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2018 Harvest Begins in Napa and Sonoma

by Kerana Todorov
August 15, 2018
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Workers check freshly picked Pinot Noir at Muir-Hanna Vineyards in the Oak Knoll AVA. The fruit was picked Wednesday for Mumm Napa. Photo by Kerana Todorov

The first gondolas have been hitting the Wine Country roads this week, signaling the start of the 2018 harvest season.

For Mumm Napa, the season started Wednesday morning at Muir-Hanna Vineyards in the Oak Knoll District, where crews picked nearly 35 tons of Pinot Noir.

Mumm Napa’s chief winemaker, Ludovic Dervin was pleased.

“The fruit looks fantastic,” he said, as crews continued to pick about 9 acres of the vineyard. The season, he said, has been “textbook perfect.”

“We had a really beautiful spring and summer when the rest of California was dealing with extreme drought and hot temperatures, the Napa Valley magic worked its way,” Dervin said, noting the cool nights in 50-degree Fahrenheit weather.

The sparkling wine grapes harvest started last year at Muir Hanna Vineyards about a week earlier, said owner Bill Hanna. Two years ago, the fruit for Mumm was harvested July 31, said Hanna, a great-grandson of environmentalist John Muir.

This year, said Hanna, “We’re pretty normal.”

The Hanna family, which owns about 40 acres, supply fruit for still and sparkling wine programs.

Mumm Napa sources grapes from about 1,200 acres in Napa County. The company buys grapes from about 50 growers in Napa County; it also owns a 110-acre estate vineyard which is being replanted, a five-year project.

As he watched a crew finish picking the fruit Wednesday morning, Dervin said the first day of harvest is a “rite of passage” between growers and winemakers.

“Winemaking is like the ultimate slow cooking. You only get to make one meal every year. And this is today,” Dervin said. “Until the grapes are in the press, anything can happen”

By mid-morning, the fruit was hauled to Mumm Napa on the Silverado Trail. Dervin celebrated the start of the harvest by popping open a bottle of Mumm Napa 2014 Grower Series from the Poseidon Vineyards in Carneros.

“In remembrance of those who came before us and in commitment to those who will come after us and in loving memory of our founding winemaker Guy Devaux, here is to a great harvest 2018!” said Dervin before sprinkling the grapes with sparkling wine as about 100 employees watched. “Wishing everybody a safe and happy harvest 2018!” as employees cheered.

The employees then stood in a wide circle to toast the harvest by pooping open 187 milliliter bottles of Mumm Napa Brut Prestige.

Muir-Hanna Vineyards off Orchard Avenue in the Oak Knoll District.

In Sonoma County, the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance on Wednesday marked the first day of the 194th winegrape harvest in Sonoma Valley by ringing bells. A firetruck turned its siren on near Sonoma Plaza and cars and other vehicles honked.

Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards on Wednesday pressed 16.6 tons of Pinot Noir from Kiser Vineyard in Sonoma Carneros, kicking off its harvest season.

“Generally, juice from this vineyard ends up in some of our very best sparkling wines,” said Steven Urberg, director of winemaking.

“Tomorrow, we will bring in a few small blocks from our Home Ranch on our 335-acre Carneros estate. By the end of the week, we will be in the thick of the sparkling harvest and we expect to have the vast majority of our Pinot Noir grapes for our sparkling wines harvested and in tank by the end of this month,” Urberg said.

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A vineyard worker picks Pinot Noir early Wednesday morning at Muir-Hanna Vineyards for Mumm Napa. Harvest has begun in the Napa Valley. Photo by Kerana Todorov
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Michael Hanna weighs freshly picked Pinot Noir at his family ranch. The fruit is for Mumm Napa programs. Photo by Kerana Todorov
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Mumm Napa master winemaker Ludovic Dervin sprays sparkling wine at Mumm Napa on the first fruit to arrive at the winery for pressing to celebrate the start of the 2018 harvest season. Photo by Kerana Todorov

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