Initial harvest reports released before and after the grapes are picked are almost exclusively based on analysis from winemakers and grapegrowers.
During this time, it's important for readers to remember that when they hear a vintage is "the best vintage ever," it's the winemakers talking. Critics can't make that call until they've been able to taste the wine, which may not happen until two or three years later.
Still, harvest watch keeps die-hard winos tuned in. It’s our pre-season, if you will.
Earlier this year, Scott McLeod, winemaker for Rubicon Estate in Rutherford, went out on the limb with a prediction that 2007 would be the best harvest in a decade. Now the limb McLeod is sitting on is getting crowded and other body parts are being risked.
Lee Hudson, owner of Hudson Vineyards in Carneros, known for its Syrah, has raised the ante: “I’m going to stick my neck out and say we’re going to have as good a harvest as we’ve had in 100 years.”
Hudson’s prediction came during yesterday’s Napa Valley Grapegrowers harvest update and appeared in Napa's local newspaper today. But before you get too agitated about preseason harvest hype, take it in stride. I know some people who think the Raiders will win this year’s Super Bowl.
I also received an e-mail from McLeod this morning, and he’s sticking to his guns: "Beautiful weather, with Cabernets mostly through veraison and already tasting good," he reported. "The Sauvignon Blanc harvest begins in Pope Valley, northeast of Napa Valley, next week, two weeks ahead of what is normal."
McLeod said that he is looking forward to an early Cabernet harvest as well, starting in late September or early October, when days are long and hopefully warm. The crop size, he said, is larger than 2004 and smaller than 2005 by 20 percent. “The extra fruit [in 2007 compared to 2004] will keep the grapes on the vines longer, which is a good thing,” he said.
I’m betting the winemakers will have a better season than the Raiders.