2000 Harvest Report: Growing Season
A Dream Season for Grape Growing
10/4/2000 - The 21st century in the Napa Valley has begun with the virtually picture perfect growing season of the year 2000, according to Andrew Hoxsey, valley grower and owner of the Napa Valley Wine Company. The almost uneventful spring and summer weather pattern, every grower's dream, produced exceptional quality and substantial yields.
A cool, even growing season throughout, except for a three-day heat stretch of unusually high temperatures in June and ominous rain clouds in late August, led to a compact harvesting period, expected to finish mid-October, two to three weeks shorter than in 1999.
Unfettered by the climatic crises that can haunt all farmers, grape growers expressed thankfulness for the unstressful nature of this year's growing season and harvest. Picking for sparkling wine production began "typically" in mid-August with the first fruit coming into Shramsberg Vineyards on August 4.
Unlike some other vintages that have seen major challenges, the 2000 growing season experienced only two real weather issues. The early spring saw trace amounts of rainfall in the vineyards during bloom. Though some shatter was reported, there was no real impact on volume.
Mid-season, June 12-14 brought among the highest recorded temperatures in Napa Valley history, with Calistoga registering 118°F. The average valley-wide was a blistering 113 - 114°F. Though a number of growers experienced measurable heat damage, primarily sun burn, crop size overall remained high. Other predicted heat waves did not materialize, leaving a delightful summer for both humans and maturing grapes.
Weathering the heat wave damage-free seemed to depend predominantly on viticulture strategies. Most losses occurred in vineyards where leaf removal had happened early on and the rows were in a north-south orientation. Where vineyard practices such as getting sufficient water to the vines and cessation of sulfur application were used, losses were minimal or non-existent, according to Hal Huffsmith, Vice President Vineyard Management, Trinchero Family Estates.
Threats of rain and light showers August 30-September 2 caused several sleepless nights for growers, but the return of warm weather the following week allayed fears of crop damage.
The mild, even summer weather allowed for slow, steady ripening, promoting good flavors early in the season. Grassiness dissipated and varietal characteristics intensified ahead of previous vintages. "The color was fabulous in the reds early on," says Hoxsey. "Expect inky red wines from this vintage."
Yields were average on a vineyard basis and some were down after the June heat spike. However, with more post-phylloxera vineyards coming back into production this vintage, the total yields were large.
"Yields were a little higher than in 1999," says Huffsmith. "We're happy to say we found linear ripening in all our vineyards with a straight line moving up. That's an anomaly." Gradual maturing enhanced the development of excellent flavor - acidity balance.
The harvest itself was consistent, compact and evenly spaced, "a paced harvest," says Hoxsey. Most growers expect the last of the grapes into the wineries by October 10, with Howell Mountain and Soda Canyon projected to finish two weeks later.
"In farming, Mother Nature gives us a different set of issues every year," says Hoxsey, "thankfully in 2000, the list was short and manageable and we were able to do our best work in the vineyards. The proof is in the quality of this harvest."