Saintsbury Reports Ideal Weather Promises Outstanding Pinot Noir Quality in Carneros

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According to Saintsbury winery, the Pinot Noir harvest in the Carneros District of Napa and Sonoma Valleys will provide excellent grapes. A larger than normal harvest is being forecast. In response, Saintsbury has dropped fruit in its estate vineyards and advised its growing partners to do the same.

Saintsbury Viticultural Director Randy Heinzen reports that three weeks out from the Pinot Noir harvest in the Carneros District things are looking good for the 2006 vintage. Early reports indicate that there is an abundant Pinot Noir crop developing under ideal weather conditions that has the potential to produce outstanding wines as long as prudent viticultural practices have been employed.

“We had late rains in April and May leading to abundant soil moisture going into bloom,” reports Heinzen. “We also had a great set, so we are seeing increased cluster size. While the cluster number is below average and down from 2005 the overall crop is up 25 to 30%.”

  • Dropping fruit from the vine to insure quality

Saintsbury is selectively dropping fruit from most vineyard sites, a practice they believe is critical to offset the effects of larger cluster weights in order bolster flavor intensity and quality in the resulting wine. In several vineyards Saintsbury reduced the fruit to one cluster per shoot instead of the usual one-and-a-half to two.

While August has been wonderfully mild and sunny, heat spikes in July made for a very rapid veraision period (the time it takes ripening grapes to turn from green to black).

“During veraision, we experienced the transition from no color to full color in the grapes in just a matter of days,” continued Heinzen. “Typically, Pinot Noir takes weeks to complete this process. It was beneficial, as the heat stopped canopy growth, and forced the grapes to begin ripening. Therefore, we are extremely optimistic that we will achieve full color and intense flavor from this year’s crop.”

  • Slightly later harvest eyed

As is typical in viticulture, all eyes are on the weather between now and harvest. Heinzen hopes for moderate temperatures (in the low 80s) for the next 21 days. At this point Heinzen sees the harvest arriving about a week and a half later than in 2005.

Saintsbury farms its own estate vineyards in Carneros as well as works with numerous other growers throughout the appellation.

Saintsbury ( has built an international reputation for their unwavering commitment to world-class Pinot Noir from the Carneros appellation of which they produce six different bottlings. In addition, they also produce a highly acclaimed Carneros Chardonnay, a “Brown Ranch Vineyard” Chardonnay and a charming Vin Gris. In 2006, Saintsbury enters its next quarter-century firmly established as one of America’s leading Pinot Noir specialists.


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Tom Wark