As winemaking activity in the Napa Valley transitions from the vineyard to the cellar, we asked our vintners to respond to frequently asked questions about this year’s harvest.
When did harvest begin?
The first sparkling wine grapes were picked on July 30; however, for most vintners and growers, harvest didn’t really kick into high gear until the third week in August. (Earlier than normal, Aug. 4 at Gloria Ferrer)
How many grapes were picked?
Has the drought impacted this year’s harvest?
Quality was not affected. Perfectly timed, heavy rains came just prior to bud break, and a warm spring allowed vintners to save water that would have been used for frost protection. (They always put a positive spin on it no matter what the conditions)
What about the August 24 earthquake?
The earthquake did not affect the grapevines or the fruit, and even the most significantly damaged wineries were still able to proceed with “harvest as usual” in spite of the quake.
How are vintners and growers summarizing the 2014 Napa Valley harvest?
Early, excellent, quality, demanding but fruitful, and another great year are just some of the words and phrases we are hearing.
(I love Napa, but really, their wines are a little pricey. Look elsewhere for bargains)
In honor of my last visit to the famous K&L Champagne Tent Party in the City today, here is one of the first articles I wrote about my favorite adult beverage:
Napoleon came up with, “I drink champagne when I win, to celebrate…and I drink champagne when I lose, to control myself.” Not to be outdone, Churchill said, “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”
However, the technology of champagne languished in the 19th century. Creating bubbles during the second fermentation was not very sophisticated or reliable. The hero turned out to be a French pharmacist (naturally), who discovered a method to determine the level of carbon dioxide produced in the wine by measuring the residual sugar, thus improving consistency. Production and sales increased exponentially. This process, called the Methode Champenoise was born and champagne production grew from 300,000 bottles per year to 20 million bottles in 1850.
But all was not smooth for this nectar of the gods. Champagne encountered many historic and economic challenges. Both World Wars, as well as the Great Depression cut champagne production and sales world-wide. But since the 1950s, champagne has grown like wildfire. Champagne was featured in Hollywood films, and often photographed in the hands of the world’s most glamorous stars. Charles Dickens said “Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life.” I must disagree with Chuck, and say that champagne and sparkling wine are absolute necessities in life!
PS: This was the first of several installments about Champagne.