Napa Valley Grape Harvest Season 2014 Underway
The 2014 winegrape harvest, the earliest since 2004, is now underway throughout the Napa Valley according to Napa Valley Grapegrowers (NVG). Harvest will continue into late October, when the last Cabernet Sauvignon grape is picked.
According to NVG, Napa Valley continues to experience drought conditions for the third consecutive year. However, spring rain in February and March came at the right time of the season giving growers the necessary water they needed for a ‘steady as she goes’ growing season and the ‘perfect conditions’ for producing a high quality crop. The warm spring weather resulted in an earlier bud break and with a warm summer the harvest began a week earlier than 2013. The moderate weather conditions and early harvest season eases some water concerns, however, drought conditions over the past few years have prompted many growers to invest in more sophisticated technology, such as soil moisture probes, sap flow sensors, and evapotranspiration monitoring, to determine exactly when and how much to irrigate.
“Keeping up with the vines this year has been a challenge but the grapes look fantastic,” said Jon Ruel, president, Trefethen Family Vineyards and NVG past president. “I definitely prefer an early harvest as it should allow us to get the crop in before the fall rains and we’ll be hoping for a very rainy winter.”
Although the demand for labor peaks during the harvest season, members of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers rely on a highly skilled workforce year round and are able to provide much more stable employment than growers of other crops, like annual vegetables. The focus on best practices have led to an increase in the number of ‘passes’ made throughout the season to prune, sucker, thin, manage canopies and so forth, which all requires careful management. “Over the years, we have increased our vineyard management practices based on a continuous quest to improve quality,” said Paul Goldberg, vineyard manager, Bettinelli Vineyards and NVG board member. “The need for a highly trained workforce is critical, and our farmworkers’ careful eyes on the vines helps us to continue to raise the bar and keep Napa Valley at the forefront of progressive viticultural practices.”
A critical part of the training of Napa Valley’s workforce has stemmed from the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation, which provides educational programs including leadership and management courses, English literacy classes and advanced viticulture training. Using new and innovative technology, such as optical sorters in the field, also helps to increase quality and efficiency. “This sophisticated technology doesn’t replace our valuable workers, but rather enhances their efforts,” said Amy Warnock, viticulturist, Orin Swift Cellars and NVG director. Experienced Napa Valley farmworkers and those with certificates and additional training, offered by NVG’s progressive Farmworker Foundation, can earn as much as $40/hour during the harvest season.
2014 Napa Valley winegrape growing season details:
· July 2014 average high temperature ranged from 80 degrees in Carneros to 92 in Calistoga and Pope Valley – right in the sweet zone for fine wines
· March – June 2014 months were all 3-5 degrees higher than average, getting the vines off to a strong start
· 2014 total rainfall is around 50-60% of normal
· February and March 2014 rainfall was 11-17 inches, falling at exactly the right time of the season to mitigate drought concerns and irrigation needs
Demand for Napa Valley Grapes:
· 2013 harvest value was over $656,234,900
· 2013 average ton of red winegrape varieties valued at $4,404
· 2013 average ton of Cabernet Sauvignon valued at $5,474
· Demand for Napa Valley grapes, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, remains high; all 2014 grapes have been ‘spoken for’
About Napa Valley Grapegrowers
The Napa Valley Grapegrowers is a non-profit trade organization that has played a vital role in strengthening Napa Valley's reputation as a world-class viticultural region for over 39 years. Its mission is to preserve and promote Napa Valley’s world-class vineyards. NVG represents over 690 Napa County grapegrowers and associated businesses. For more information, visit www.napagrowers.org.