California Wine Country 2016 Harvest Report

Frank Melis’ 2016 California Wine Country Harvest Report


Dear Friends,

Although I didn’t drive across the entire state to partake in the 2016 harvest, I did have a chance to taste and meet with many winery owners and have more-than-basic reports and pictures to share with you from Mendocino to Santa Barbara.

The harvest is almost done for many wineries, only a few Cabernet producers were still waiting for the last heat spikes to get the fruit that extra boost, and for some folks it is winding down already.  I’d say everyone is happy but not screaming from the rooftops.  The quality is very good to excellent but the quantity is still down from average, yet much better compared to the disastrous 2015 harvest.

Coho, Napa Valley

Coho Winemaker Phil Titus

Gary Lipp, owner of Coho is content with the quality from all of his vineyards throughout the Napa Valley, but could have been happier if the yields would have been 10-15% higher.  He took a big beating in 2015 (although the quality was very good) as he is down an average of 50%.  The Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir will be one of the best ever, says Gary.  He is also excited about two new vineyards that were added to compensate for the loss of the Diamond Mountain vineyard.

Check out the current releases from Coho:


FYI: The 2013 Headwater will be out in late October!

Inherit the Sheep, Coombsville Napa Valley

Inherit the Sheep

2016 Harvest

Clay Gregory, owner of Inherit the Sheep was very excited about the 2016 harvest.  His yields were much better compared to 2014 and 2015 and can’t wait to have this baby in the barrel and the bottle!

Clay said that the berries looked and tasted great. It’s  been a wonderful, relatively cool vintage which helps with the fruit/acid balance and overall complexity and flavor profile of the wine.  Some similarities to the great 1995 vintage, which was a vintage that wind up lasting a good two decades in people’s cellars!

He also mentioned that he has never picked before the second week of October and he didn’t expect that to change this year. The beauty of the Napa Valley’s  Coombsville Appellation is its long, cool growing season, which helps to produce beautiful purple color in the wine as well as an oily and luscious texture paired with a beautifully perfumed nose. Clay told me that he cannot wait to taste the 2016, and neither can I!

Dyer, Diamond Mountain Napa Valley

Dawnine Dyer owner/winemaker of Dyer Vineyards and Winery on Diamond Mountain in the Napa Valley said: “Picking has been steady on Diamond Mountain since Sept. 20 as winemakers watched for the combination of factors that indicate optimal ripeness. The heat over the weekend has changed all that and Cabernet has been coming in fast and furious since Monday. The next two weeks will tell the tale.  Overall 2016 will not yield a big bounty, but the quality is very good, so it is very promising”

Their new release will be out in November

Switchback Ridge Calistoga, Napa Valley

Switchback Ridge Owner

Kelly Peterson

Kelly Peterson and her winemaker Robert Foley were very ecstatic with the fruit coming from the Peterson Estate in Calistoga.  Kelly said that after a very disappointing quantity harvest in 2015, they were very happy to see rain falling on their vines over the winter and early Spring.   They feel lucky to have a good aquifer below their vineyard, but still needed a lot more as the vines really struggled in 2014 and 2015, and probably would not have produced much at all in 2016 if it weren’t for a good rainy season.  They’re not dancing of joy yet, as they need 2-3 more heavy rainy seasons to wipe out the drought of the past 5 years.

Overall, fruit came in with good to average yields.  The flavors are any bit as good as the 2012 and 2013 vintage with good acidity, which should mean another great year at Switchback Ridge!

Check out the 2013 releases:


MC4 Winery, St. Helena

Another full tub of Cabernet

from MC4

The Martin and Croshaw (MC4) families had all hands on deck for this great harvest.   Paul Martin told me that the 2016 vintage could be the best  in the almost 10 years since the first harvest.  The fruit set was great, no shatter and the flavors were amazing.  The yield much higher compared to 2015, was still a little below the 2014 vintage but he was not complaining.  I cannot wait to taste this wine in a few years!

Make sure to check out the latest MC4 release:

Pisoni, Santa Lucia Highlands

Mark Pisoni, puts it bluntly: “I hate to say this, but it’s looking like a nice, boring vintage.”

Even if the drought is far from officially over, California winemakers might be just fine with boring, especially considering the roller coaster they’ve been on since the drought began five years ago. The 2012 and 2013 vintages were great years, with growing conditions resulting in increased crops with very good quality. But in 2014 yields slipped as the long-term effects of the drought began to show.

Harvesting on the Pisoni vineyard

By last year, there was cause for concern. The 2015 harvest start was one of the earliest — if not the earliest depending on vineyard location — in history, and some vintners called it disastrous, with yields down 40 to 90 percent. In addition to the drought, many vines experienced a condition called shatter, touched off by unseasonably cold temperatures and wind in May, when the tiny, delicate white flowers were knocked off newly formed clusters, resulting in fewer overall grapes.

“It is refreshing to have more normal looking yields,” Pisoni says.  He says also a longer growing season.  The grapes are maturing very slowly, vines are focusing on ripening.    This will be a great vintage!

We have limited amounts of Pisoni (750ml and Magnum), Lucia Pinot, Chardonnay and Syrah in stock, click on the link below:
Gary Pisoni’s Latest Releases

Paul Lato, Santa Barbara

Paul Lato is excited about

his 2016 prospects

Paul Lato was very excited about the fruit from all of the vineyards he is working with. It has, however, been a roller coaster vintage as they had some heat spikes early, which made them look at the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sources for a possible early harvest, then some cooling which was good as the fruit needed more maturity to gain more flavor, acid and complexity.  At the end, the result was very good for these two varietals.  They have not started on the Syrah and Grenache harvest yet, Paul said, but walking the vineyards and tasting the fruit, he looked like a very happy man.

To sum up Santa Barbara as a whole, the yields were very good, and the harvest was somewhat early but not in a record-setting way.  This was a healthier year, and could only hope and pray for a good rainy fall and winter.

Paul received great press again this year.  I have small amounts of his Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Grenache remaining

Click on this link for a detailed run-down of all the current highly rated Paul Lato wines
Paul Lato’s Multiple 97 Point Scores!
Atrea & Saracina Winery, Hopland Mendocino

John Fetzer proprietor of the 100% organic and bio-dynamic estate that produces both Atrea and Saracina was a happy man this harvest.  When I visited the winery to write this harvest report, John told me that he was 85% finished.  They were still waiting for some Syrah, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel to ripen and he anticipated them to be ready for harvest by the third week of October. He was extremely pleased with the quality and quantity this year.  His yields in 2015 were abysmal so with a 5% below average yield in 2016 he says he’s not complaining.  The quality is on par with the best vintages he produced!

Take a look at the current Atrea & Saracina releases

To sum it all up, 2016 looks to be an interesting vintage with both quality and quantity ranging widely from one region to another. Production is generally up from last year, but most areas are still producing smaller than average yields. In spite of this, many of the people I talked to are optimistic for this vintage and we will be looking to the winemakers now, as they work their magic to transform this varied harvest into finished wine.