The last fruit of the season was picked on October 29 – Cabernet Sauvignon from our S&J Vineyard in Napa’s Capell Valley, bringing our 26th harvest to a triumphal close. As our attention now turns to the cellar, where our wines will rest peacefully for 11 to 24 months, we are taking a moment to reflect on another harvest season and to give thanks for a back-to-back amazing vintage.
Slow and Steady from Start to Finish
Our vineyard crew sprang into action on August 26 picking Pinot Noir for sparkling wine in Carneros followed by Chardonnay from Lewis Vineyard for our Blanc de Blancs not long after on August 28. Late spring rains resulted in a lighter than expected Chardonnay yield, but we are very pleased with the flavor complexity and consistent quality of this year’s crop.
We experienced ideal fall ripening weather that allowed prolonged hangtime for our red varieties. Favorable conditions of sunny skies, warm days, and cold nights gave way to incremental fruit development. The pace picked up some the week of October 7, referred to as “Cabernet Week” by the winemaking team. We began picking Winston Hill fruit with exhilaration and anticipation at daybreak on October 8 and continued into the weekend. Our Cabernet Sauvignon was plump, plentiful and phenomenal again this year.
Back at the crush pad, our cellar crew was excited to use our “newest toy”, a state-of-the-art optical sorter that provides unprecedented accuracy when sorting fruit and allowing only the highest quality berries to move on in the winemaking process. We also brought on five local interns to assist with the extra work load the harvest season brings. Since the first week of September, our stellar winemaking team has been working around the clock, switching out half way through the day to monitor pump-overs, punch-downs, draining and pressing, filling barrels, and cleanup. Everyone is relieved that today is the final day of the night shift.
“I’m constantly humbled and inspired by the dedication in the work of our vineyard and cellar crews. Their jobs are both physically and mentally challenging, especially during the long days of harvest. Our wines are all the more amazing because of their efforts year in and out.” – Rich Frank
A Choreography That Never Missed a Beat
A week prior to receiving our first fruit of the year, our team had finished bottling to make tank space available for the incoming grapes, the new French oak barrels had been delivered to the winery, and our grape bins had been removed from storage and cleaned. We also invested in a backup power generator in anticipation of forecasted high winds.
As harvest turned the corner for the home stretch, PG&E issued public safety power outages due to high wind and dry conditions throughout the area. Thankfully, with our generator fueled and in place, the power outages had no impact on our winemaking activities.
On October 23, the Kincade Fire broke out over the mountains in Sonoma County. Despite the fire being just 15 minutes from Calistoga at its peak, we were very fortunate that the prevailing winds kept the smoke away from Napa Valley.
At this point, there isn’t too much that Napa Valley winemakers can’t handle. Despite hurdling power outages and nearby wildfires, our winemaker, Todd describes this harvest as “low stress.”
“Compared to 2018, this year was relatively easy. Last year was a huge crush that spanned three months, ending in mid-November. 2019 is a whole different story. We were ahead of the game, applied lessons learned, and felt in control the whole way through. We were never in panic mode.” – Todd Graff
It’s remarkable that amid challenges, harvest 2019 never skipped a beat at Frank Family Vineyards. We adapted to the changing conditions along the way to finish with an outstanding vintage. We are excited to watch this vintage develop in barrel and share with the world soon enough!