2020 Harvest Report

8/31/2020 11:52:10 PM

2020 Harvest Report | By Christian Palmaz

As of the first day of harvest Aug 31, 2020

Pandemics, wild fires, hurricanes, murder hornets and other global scale events have us all counting down to New Year’s.  The year 2020 will live in infamy for many reason but not likely for the vintage in Napa Valley.

Harvest began early this vintage, starting with Chardonnay block K coming in on August 31.  In 2019 (a decidedly late vintage), the same parcel came in on September 17th.  The heat wave the Bay Area, experienced mid August, helped accelerate ripening, however it’s not the only reason for an early vintage.

A dry pattern emerged early in 2020 with slightly above average temperatures sustained throughout the summer.  However good night time recovery and a less aggressive leafing program protected the fruit from any significant shrivel or sun damage.  It was reasonably clear all along this would be an early harvest.

In fitting 2020 spirit, a record breaking freak lightening storm brought thousands of ground lightning strikes mid August.  Although the valley survived the record heat wave thanks to high humidity (which helps the vines deal with the heat), hundreds of fires broke out across California, some unfortunately in Napa.  A large complex of fires surrounding Lake Berryessa eventually combined to form the third largest fire in California history totaling over 375,000 acres.

With resources spread very thin, fire fighters did their best to protect structures but hundreds were unfortunately lost.  Compared to the 2017 fires, this fire was fortunately not “as” wind driven, allowing more time for evacuations.

With prevailing winds mostly from the SW, direct smoke remained clear of the property.  Since 2017, we have implemented particle counting devices in the vineyards so we can track accumulated smoke effect in addition to our normal lab tests on the grapes themselves.

Fortunately, I’m pleased to report that so far no smoke damage has affected the estate’s grapes.  With at least this fire behind us, I’ll dare to say it’s likely we will get the grapes all in fermentation this year and likely enjoy an intense and concentrated fruit year — perhaps similar to 2008.  I am encouraged and optimistic.


During the first weeks of September a wind shift brought us significant smoke from fires burning far to the Northwest.  Fortunately, despite some heavy smoke days and moments of falling ash, lab results continue to show no smoke taint effect on the grapes.  We did however blow the grapes off prior to harvest.

The ultimate validation came a few days into fermentation with Tina affirming no smoke taint characteristic detected and a wonderful concentration.  By the 3rd week of September, the air is clearing to blue skies and harvest is settling into a predictable pace as we near the 50% mark.

It’s still too soon to tell (for 2020 standards), but assuming no more “excitement” it appears that this vintage will pick out about 15-20% lighter but have wonderful concentration with bright acidity.