April in Napa finds the valley well past bud break, with elongating shoots and broad leaves in most white grapes and Pinot Noir vineyard blocks, while the first small basal leaves are taking shape in the later-ripening red varietal blocks. A dry winter left many worrying that 2018 would be another drought year, but two well-timed storms in March helped fill irrigation ponds and assuage fears. These were followed by about two weeks of constant overnight frost danger, a pressure which has continued intermittently even through mid-April. Waking up to the sound of frost fans has been commonplace in 2018!
The theme for the 2018 harvest might very well be “Redemption”. After the dramatic twists and turns thrown our way by Mother Nature in 2017, 2018 brought us no such drama. Summer was appropriately warm, and though our friends to the north in Lake County battled some wildfires, they mercifully stayed out of Napa County.
As the white varietals began to ripen, the pattern stayed on track but with a delay of 2-3 weeks than when the grapes are typically harvested. A quick round of rain in late September washed the dust off the red varietals still hanging, and blew in a series of warm, dry days that winemakers and growers dream about during the late stages of harvest. They then hung lazily under the warm October sun, ticking their way to ripeness with no real schedule.
The rain staved off well into November, allowing wineries to harvest their vineyards at the peak of ripeness that will show most certainly show itself in the finish product. In the cellar, the young wines are already showing a purity of expressive fruit and a lovely early resolution in tannin structure that I believe will become a hallmark of the 2018 vintage!