The culmination of a spring and summer laden with hard work, expert care, and careful oversight has arrived as vineyard workers begin harvesting the 2020 grape crop.

The 2020 season was mild with minimal rainfall, allowing the grapes to ripen eveningly. A pair of hot spells in July and later in August tended to accelerate the ripening process, so Hill Family Estate and others began harvesting on August 14.

Varieties having thinner skins ripen soonest. These included the Pinot Noir grapes to produce Hill Family Estate’s excellent Rosé. At nearly the same time, the Albariño, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc became ready.

The thicker-skinned reds like Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc follow the whites in harvest sequence. Harvest of the most popular grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, usually begins later.

Timing of the grape harvests throughout Yountville and other Napa Valley vineyards does vary each year depending on each vineyard’s elevation, microclimates, and other variables that can impact the rate of maturation.

Impact of the Current Northern California Fires

To complicate the 2020 harvest season in Yountville vineyards and others throughout Napa Valley, many vineyard managers now worry about the impact of the persistent late summer fires in Northern California. While these are not directly threatening the vineyards, the fires can impart smoke-related “tainting” to the unharvested grapes.

Recently, many wineries and vineyards have been submitting samples of newly picked grapes to the wine industry’s laboratory partner, ETS of St. Helena, for Smoke Impact Testing. The analysis determines whether the flavor and chemistry of the grapes may be affected by smoke entering the area.

For wineries and vineyard owners, the period of waiting for the lab analyses, currently up to two weeks or more, is a worrisome time. ETS uses equipment and procedures that will tell the vineyard owners whether their crop has been adversely affected by volatile phenols. These aromatic compounds, when present in either a free or bound state within the grapes, can create olfactory defects in the resulting wines.

Hill Family Estate’s Strategy

While lab results are backed up by more than two weeks at the laboratory, Hill Family Estate has opted to conduct their own micro-fermentations to determine whether any bound-volatile phenols are present. These tests involve fermenting in a 5-gallon bucket over a 5-day period with small grape samples from each vineyard or block.

Hill Family Estate is very fortunate to have vineyards located throughout the Napa Valley, and allows them to use grapes that have not been affected by smoke damage.

When in Napa Valley, Visit Hill Family Estate, One of the Best Wineries in Yountville

Hill Family Estate has been producing world-class quality wines for nearly two decades. By combining the extensive vineyard management expertise of family patriarch, Doug Hill, with the award-winning winemaking experience of Alison Doran, Hill Family Estate has evolved into one of the best wineries in Yountville and Napa Valley.

Hill Family Estate is currently offering wine tastings and tours by appointment. The winery has established Covid-19 protocols for all attendees and staff to ensure the safety of all.

For more information about a Hill Family Estate Winery visit, please review our website or phone 1-707-944-9580.