2022 Harvest Report

10/12/2022 12:23:51 AM

2022 Harvest Report | By Christian Palmaz

As of Oct 12, 2022, the last day of harvest.

Those who follow our detailed weather charts know they are typically all similarly scaled.  Typically Y1 axis scales temperature 0-100ºF and the Y2 scales rainfall 0-4 inches.  In normal years, these ranges are more than sufficient to contain whatever Mother Nature throws at us.  However in some years, such as 2021’s nearly 8″ of rainfall in one day, a rescale is necessary.  2022 is one of those years.

Before your eyes jump to the sweltering high temperature recorded on Sep 6th, let’s start at the beginning of the season.  Bud break was recorded a tad earlier than 2021 but generally on-time.  Thanks to our typical pre-pruning tactics with the whites, a slightly colder spring weather pattern proved no challenge to our frost protection system until May 10th.  On the evening of May 10th at nearly 9 PM, we started receiving low temperature alerts for the upper elevation vineyards.  Normally, by this time in the year, the frost protection system has been shut down for weeks.

Driving up the mountain that evening I knew something was different.  The normal inversion layer that causes frost in Napa County usually starts with extremely still winds and the clearest skies you’ve ever seen making for a beautiful drive up Mt George.  However, this evening there was solid cloud cover and a steady wind blowing from the West.  Our frost protection system consists of powerful fans that break up the dense below freezing air that descends into the lowest areas of the vineyard.  This evening, the freezing air was not a layer, it was a front and with it came snow.  Within another 4 hours, all I could do was watch 2-4 inches of snow quietly blanket our vineyard.  There was nothing our frost protection could do.

In the morning, we surveyed the damage and determined that nearly half of the Merlot and Chardonnay at 1200′ would be a loss this year.  Fortunately the damage was limited to the 1200′ vineyard area and not 1400′ which somehow was able to stay above freezing.  In my 20 years managing these vineyards, I have only seen snow on Mt George once and never as late as May.  Incredible.

As spring turned to summer, normal patterns returned and mimicked 2021.  As berry set and fruit loading looked great, we had all but forgotten our May anomaly when the forecast for early September began to foretell some unbelievable record breaking highs above 110 ºF.  Or normal deficit irrigation plan of stressing the vines in a controlled fashion was thrown out the window.  Tina and the rest of the viticultural team knew that significantly hydrating the vines ahead of the heat wave would be the only way to preserve vintage quality.

However being Napa Valley, regulatory and environmental considerations preclude the overuse of ground water resources during an already severe drought state.  Fortunately, our water treatment plant, which treats process waste water from the winery, was still holding around 90% of its nearly 2 million gallon reserves from the previous year in our underground storage tunnels, a strategy we’ve developed for just a situation.

The recorded average on September 6th was 112.8ºF, the highest of a sweltering three day period of triple digit temperatures. The team’s irrigation plan nearly exhausted the entire water treatment reserve capacity during the prior 15 days allowing the vines to comfortably survive the record breaking heat with no shrivel detected.  Remarkably, the plan had worked.

A couple weeks later, the flavor profiles returned to normal just in time for harvest to begin.  Mother Nature even reminded us of her grace with a little .6″ rain enough just to wash the dust off the vines.

The 2022 vintage, although requiring a rescale of the graph to fully tell its story, ultimately was excellent and a testament to the perseverance of our team.  Thanks to the winery’s smart resources and innovations such as VIGOR, we have another wonderful vintage to look forward to.