa Valley Winemaker Nicole Marchesi

  1. Our Napa Valley Chardonnay is completely off the vine. What’s happening to it now? The lots are all at various stages of fermentation in barrel. The first few lots are finished and have been “hard bunged.” Scratching your head about what it means to be “hard bunged?” During fermentation, we use special ferm-lock barrel bungs, which are designed to allow CO2 to escape from the barrels. “Hard-bunging” means we’ve simply replaced the ferm-locks with regular barrel bungs.
  2. And most of the Cabernet is still in tank. What are you loving about this vintage so far? The really pure fruit flavors. With our Oakville Cabernet, we’re seeing beautifully balanced color and tannin.
  3. Describe this year’s growing season. A mild January and February transitioned into a much-needed rainy March. Budbreak was early, but only just slightly, and the summer months of July and August were mild and consistent. We saw beautiful ripening weather in August, with late summer heat in September kickstarting our Cabernet harvest. Everything was off the vine by early October!
  4. What is the scariest thing about harvest? There is nothing scarier – yet more exciting – than making vital decisions year after year. When it comes to deciding when to pick a block, when to press off a wine, and which lots belong in which French oak barrels, there are no do-overs! Which means, even those decisions you feel truly confident about can keep you up at night. It’s a bit like the world series or the Olympics – we’ve been getting ready or “training” all season to get to this point.
  5. What is your favorite thing about harvest? That’s easy. Making all those vital decisions. Even though it can be scary, the decision-making is awesome. During harvest, everything I do each day is tangible and hands on. Sampling and tasting in the vineyards just as the sun comes up is the perfect way to start a day. The harvest smells in the winery are wonderful. The team effort to get the work done each day in the cellar incomparable. I cannot express how much I love the camaraderie. If it isn’t evident, I love this time of year!
  6. What does a typical (if there is such a thing) harvest week look like? I usually start in the vineyard around 7:00 am. I check fermentations, check weigh tags, taste lots, plan our pumpovers for the week, forecast our picking days. Each day is really full! We’ve added automation and improved our processing equipment, which allows us work more quickly, safely and efficiently. We’ve experienced so many harvests together now that our crew is like a well-oiled machine! We work hard when we are here, however, most days we all get to be with our families for dinner (although that doesn’t mean we don’t come back afterward!).
  7. How will you celebrate (or recover from?) harvest’s end? We’ll celebrate as a crew, and then, personally, I’ll treat myself to a professional massage and a mani/pedi!
Harvest has come to a close, however, the pressings, pumpovers, tastings, and “rack and returns” will continue for weeks to come. Once all of the post-harvest work has wrapped, our Napa Valley Chardonnay will spend ten to twelve months in barrel before it’s bottled. Our Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon will develop in barrel for another one and a half to two years.

Can’t wait that long to taste our wines? Get the details on our current vintage of Far Niente Estate-Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon here. You can learn more about our Napa Valley Chardonnay here.

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