A Year in the Life of Cabernet Sauvignon: Fall

The season we have all been patiently waiting for has finally arrived. Fall is the most exciting time in the Napa Valley as harvest is in full force. It is also an amazing time to visit as you will have an amazingly unique experience witnessing a process that only occurs for about two months every year. Harvest is the culmination of the grape growing season. It is when we finally see the work the vines have put in during the spring and summer seasons come to fruition.


After the grapes go through veraison, full ripening is right around the corner. At this stage, our Winemaker, Todd Graff is in the vineyard regularly checking on the status of the grapes and measuring the brix (sugar levels) of each individual block to gauge the ripeness and balance of the fruit. As the grape berries reach their final stage of maturation, the acid and tannin levels begin to decrease while the sugar levels increase until they meet the perfect balance for harvest. It can be a balancing act with Mother Nature, as weather is unpredictable and can affect the ripening timeline. 


Once Todd has determined the grapes have reached the ideal levels of sugar, acid, and tannins, our vineyard team begins the process of harvest. Our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were harvested over a period of several weeks beginning on September 16 in block 7 of Winston Hill. Grapes are picked at night or in the early hours of the morning to ensure they remain at cool temperatures when they arrive at the winery. This allows for better control during the fermentation process as cooler temperatures keep sugar composition levels more stable. 

Changing of the Leaves

Once the grapes have been harvested, the leaves in the vineyard begin to gradually turn from green to gold. The vine continues the process of photosynthesis, but rather than transporting carbohydrates to the bunches, the nutrients become stored in the root system and the trunk in preparation for the next season. When enough nutrients have been stored, the chlorophyll in the leaves being to break down causing the leaves to turn yellow – signaling that their annual lifecycle is coming to a close. 

In a few weeks, the leaves on the vine will lose their color completely and fall to the ground. The vines will then become dormant for the winter before the cycle begins once again in the spring. Thank you for following along the a Year in the Life of Cabernet – if you missed a season, you can find the others below.