California’s Harvest 2022
The state of California is the largest wine-producing region in the United States, with 84% of all U.S. wine production occurring within its boundaries. California has more than 4,000 wineries (4,391, to be exact) located all over the state, and 107 different American Viticultural Areas (an AVA is a delimited grape-growing area with specific geographic or climatic features that distinguish it from the surrounding regions and affect how grapes are grown (https://www.ttb.gov/wine/american-viticultural-area-ava), including famous wine regions such as Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Did you know that if California were a country, it would be the fourth largest wine country in the world, after Italy, France, and Spain? That’s a lot of wine! More than 100 varieties of grapes are grown in California, making it one of the most interesting wine destinations in the world.
The main wine producing regions in the state are North Coast, Central Coast, Central Valley, and South Coast. North Coast’s top wine varieties are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the most significant AVAs in Napa include Howell Mountain, Yountville, or St. Helena, while in Sonoma Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, or Russian River Valley.
In addition to Napa Valley and Sonoma County within the North Coast, the other wine regions are Mendocino County and Lake County, as well as Los Carneros, which is considered part of both Napa and Sonoma AVAs. While it spans both regions, a large portion of Carneros is classified as a Sonoma County sub-AVA which is a unique occurrence in the area.
Paso Robles is one of the oldest Central Coast wine regions, with a winemaking tradition that dates back to the 1790s. Other well-known areas are Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Livermore Valley, Monterey County, and Santa Cruz Mountains.
Central Valley is home to Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Fresno wine regions. Any agricultural product can be grown here. Eons of erosion from the adjoining mountains deposited rich sediment to create deep topsoil and prime farmland. Along with the great soil, California has a very good climate that allows it to produce more agricultural products than any other place in the U.S. This area is the largest wine-grape growing region, with 70% of California’s grapes coming from its vineyards. You’ve likely enjoyed a wine from this area without knowing it—the wine bottles are known for its simple label “California wine”. It’s home to the largest wine company in the world, E & J Gallo, who produces ____ cases of wine per year across their many brands.
Southern California includes Malibu, Temecula Valley, and San Diego County. Temecula is known for its winery wedding venues, restaurants, and festivals. This region is dry and warm, located just an hour north of San Diego. The close distance to the ocean allows the vineyards to get cool, which makes it great for grape-growing, even though this is a desert territory. Shiraz, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the varieties grown in this area.
Harvest season is the time when the fully-developed grapes in the vineyards are ready to be picked. This practice is mostly by hand and often at night, in order to avoid the sun and hot temperatures during the day.
Harvest typically starts as summer comes to an end,-around late August, and can last through October-November. The first grapes harvested are for sparkling wine, to ensure the acidity that winemakers are looking for in this type of wine. The earlier the grapes are picked, the more acidic they will be. On the other hand, the later the grapes are picked, the higher sugar level they will have. These are followed by the white and red fruit, since it takes longer for them to mature. Grape maturity is reached when seeds are able to germinate, which is immediately after veraison, or initiation of fruit ripening.
Once harvest is set to begin, it’s up to the winemaker to determine when the fruit can be brought in. It’s a combination of science and a lot of experience to make the final decision, but there are some telltale signs that indicate when it’s time to get the grapes. The right color of the grapes for one, as they go through different textures and levels of shininess. The seed’s color also helps, since when the grapes ripen, they will have white or green seeds and the stems turn from green to brown. Winemakers also taste the seeds-, if they are un-ripe seeds they will taste bitter. The taste of the grape will be sweet if they are ready, but professionals know if they have the right amount of sweetness. To determine the brix level, they usually use a device called a refractometer to measure the ripeness of individual grapes. Brix measures the sugar levels in the grapes that translate to the amount of alcohol the finished wine will have. Lastly, the feel of the grapes, as individual grapes are usually easier to pull from the stalks.
This year’s harvest in Napa Valley started the earliest on record and is going by faster than normal. Different varieties of fruit are coming in at the same time, which would not normally happen, because of the recent heat wave, which is making harvest 2022 more intense.
Harvest is a fun and great time to visit Napa Valley, and a time to celebrate and taste the last harvest’s wines. The leaves of the vineyards and trees are changing colors and the whole region seems to smell fresh with the aroma of wine. During harvest season, you will find events and parties like Harvest Tidrick Celebration-, in Anderson Valley wine country, happening from October 21st to October 23rd. There will be a Friday night harvest party and two days of VIP harvest experiences throughout the area! Discover incredible wine and community in the valley and dance along with one of the best bands in the Bay Area! Click here to enter for a chance to win tickets-, the deadline to enter is October 10th.
Great wines are waiting for you and you will be able to store and hold them securely at home with our fully customizable WineHive, to modernize your kitchen, bar or entertaining space. What are you waiting for? Napa Valley is waiting for you!