Harvest Time in Napa Valley


November 27, 2009
Words by Autumn Millhouse and Carolyn Steere
Photos courtesy of Ken Swenson

If the setting for your destination wedding includes exchanging vows amidst rows of bountiful vines, a reception in a charming barrel room and superb wines to wow your guests, Napa Valley may be a perfect choice.

When you step inside a winery during the harvest the concentrated smell of crushed grapes are quite intoxicating, without even taking a sip. Workers hustle between the loading area and into the cellar dumping bins of bright purple grape clusters and as the assistant winemaker toured us around it became clear 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 explains that wine grapes, in comparison with another seasonal harvest, require 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.”

Wine-making eyes are often 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. Napa Valley wine may woo your senses; sight, smell and taste and will make it an exceptional location for wine but also for your destination wedding.

Not all vineyards in Napa Valley host weddings, so it is important to do your research, but the stunning views, mild Mediterranean climate, exceptional culinary scene and outstanding wines make this region a perfect location for your romantic destination wedding.

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