Amber, red and golden hues, earlier dusk before the season of crunching leaves underfoot. The peak of summer has passed and the sun slowly creeps away that little sooner each day. While the usual festive nightlife is a little more quiet than usual, rest assured there’s still an abundance of activity happening among many Napa wineries and we’re talking about in the vineyards. For winemaking teams, this time of year is a swirl of mixed emotions.

The quality and ripeness of fruit is at the mercy of mother nature and the certainty of the busy harvest bustle looms as we move into picking and crushing season. Our Platypus Wine Tours team are experienced curators of wine country escapes and you will quickly learn that the best time of year to visit wine country is now.

So what takes place during harvest season?

As the term Harvest suggests, this time of year is when the grapes are ripe for the picking. Let’s pause and rewind and look back at what we’ve missed. Each dormant vine, whether red or white will have braved the winter breeze and burst to life in March with the warmth of Spring. Through Spring and Summer grapes take shape developing their unique character and charm. Avid wine lovers will know that virtually all of the grapes flavor, color and characteristics actually develop during a rapid ripening window known as Veraison. If you are reading this in August, know that grapes are experiencing Veraison as we speak.

Under the eye of an expert, the teams decide when the grapes have reached their optimal flavor, acidity, sugar level and color and are ready to be crafted into the familiar indulgence we know as wine. Budding and veteran winemakers, cellar workers and grape pickers descend from every part of the world to experience a slice of Californian winemaking.

When is Grape Harvest?

The time for picking purely depends on the variety and style that the winery is envisioning. Grapes will also ripen different between Napa wineries and Sonoma wineries due to the cool coastal influence compared to warmer inland weather. White wine such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Grigio need higher natural fruit acid for freshness, vitality and a twist of tartness. Some of these grapes are picked as early as mid August. In contrast red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel all demand longer ripening for added flavor and sugar concentration. Winemakers will leave red grapes ripening on the sunny mountainside until late September or even October. This patient hang time lends richness, structure and tannin maturation.

What can visitors expect to see?

Harvest season in 2020 may look a little different to many years before. Our Napa winery tour drivers along with cautious winemaking teams are implementing every measure to ensure a safe grape escape for all visitors and winery staff. Usual participation in all of the action from picking and stomping to crushing and witnessing the fermentation up close is substituted for safe outdoor tasting for you to relax and unwind as you soak up the aromas of fresh pressed grape juice from afar. You can find out more information on our website about our intimate and private Napa Winery Tours.