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Friday, November 27, 2009

Developing a Crush - Harvest Time in Napa Valley

Words by Jennifer Stein
Words by Autumn Millhouse
Image by Liza Gershman www.lizawedding.com
As we stepped inside the winery the concentrated smell of crushed grapes made it clear that harvest was here. Workers were walking between the loading area and into the cellar dumping bins of bright purple grape clusters. As the assistant winemaker toured us around to photograph and interview anyone who had a second to answer a few questions, it became clear me that to understand harvest is to understand the heart and soul of Napa Valley.

Napa Valley is known internationally as a leader in socially sustainable agriculture, grape growing heritage and making legendary wines. Granted the shining star is the tiny round purple fruit; the grapes. And Napa Valley grapes are unique and special.

Hank Beal, a wine pro and co-author of Moveable Thirst (John Wiley & Sons, 2007) explains that wine grapes, in comparison with other seasonal harvest, requires torture. Yes, torture. “In simple terms, the more stress a vine is under, the more it will channel its energy into surviving and reproducing, so everything goes to the grape. The result isn’t big, plump grapes, it’s smaller, denser grapes with thick skin and loads of nutrients. That translates to deep flavors and complex wine.”

All wine making eyes are on Napa Valley during harvest as an indicator of what to expect for the next vintage. Including which wines will be hot and how the current yield of grapes will affect the winemakers decisions to blend the wine. Winemaker Remi Cohen of Juliana Vineyards and Merryvale says “We’re very optimistic about the 2009 harvest. The growing season has been nice, mellow and smooth and we anticipate a great harvest here in Napa Valley.”
In agreement with Remi, and many other winemakers I spoke with recently 2009 Napa Valley wine is expected to woo your senses; sight, smell and taste are expected to exceed recent years and will make it an exceptional year.

If 2009 was your wedding year mark your calendar for this particular vintage release and hide away for your five or ten year anniversary. It’s a fabulous way to anticipate and celebrate your marriage!

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