Napa County Releases 2005 Grape Crop Report
4/25/2006 - The Napa County Crop report detailing the grape harvest was released on April 25, 2006 with some items worth noting. 2005 is generally regarded by the vintner community as one of the most spectacular growing seasons in memory with grape quality soaring to new heights.
The season began with later than average bloom and set due to late season rains lasting into June. The vines tried to set a larger than average crop based on leaner crop set the previous year, which is a natural function of the grape vine. Napa Valley growers thinned the crop to traditional levels early in the season, often as low as one cluster per shoot, down from the 3-4 clusters per shoot the vines were attempting to set in many Cabernet Sauvignon blocks. In some areas, thin-skinned white varieties experienced additional thinning early in the season as they were tainted with mildew due to the late wet weather. County-wide, crop thinning was employed again in the early stages of veraison so as to provide optimal conditions for grape cluster ripening. George Buonaccorsi, VP of vineyards and grower relations for Beringer Vineyards said; "The industry's standard estimation practices say to take a cluster weight at veraison, and that estimate was completely off because there was no heat or water stress during the summer to limit berry size, so the majority of the weight came late in the season. Also the two previous low crop years set the vines up to have lots of stored energy to give it to the crop this year."
The growing season continued with moderate temperatures, no heat spikes and finishing with a later than average Indian Summer where warm days brought sugars to perfection. "It is so unusual to have a late season give conditions that are so ideal for quality," said Dirk Hampton, director of winemaking at Nickel & Nickel. Without heat spikes there was no raising effect, or drying of berries on the vine. Extended hang time was the rule, with Cabernet harvest lasting more than forty days. Without the drying effect of excessive heat or wind, the weight of the individual clusters was significantly higher and surprised many growers going into harvest. Shari Staglin, owner of Staglin Family Vineyards, said; "Every so often Mother Nature gives us a reward."
The outcome for harvest 2005 was a record-breaking tonnage all over Napa Valley, in particular in Cabernet Sauvignon where the yield was up nearly 37% over 2004. Growers agree that cluster weight, was the most significant factor for the increase. Jon Ruel, Trefethen Vineyard's director of viticulture noted; "The vintage of 2005 will be remembered for the combination of the high quality and the high quantity of grapes. Winemakers and growers were reminded that the interaction of soil, climate and vines is complex and that the outcome is not always easy to predict. If the story were that simple, winegrowing would be a lot less interesting and I'd probably be out of a job."
Even at this increase, the Cabernet Sauvignon crush represents only 12.5% of the total crush statewide. County-wide there has been a significant increase in bearing acres of Cabernet grapes over the past ten years and attributed that to a conscious plan by growers and vintners to fulfill the demand by consumers for Napa Valley red wines. The Chardonnay crop was in line with the ten year average.
Now in our seventh decade, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) trade association is the sole organization responsible for promoting and protecting the Napa Valley Appellation as a winegrowing region second to none in the world. Respect for our history reinforces our commitment to the preservation and enhancement of the Valley's land, wine, and community for future generations. We address the shared interests of our more than 270 members and aspire to be the essential organization for all Napa Valley vintners.
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