Hill Family Estate, one of the best Napa Valley wineries, has been working hard to ensure that 2021 is an excellent vintage. Vintner Doug Hill has been farming grapes in Napa Valley since 1979 and was one of the first farmers to plant Napa Valley vineyards in the Atlas Peak AVA.

Due to the early heat waves followed by cool temperatures we experienced an uneven bloom in Napa Valley vineyards this year. Some grape clusters were already setting while others were just beginning bloom. Unfortunately, the early blooming clusters at our Napa Valley vineyards had a very poor set. This year we have seen a lot of this kind of variability, and it may mean we need to be more selective in our cluster thinning and green drops.

The Cabernet Sauvignon clusters at our Windy Flats vineyard experienced 30%-40% shatter. Shatter occurs when some of the flowers are not fertilized and the little baby grape narcotizes and falls off, much like when a zucchini or squash produces a female flower and it doesn’t get fertilized. The shatter phenomenon is also described as “hens and chicks.” When you think of a hen and her baby chick, the hen is large, and the chick is small. The same thing happens to a grape cluster when shatter occurs, which results in the cluster having a combination of big berries and little berries – which is not ideal. Farmers love to have uniformity with grape setting, which creates a better yield and higher quality wines.

There are only 3 months remaining before the Napa Valley grape harvest will be taking place, and even with all the shatter and uneven fruit setting, Doug Hill is remaining confident that 2021 will be a fantastic vintage. The bigger worry as we begin to approach the harvest season is whether there will be wildfires…