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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Mueller

Harvest 2020 Report

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

Whew, what a year it has been so far. Before we jump into our harvest report, we would like to take a minute to sincerely thank the first responders who have been tirelessly working to keep our community as safe as possible during a pandemic, as well as, THREE different fire events. Our hearts go out to our community members who lost their homes, and to our peers who lost their facilities & crops. ***

From our perspective, the 2020 season offered a number of difficulties to us farmers.

First, the 2020 Vintage started off dry and cold, with many nights of frost or potential frost during bud break. Mother Nature then provided a few misty days while we were experiencing flowering. Despite the two or so days of mist, dryness continued through spring and many in the Valley were concerned about having enough water to make it to harvest. While normal summer temperatures helped the fruit progress towards ripeness, a major heat event created issues with sun damage resulting in dropping of fruit for quality control purposes. Eventually we made it to our first day of harvest...

Harvest for us here at McKenzie-Mueller started in late August, with Pinot Noir being the first to our crush pad. At that time our smoke taint concern was low as the Los Carneros region maintained blue skies with help from the breeze blowing in from the San Pablo Bay. While many were quick to assume a fire (regardless of size or location) would ruin the entirety of the Napa Valley Crop, it is important to note that rate of uptake of smoke taint into the berry varies; proximity to fire, wind direction, temperature of fire, and other facts contribute to a fire's 'finger print'. We confidently continued moving forward using sensory analysis as well as laboratory results showing our fruit was negative for smoke taint.

But then, another fire started--This time it was a fire event that turned the sky yellow and seemingly interrupted our normal weather patterns. At this point we became concerned for the fruit we had remaining on the vine. We turned to microfermentations, and again laboratory analysis as this second fire event was the first of 2020 in which we saw settled smoke in Carneros and ash raining from the sky. Using our experience from the 2017 fires, information shared by peers, and information from webinars hosted by research professionals, we had to pivot and start making plans to harvest & process in a way that would help minimize smoke taint.

But that's not all--Another fire event occurred (!) with still... fruit on the vine. Today, as of October 15th, this fruit is still on the vine and unfortunately it will remain due to smoke damage. ***

So there you have it--the labor of love that was the 2020 Harvest: We have undamaged wines starting the malolactic fermentation in barrel, others still awaiting test results, and ...unfortunately... we also have fruit left on the vine that will go unharvested. So, while the 2020 Harvest experience varies quite a bit from winery to winery, we are fortunately able to say not all was lost here at McKenzie-Mueller.

We look forward to seeing our healthy 2020 wines progress with some time in barrel.

Love from our family to yours,

Samantha Mueller

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