The Late Harvest Waiting Game


The Late Harvest Waiting Game

By Winemaker Greg Allen

The last of Far Niente'sOakville Cabernet came off the vine on October 1. Nickel & Nickelbrought in their final Napa Valley Cabernet on October 21. Bella Union and EnRoute are finished. Everybody is ready to celebrate the end of harvest. Except me!

We are just crossing the threshold into the interim following the dry wine harvest and the onset of Dolce’s harvest. This is a remarkably challenging time, as it is every year, because its duration and outcome is unclear. The Napa Valley growing season is essentially over with. Soon the leaves will fall, leaving Dolce’s clusters of Semillon hanging unprotected.

The impressions of the dry wine vintage indicate that yields will be lower than average but that the flavors will be delicious. The positive spin on yield is that when the time comes to harvest Dolce it won’t take as long as it normally does – while most vineyards are picked in a day or two, we typically plan for twelve or more days of harvest over the course of six weeks in order to perform the tedious single-berry selection required for our late harvest wine – because this year, there’s less fruit to sort through!

That’s good news if there’s a lot of rain in store for us this fall, and I hope that there is. Of course, I’m delighted with the flavors, however, there’s no obvious sign that the requisite Botrytis growth has begun. So, we wait. And as we wait, we work to mitigate the voracious appetite of yellow jackets. I think the deer and turkeys are taking a few bites, too. My kids certainly are.

To keep myself from pacing a hole into the winery’s historic wood floors, I’m reading three books at the moment: 44 Scotland Street, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, and The Boys in the Boat. All are interesting, but I’m particularly fascinated by The Nine and the fun and weird characters and serial nature (i.e., short chapters) of 44 Scotland Street. For fun, I’m teaching myself how to play "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" on the tenor ukulele. What can I say, waiting – especially when nearly everyone in Napa Valley has already wrapped up their harvests – isn’t easy!

Read more about the artistry of late harvest winemaking, here.

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