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Napa vintners optimistic about 2015

Although harvest yields are well down in Napa Valley after three bumper crops, winemakers there are very optimistic about quality, with one talking of the “potential for some great, structured wines.”

Vineyards in the Napa Valley

California’s prolonged drought has, however, had a major effect on how much fine wine is produced. “The wines are really showing the effect of a fourth year of drought,” Corra’s winemaker, Celia Welch, said.

Unseasonally cold weather in spring led to poor fruit set and small, uneven grape clusters that were between 50% and 90% lower than average in some parcels. But a hot summer, in which there was scant rainfall, helped advance ripening, with most harvesting being completed in Napa by the end of October.

“We started picking a couple of days earlier than in 2014, but four separate heat spikes fuelled a very compact three-week harvest,” Elias Fernandez of Shafer Vineyards said. “Because of the drought, berries were smaller and just packed with flavour and colour. What I’m seeing so far is good quality, dark colour and potential for some great, structured, extracted wines.”

Craig Williams, a consultant for a number of wineries in both the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, revealed that the September heatwave had led to more raisining of grapes and higher sugars, requiring more precise sorting than normal. “What I’ve tasted ex-tank is very good, along the lines of 2014 rather than the powerful ‘13s,” he said.

The high temperatures did, however, caused some uneven ripening, with physiological ripeness of grapes often being reached way ahead of phenolic ripeness.


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