Crews fan out just after daybreak at Trefethen Family Vineyards to pick clusters of pinot noir grapes for sparkling wines. They’re getting a late start.
“Imagine, we typically do this at 2 in the morning,” says Jon Ruel, head of the winery and former president of Napa Valley Grapegrowers. “But today is not a big day for us. We’re doing only 36 tons.”
While the 6:30 a.m. start time is later than usual, harvest season has come early to Napa Valley and other parts of the North Bay. Spring rains and a warm summer have brought the earliest start to harvest in more than a decade for many vineyards.
“The timing [of the rain] was fantastic,” Ruel says. “When the vines were just waking up from dormancy and were able to use that water.”
Napa’s stable groundwater supply also helped lessen the toll the drought could have taken on grape production. Growers are optimistic about this year’s quality and yields, but worry about another dry winter.