5 Things You Need To Know About Napa Valley’s 2015 Vintage

Some of the last of Napa Valley's 2015 grapes hanging on the vine.
Some of the last of Napa Valley’s 2015 grapes hanging on the vine.

Photo Credit: Bob McClenahan for Napa Valley Vintners.

As harvest season winds down, we know you oenophiles are anxious to know how the 2015 vintage from the Napa Valley is shaping up. Well, winemakers are giving high praise for the quality of this year’s Napa Valley wine grape harvest, according to the Napa Valley Vintners nonprofit trade association. Most vintners in the region have brought in their grapes and as attention turns more fully to the winemaking process, the NVV has answers to some of the most common questions about this year’s vintage in the making:

What will be the hallmarks of the 2015 vintage?
Quality is running high, but quantities are notably low, especially compared to the last three record-setting harvests, according to most winemakers in Napa Valley. This year will also be remembered as one of the region’s earliest harvests ever, which began July 22 with the picking of grapes for sparkling wine and will end by mid-October for most vintners.

How will the drought affect wine quality this year?
Although Napa Valley received nearly 75% of normal precipitation over the past year, the relatively dry and warm winter resulted in small clusters of grapes with highly concentrated flavors. The cool spring brought a long flowering period followed by somewhat uneven fruit set. Winemakers have been working hand-in-hand with vineyard crews and some are employing new technologies, like optical sorting, to ensure they are picking and crushing only the best quality grapes. Although it is a bit early to tell, the expectation is that the wines from the 2015 vintage will have deep, rich flavors.

Will the recent wildfire have an impact on Napa Valley wines?
While thousands of Lake County residents to the north were dramatically impacted by the devastating Valley Fire, no Napa Valley vineyards or wineries were damaged by wildfire. The majority of the time the fire was burning, the smoke blew away from Napa County due to the typically prevailing winds from the southwest. There have been no reports of smoke taint affecting Napa Valley wines.

Will there be a shortage of Napa Valley wines due to this year’s lighter crop?
The 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages of Napa Valley wine are some of the most plentiful ever produced. Now that vintners know that the quantity of wine for this year will be lower, many are already at work on thoughtful allocation and inventory management strategies to ensure consumers will not be directly affected by the lower yields of this year’s harvest.

When will the first 2015 wines be available?
The earliest bottles of aromatic Napa Valley white wines, like Sauvignon Blanc, will start hitting winery tasting rooms and store shelves in spring of 2016. Most 2015 Napa Valley red wines won’t be available until 2017 and beyond.

Mike Grgich smiles as Father Gordon of St. Helena Catholic Church sprinkles a bit of divine water on him at the Blessing of the Grapes ceremony to celebrate Grgich Hills Estate's 39th harvest.
Mike Grgich smiles as Father Gordon of St. Helena Catholic Church sprinkles a bit of divine water on him at the Blessing of the Grapes ceremony to celebrate Grgich Hills Estate’s 39th harvest.

Photo Credit: Randy Johnson/Napa Valley Vintners