Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hold on to Your Wallets: 2007 Napa Harvest Report

There is growing excitement in Napa Valley these days over the dry, cool summer conditions. This combination is the perfect weather for a blockbuster vintage, and already folks are touting this as possibly the best vintage in the last century, as Alan Goldfarb reported in a recent article on Appellation America. (picture of ripening pinot noir grapes in Carneros by Greg Hess for the Napa Valley Register)

Believe it or not, the first grapes of the 2007 Napa Valley harvest were picked two days ago at Mumm Vineyards. Grapes throughout the valley are taking on color (known as veraison) and ripening evenly and slowly. This should lead to wines that are balanced and high in tannins--in other words, wines that should age exceptionally well. Unfortunately for bargain hunters, this year's crop will probably be smaller than last year's by about 10%, which should keep cabernet prices in the upper price brackets. And if the harvest is this good, the demand for the 2007 wines will be steep.

The last time I bought Napa cabernets in a systematic way was in 1997--a long time ago, now, but it was a vintage that was also heralded as a classic. I still compare cabernets I drink today to the increasingly hazy memories I have of those made from grapes harvested in 1997. I can't remember a single maker, I just remember that every 1997 cabernet I tasted was better than the last. If you are a cabernet lover, I'd start praying to the Wine Gods for the weather to hold, and start saving up your money now, too. Get on a few allocation lists if you can afford it, and wait for the madness to begin in a few years time.

5 comments:

David McDuff said...

No offense to you, Dr. Debs, as I enjoy reading your blog and know you're acting, in this case, as an objective reporter. However, proclamations like this "vintage of the century" nonsense, issued a month or longer before harvest has even begun in most cases, are geared toward attention mongering and price escalation. It's bad enough when Bordeaux and Burgundy prices are driven through the roof based on barrel tastings by a few prominent critics; it's worse when sweeping generalizations are made by industry insiders before fruit's even been plucked from the vine. Let's wait and see what nature brings, shall we.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent....

cheers,
David

Dr. Debs said...

I agree, David, that these advance proclamations are largely to get attention. I also think that it helps consumers to know, before the wine hits the shelves, that hype may be playing a role in the prices they are being asked to pay for wine. In this case there seems to be early evidence of a very good year. But there's a lot of time between now and when most will be picking. Weather is not always predictable. We will have to wait and see if it pans out.

And no offense taken!

el jefe said...

Yeah, let's not count our chickens, er, grapes before they are plucked... fortunately there are scads and oodles of alternatives to paying "vintage of the century" prices from Napa...

Orion Slayer said...

This will be my first harvest as a wine lover! I started learning about wines in earnest last November. (I drive by some grapevines as I take my son to football practice and naively look at them expecting to see grapes from the road side, quickly looking back at the road, of course.) The picture of the Pinot Noir grapes is beautiful, I love the shade of green of the leaves. It would be cool to participate in a harvest at a local vineyard, just to be part of it all!

Dr. Debs said...

El Jefe, you are right. And I look forward to doing just that--and to pointing out that the hype for 2007s began way back in August before grapes were picked. And Orion Slayer, I think it's all hands on deck at most vineyards during the fall harvest. You should ask around and see if someone is taking on help. I hear its tiring, but a lot of fun!