Last weekend the vineyard crew in our friendly neighbourhood Far Niente vineyard performed a green harvest on their Chardonnay vines. A green harvest is the removal of immature grape clusters whilst they are still green, with the express intent of inducing the vine to put all its energy into ripening the remaining clusters. Up in the rocky vineyards soils of the east and west hills of the Napa Valley, vine vigour is naturally kept in check due to oftentimes burdensome growing conditions. In contrast, on the valley floor where soil fertility is high, sunlight hours are long and irrigation systems are regularly employed, the pampered vines can beget an over-abundance of grapes that might not be of the desired quality.
This year, in the valley, green harvesting seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Growers, perhaps anticipating the continuance of a thus far cool growing season, are carrying out green harvests at a slightly higher rate than I have witnessed in previous vintages. However, the general consensus is that the 2010 vintage will be satisfactory in this the coolest summer in Napa since 1998. But, they have to say that don't they? After all, who would buy a 2010 wine in 2013 if the growers and producers themselves slammed the vintage now before it is even harvested?
I personally think the 2010 vintage will be just fine, although yields will obviously be reduced. We still have basically two full months before the majority of Cabernet sauvignon grapes will be harvested and Mother Nature generally knows how to get the job done. And lets face it, most French producers would chew off their own right arms to get just one month of a Napa Valley growing season, even in this less than perfect of years.
The Chardonnay grapes in the Far Niente vineyard do look rather handsome: they seem to be progressing through veraison very nicely and really don't look like they are having too difficult of a time in 2010 at all!