Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Collector’s Corner

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Vineyard Articles

Harvest 2004: Early, Fast, Intense

The 2004 growing season in the Napa Valley had many of the earmarks of a great vintage, including a warm, dry spring and a cool, foggy summer. A heat spike in early September, with temperatures above 100 degrees, created a suspenseful finale as we hurried to bring in the grapes before high temperatures could cause over-ripening.

"This was an early, fast harvest of great potential," says Director of Winegrowing Charlie Hossom. "The vintage was reminiscent of the early 1980s, and in my memory most resembled 1984 or 1985."

Harvest began on August 10. Fortunately, most of the white grapes in our estate vineyards had already been picked before the heat spell began. At that time our red grapes were near optimal ripeness, so picking kicked into high gear and the winery mobilized all hands to bring in the fruit at its peak of flavor and texture. The heat conditions caused a small amount of crop loss, but our fast response prevented any major problems.

"We had to do selective picking, avoiding the clusters that were affected by the heat. Our vineyard practices encourage early and complete physiological ripening, eliminating the need for "hang time" and the extensive problems with withered clusters that some other vineyards in the valley suffered.

However, time was of the essence and extraordinary effort was required by both vineyard and winery crews. Thanks to their hard work, harvest of our estate vineyards by September 25. "People from all over the company pitched in," says Associate Winemaker Nicolette Pruss. "The 2004 wines will show all the positive energy that was put into this harvest."