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  • Theresa Downs

Wine Life Cycle



Winter


The Vines are Dormant

The vines in Napa Valley have gone to sleep for the winter, they have been cut back for next year’s growth, and the ground prepared for the rains, snow, and removal of dead or dying vines.

This is a perfect time to visit for no crowds, personal attention, hard to get reservations, off-season pricing, and the quiet time of rain, cool weather, fireplaces, good food and incredible Napa wines with friends, someone you love or by yourself.



Spring

The Mustard Grass Appears

In Napa Valley winter is different then in most parts of the country. Most of the year is dry and the winter is when is rains. With the rains arriving the local grasses come out of their hot and dry dormancy from the summer and start to grow again. Grasses that have been brown and dry all summer and fall turn green and soft much to the delight of the local dairy cows and artisan cheese makers who start making fresh seasonal cheeses.


A beautiful site is the brown rolling hills turning green in the rain and you could easily imagine yourself somewhere else like Oregon or Ireland. Later on the bright yellow mustard grass will appear in local Napa fields and between rows after rows of vines across many Napa vineyards.


This is a perfect time to visit when the rains are intermittent, it is getting warmer, plants and Napa countryside are green and starting to grow again.



Mustard Grass



Bud Break







The Vines have Bud Break

Late in winter before springs has officially started the vines wake-up and start to send their leaf sprouts out as if to test if it is OK to come outside again. The little leaves that will give way to flowers and then grapes have just pop out and the promise of the next harvest has arrived. This is a critical time for the growing of wine as frost could kill the young growth and the grapes will not happen.


This is the perfect time to visit Napa Valley to catch the first of many weekend winery and Napa Valley events.


The Vines are Leafing Out

Spring has fully arrived and the new and old vines have sent out their new runners and small leafs appear on the vines. Excitement is starting and locals and out-of-towners start to spend their weekends in Napa Valley exploring the wineries, tasting the new wines and enjoying the scenery.

This is the perfect time for a long weekend or mid-week few days in Napa Valley to enjoy the wineries scenery, their great wines and local Napa Valley restaurants and hotels before they book-up and the wait-list begins. It’s also a great time to come to San Francisco to see the America’s Cup teams practicing in the bay.



Vines Leafing Out



Summer

Grapes Form

The bees doing their very busy job have pollinated the flowers. Beekeepers from across the country have come to Napa Valley so their bees can help the process across the valley along with local beekeepers. The result is clusters of tiny flowers that turn into small green beads that will become grapes as time goes by.

This is the perfect time to visit Napa Valley to catch the many of weekend and weeklong winery and Napa Valley events. Many families, locals and visitors are in the valley so be sure to book early.




Grapes Grow

The days grow warmer and the grapes are taking in the water and nutrients from the deep rooted vines in the fields. There are many varieties of grapes grown depending on where in the valley the vineyard is and the coolness or heat experienced by each vineyard’s location. Cool loving Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, to heat loving Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

This is a perfect time to book ahead and visit for all the winery releases, winery parties, the major events in the Napa Valley and perhaps see the America’s Cup races in the San Francisco Bay.


Grapes Mature

Grapes will mature at different rates depending on the weather each year, how warm it gets and for how long, and the location of each vineyard. Grapes can mature at different times across the many vineyards and when conditions are good, many of the same variety of grape can ripen at the same time. What’s critical late in the season is that it doesn’t rain as the grapes will absorb the water and lose their concentrated flavors or swell larger then desired for harvest.




This is a perfect time for families on vacation and to book ahead and visit for all the winery releases, winery parties, the major events for the adults and enjoy the many festivals and events for the children and teens in the family. Trips into san Francisco are a short time away to ride the cable car and see the sights – just beware that summer in San Francisco can be cold due to the coastal fog and winds so bring a jacket and hat with you.



Fall

Harvest Begins

Harvest starts at different times in different parts of the Napa Valley depending on the weather that year and the variety of grape being grown. Chardonnay is the first to go to harvest and usually starts in September. Shortly after that Pinot Noir may be harvested and late September into early October is hen all the other grape varieties are usually harvested depending on when the ripen. Rain during harvest can be a major issue for the grapes and the making o wine so harvest may be accelerated if any rains are predicted.

This is the perfect time to see the harvest, tour a crush in the winery and see how wines are made. Harvest parties and themed culinary events take place around the Napa Valley restaurants. This is the heaviest season for visitors as the children have returned to school and Indian Summer is in full bloom with balmy to warm weather, beautiful scenery, and great food and wines. Barrel tasting of last year’s harvest often occur and you make your decisions on which wines you’ll want to buy when they are released in the new year.



Into the Barrel, Tank or Egg

Yes, there are three fermentation containers used in Napa Valley including the steel vats for initial or full fermentation of wines; the barrel made of French or American Oak for more specialized fermentation of certain wines like some Chardonnays, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon , and the recent import from France of concrete egg shaped “barrels” for certain wines like Chardonnay. Each fermentation container affords the winemaker different tools in the crafting of the wine they are making for your enjoyment when released in the bottle.

These oak barrels are full of aging red wines and some chardonnay wines.




These steel vats are full of Chardonnay for making Champaign method wines in Napa valley.













These eggs are 3 to 6 feet tall and are gas permeable to allow for fermentation and oxidation of the wine without imparting the flavors an oak barrel would produce.



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