Every year, harvest brings a certain feeling of anticipation to the valley as we pluck a new vintage from the vines. The intoxicating aroma of ripening grapes and crush fills the air. The energy is palpable as the entire valley prepares for the next vintage to be put into the bottle.
To kick off the season many of the wineries will gather for the longstanding tradition of the blessing of the grapes. The Napa Valley community has much to be thankful for with this 2020 harvest, as it reflects the perseverance of mother nature through chaotic times.
This year’s harvest began in early August with sparkling wine varieties leading the way to the presses marking the start of “crush”. Next, most of the white wines made their way from the vineyard to the crush pad. The early ripening reds follow coming in across the valley.
Harvest will continue through late October – sometimes early November – for red varieties, as they take a bit longer to reach full maturation. Cabernet Sauvignon famous in the Napa Valley are later than most other varieties and typically last the longest. Visitors at this time will find the valley resplendent with the changing colors of fall.
One of the most exciting experiences a visitor can have is viewing the activity of a night harvest. The cooler temperatures at night allows the crews a safer and longer time to work in the vineyards. The cooler grapes also result in better concentration of flavors and more consistent sugar levels resulting in a higher quality fermentation.
The conclusion of harvest leads into Cabernet Season, where the wine is finally set to age in barrels or steel tanks – this process can last months to years. This is one of the best times to visit St. Helena. The winemakers are often spotted at the local restaurants and pubs taking a moment to relax and appreciate the fruits of their labor. Cheers to the 2020 Napa Valley vintage! (photo – Charles Krug Wine barrels – photo credit Danniel Mangin)