What’s Happening with Napa Valley Wines?

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?

What's Happening with Napa Valley Wines (Jennifer Miner)

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.

Most wine grapes in Napa Valley are harvested by hand (Bob McClenahan for Napa Valley Vintners)

Most wine grapes in Napa Valley are harvested by hand

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 picking of 2015 Pinot Noir grapes (Randy Johnson, Napa Valley Vintners) What's happening with Napa Valley wine?

The picking of 2015 Pinot Noir grapes

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.

Grgich Hills Estates 2015 harvest and Grgich family members (Randy Johnson for Napa Valley Vintners)

Grgich Hills Estates 2015 harvest and Grgich family members

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.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes to be weighed at Cakebread Cellars (Randy Johnson, Napa Valley Vintners)

Sauvignon Blanc grapes to be weighed at Cakebread Cellars

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.

What's Happening with Napa Valley WInes?

6 Comments on "What’s Happening with Napa Valley Wines?"

  1. So scary – and glad to know what’s happening out there.

  2. That’s great news! Driving between north and southern California, I’ve been seeing the devastated farmlands. Truly sad to see those dried out fields, so it’s especially heartening to hear that the drought has had a positive impact on grape production. I look forward to sampling the wines when they’re ready.

  3. Very interesting update. I should have realized that the drought and wildfires would have affected Napa, but I didn’t think about it until now!

  4. I went through Napa Valley earlier in the year and was really surprised to learn this, I had assumed the drought would be bad news for everyone! Though hey, I’ll absolutely opt for drinking wine if it means saving water 😀

  5. Thanks for sharing the silver lining of California’s drought- great Napa Valley wine!

  6. Good Napa Valley Cabernet wine has shrunk considerably over four decades. Best to look elsewhere. Terrible value.

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