Winemaker Kelly Woods reflects on the amazing and wild 2017 vintage.
In my twelve vintages of winemaking in Napa Valley, there are always a few harvests that stand out in my mind as being more memorable than the others. 2006 was my first vintage and I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I had a great mentor that helped me develop my passion for winemaking. 2011 was so very wet and rainy that I practically lived in my rain gear. 2013 was a welcome relief with exceptional quality and the biggest crop loads I had seen.
And then we have 2017…
2017 started out with rain like we hadn’t seen in YEARS and which we desperately needed! The hillsides were vibrant green from January through June, the vineyards were happy and healthy and it felt like after years of drought situation, everyone and everything was finally breathing a sigh of relief. Bud break occurred in late March, bloom in mid-May, veraison at the end of July and the weather was perfect! It was the ideal growing season and it was looking like we were going to have a slower paced, leisurely harvest.
Until Labor Day weekend…
Labor Day weekend threw a monkey wrench into that perfect growing season. As the temperatures spiked into the 100s for nearly a week straight, the vines began to stress. It was time to start picking in order to maintain the quality and integrity of the fruit in certain blocks. The grapes were ready to go so we started picking on September 14th at the Winery Ranch Vineyard, which is our vineyard on west side of Howell Mountain here at the winery. The beginning of harvest is always full of excitement and energy and just like that, we were in full swing! At this point, harvest becomes a bit of a blur as we are managing fermentations, processing fruit, and determining picks.
Until the night of Sunday, October 9th…
I remember laying in bed that night, listening to the wind, and then smelling the smoke, and seeing the glow of red in the hillsides of Atlas Peak, only a couple of miles from my home. Needless to say, not much sleep was to be had that night (or the following few nights for that matter). Monday morning I was able to drive up to the winery and check on things. Picking and operations were temporarily on hold until we got a better picture of the situation. The power was out at the winery, cell service was limited, but all employees were safe and accounted for.
Yes, we were surrounded by the fires, but we were not in any danger. So, the crew came together and made a plan. Everyone was willing and able to continue picking once power was restored on Tuesday and we had a job to do! I had already mapped out the remaining picks before the fires broke out and we only lost two days of work. We pushed through the next week and were able to pick the remaining 40% of Cabernet Sauvignon, most of which was at our Haymaker Vineyard overlooking Pope Valley where the skies were clear and the air was fresh.
Once all the fruit was in tank, we could again breathe a sigh of relief. Another harvest was in the books! And I have to admit, this is still the BEST harvest I’ve seen in recent years! The quality was exceptional, flavors incredible, and yields were up from 2016, 15-30% across the board.
Even with the curveballs that we were thrown at us between the Labor Day heat spikes and the October firestorms, 2017 is definitely going to be a remarkable vintage!
Kelly Woods speaks straight to us about all things winemaking on the video series “On the Mountainside”. VIEW
While waiting for the 2017s, enjoy our current releases and Burgess Cellars Library Program! SHOP