The 2023 Napa Valley growing season has been unlike anything local winemakers have witnessed in recent years. We asked Michael Scholz, Vice President of Winemaking & Vineyards, a few questions as we enter the warm growing weeks leading up to the fall harvest. The 2023 harvest will also mark Michael’s 21th harvest here at St. Supery Estate Vineyards & Winery. Read on to learn more.
Question: Given the rain we experienced during the winter and into spring this year, I understand the lakes are full and the ground water is replenished. This cooler start to the season also affected the vine life cycle. Can you elaborate on that?
Michael Scholz: It was a long, cold, wet winter that persisted late into the year. This caused the phenological events (bud break, flowering, fruit set, bunch closure, version) of the vine to be later and therefore we are expecting a later start to the harvest. With the cool season also brings slower paced, even ripening, with real intensity and depth of flavor in the fruit.
Q: Is the 2023 season reminding you of another year, and if so, which one and why?
SM: The spring was incredibly cooler than I have seen all the way into April, May and through June. I don’t recall a spring quite like it. We are seeing some nice hot weekends trending through July and into early August to push along the growing season.
Q: What are your thoughts on this year’s fruit set and any predictions or vineyard work that will go into the next few months?
MS: Cool conditions often lead to higher quality where a warmer spring can be more optimal toward fruit set. In July, we worked on shoot removal and shoot positioning. Next, we are looking at fruit display and canopy volume, dropping some green fruit and making sure the canopy is open to sunlight.
Q: When do think you will see veraison?
MS: We generally anticipated veraison toward the end of July. While we started seeing the softening of Sauvignon Blanc fruit at the Dollarhide Estate by the end of July, we’ve just noted the first signs of veraison at our Rutherford estate last week, August 4th, to be exact. From the beginning of veraison to harvest is typically about six weeks. We are definitely seeing a longer, cooler growing season that should result in exceptional grape quality at harvest. I’m really excited about the flavor and acid development with the Sauvignon Blanc this season.
Q: Do you have additional work in the vineyards given all the rain this season, as in weed management, how you will handle the canopy this summer?
MS: The higher rainfall has led to higher volume of grasses and weeds, so we have had to work harder to get them under control. We welcomed sheep to the Dollarhide Estate earlier this year to naturally help mow the winter and early spring cover crops as well as naturally fertilize the soils. Once we had vine growth our new electric tractors have really had a work-out to control additional weeds between the rows! We are assessing the canopies weekly at this stage to enhance the light inception into the fruit zone during the crucial ripening period. It is always a balance of letting in the sunlight but also protecting the fruit from too much direct sun exposure. The vine vigor has really needed extra attention by the team, but their hard work will pay off at picking time.
In closing, Michael noted, “2023 is a unique season that has started out well and is looking very promising. Everyone at the winery is ready for a great harvest and how this new vintage will unfold during fermentation and eventual blending.”
We look forward to catching up with the team again during harvest this fall. Cheers to another great season ahead!
August 5, 2023