You’d have to be living under a rock — a very, very dry rock — to be unaware of the severe drought plaguing California this year. Amid local city councils urging homeowners to water their lawns less and big agriculture companies looking into using “grey water” for crops, Beverly Hills getting fined for using too much water and San Diego investing in desalinization plants, Californians are really taking this drought seriously. Hopefully, the coming El Nino rains will provide a respite. In the meantime, some of us are asking the really important question: what’s happening with Napa Valley wines?
Well, guess what, folks — while the drought is bad for just about everyone and everything in California, an exception is our grapes. The best wines come from grapevines that suffer, so to speak. Grapevines that are coddled and nurtured don’t produce as much sugar as stressed out grapevines (funny; I seem to ABSORB more sugar when I’m stressed out). Napa Valley vintners are very excited about the high quality of the 2015 wine vintage. The year prior had record-setting grape harvests in terms of quantity, but this past year’s harvests will be known for their quality.
The end of 2015 was also marked by a huge, rampaging wildfire — remember the Valley Fire? — but fortunately for Napa Valley and Sonoma, those prime wine growing regions were unscathed. As of now, the nonprofit trade association of wine makers called the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) say that there are is no “smoke taint” affecting 2015 Napa Valley wines.
The Valley Fire did dehydrate the air even more, which combined with the drought to really stress out those grapes. What’s happening with Napa Valley wines? The Napa Valley Vintners agree that while it’s too early to tell, the 2015 vintage should be marked by the resulting rich, deep flavors of maltreated grapes. There was an early harvest this past year, in fact, it was one of the earliest harvest times on record. Only best highest quality grapes are destined to become wine in Napa Valley and Sonoma, after all.
The first bottles from the 2015 vintage to be available will be new whites, such as the aromatic Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. They should hit shelves (and winery tasting rooms, for those of us lucky enough to spend a weekend in Napa Valley) in spring 2016. The reds usually need a bit more time to age; most Napa Valley red wines will become available in 2017 and thereafter.
Sure, this past summer and fall have been exceptionally tough for California, rain-wise. One true silver lining is the effect on California wines. While the quantity will be lower than in previous years, the quality will be better than ever. Anyone wanting to drown their sorrows in a fantastic glass of wine — or, hopefully, celebrate the rains that El Nino will bring — can rest assured that Napa Valley wines will be up to the task.
An in-depth recap of the 2015 harvest, what’s happening with Napa Valley wines, and many other details about the Napa Valley wine growing region can be found at Napa Vintners, which is the website for the nonprofit trade association.