The grape harvest in Napa and Sonoma Valley is an exciting time. Winemakers at over 600 wineries are anxious to begin the process of converting their massive grape harvest into the world’s finest varietals and blends. Award-winning wines include the world-famous Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon and Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.
Moreover, from Sonoma Valley comes one of the best Pinot Noir varietals available.
The most popular grape varieties in Napa Valley are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel. In Sonoma, vintners tend to focus on the best Pinot Noir grapes, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Harvest Process
Let’s begin by focusing on the growing and harvest of the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
Many variables affect the end quality of the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon varietal. Winemaker, Joel Aiken of Aiken Wines chooses grapes from the Oakville AVA (American Viticultural Area) for one of his most prominent Cabernet Sauvignon productions. The Oakville location, with its unique microclimate situated on the floor of Napa Valley, assures longer lasting, more concentrated sunlight that creates deeper color in the grapes and refreshing acidity in the flavor. The volcanic soil here also produces smaller grape clusters that result in a more powerful wine.
After the grapes for sparkling wines and white wines have been picked and taken to be crushed during August and September, the harvest of the grapes for the red wine varietals like Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon begins. This process may last until early November to allow the grapes to reach full maturity. The harvest for Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon usually takes longer and continues later than other varieties. These grapes become riper which creates a higher concentration of sugars.
Late harvest grapes like those used in Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon wine are allowed to become riper than the others. As that additional time passes, the grapes begin to dehydrate causing the flavors to become denser. The delay causes them to become sweeter and more concentrated with a higher level of complexity. If the weather holds sufficiently long, the quality of the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon can be outstanding.
Ready to Make Wine
By mid-November, the grapes have been harvested, and noted winemakers like Joel Aiken at Aiken Wines begin their expert decision-making process to determine how the harvest will be converted. How much of each varietal will be produced? How much Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon? What level of quality can be reached with the Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon? Will the Sonoma grape production continue to create the best Pinot Noir?
Wine producing is as much an art as a science. While the science can be learned, it is the art of the winemaker that makes the difference.