2004 Napa Valley Harvest Report: High Quality, Lower Yield
Vintners Anticipate Outstanding Results Following a Markedly Early Harvest Period
11/1/2004 - St. Helena, CA - Harvest is over in Napa Valley, and winemakers are predicting a memorable vintage for 2004, with fruit that bears the imprint of an early spring, and a slow and steady ripening period that ended with a fast, hot finish several weeks ahead of traditional harvest timelines.
Warm, consistent summer weather was bracketed by an early spring bud break and several late summer hot spells, creating growing conditions that allowed for one of the earliest harvest periods in almost a decade.
"Harvest began about two weeks ahead of schedule and progressed fairly normally until the warm weather trend raised the sugar levels in the fruit, and the pace of harvest," said Napa County Agricultural Commissioner, Dave Whitmer. "Some varieties showed a lower yield than expected, but fruit quality looked very good."
"Spring was early, bud-break was early, flowering was early, and now winter is early too," commented Hugh Davies, general manager and winemaker for Schramsberg Vineyards, "Though the wines are still finishing their fermentations and macerations, their juvenile quality is outstanding, with inky colors, ripe fruit and great intensity. "
Many in the Napa Valley are echoing this sentiment, including Pierre Birebent, winemaker and vineyard manager at Signorello Vineyards who said," 2004 harvest was thee weeks earlier than last year, and t he crop is small -- small but extremely high on the quality side."
So what will Mother Nature's contributions bring to the vintage? Beringer Vineyards' winemaker Laurie Hook weighed in saying," Quality seems to be very high across the board. The flavors we've tasted in the fermenters are great and we're getting very good color and tannin extraction in the reds."
"Although fast and furious, the 2004 vintage brought us grape clusters with small berries and ripe flavors that resulted in wines with incredible concentration and power," added Joel Aiken, vice president and winemaker for Beaulieu Vineyard.
And Aiken and Hook are not alone in predicting a strong vintage for 2004. " It's early yet, but this year may produce the best Pinot made in recent history, and an equally fine chardonnay," said Remi Cohen, winegrower for Bouchaine Vineyards. " Napa has been given a great vintage, now it's just a bit of winemaking magic and lots of excitement and anticipation," added Michael Richmond, general manager and vice president for the same.
And the positive reports appear to spread across all Napa Valley varietals and districts. " The white wines are powerful and aromatic; the reds are concentrated, deeply colored wines with firm acidity and full tannins. It reminds me of our 1999's: wines with beautiful fruit and long-term aging potential," notes Tim Bell, winemaker for Freemark Abbey.
And so, while only time will tell, Napa Valley Vintners agree that the Napa Valley AVA's unique blend of surficial geology, diverse soils, varied microclimates, and complex topography -- in combination with the weather - has once again proved to be an inimitable combination, and 2004 is, by all accounts an exciting vintage, marked by ripeness and intensity.
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