In an effort to help wine drinkers navigate the market post-quarantine, Chandon has announced that their Chandon Napa Valley Zinfandel Sparkling Wine will be available for purchase starting September 18. The wine is being made available starting at Bordeaux prices and will be available nationwide in the U.S. later this Fall.
To commemorate the end of the 2018 Napa Valley wine harvest and the start of the 2019 vintage, Chandon has released the first bottles of its 2019 vintage.
Chandon announced today the start of Napa Valley’s first post-quarantine harvest. The California winery said that it would increase the amount of Chandon California sparkling wines shipped for sale in 2014 to 2 million cases, up from the initial 1 million that had been shipped. “We are excited to begin this year’s sparkling wine harvest in Napa Valley,” said Chandon President and Chief Operating Officer David Van De Sompt and Executive Winemaker Tim McDonald.
California’s warm, dry weather drives the start of the wine harvest in 2021.
Pauline Lhote, a winemaker in Napa Valley, describes the harvest mood as “celebratory” and the fruit quality as “excellent.” Despite the fact that this growing season has been plagued by water shortages,
4 August 2021, Napa Valley – The commencement of the Napa Valley wine harvest was formally and ceremoniously proclaimed today by Chandon California, with Head Winemaker Pauline Lhote announcing one of the first selections of the 2021 season. Sparkling wine grapes are often picked earlier than still wine grapes in California, and Chandon started picking grapes in the chilly hours of Tuesday night, bringing in almost 28 tons of Chardonnay from its estate vineyard in Yountville. The Chandon crew gathered for the winery’s annual first pick party to kick off Napa Valley’s first harvest season post-quarantine, as Pauline offered a sparkling toast to “everything we have been through together this past year and a joyful, safe, and prosperous harvest.”
Despite a dry, often uncertain 2020-2021 growing season, Winemaker Pauline Lhote and her crew are eager to celebrate the future and thrilled about this year’s harvest, despite the numerous difficulties of the 2020 harvest, including Covid limitations and California wildfires. “Harvest at Chandon is always wonderful, but given the difficulties of last year, the atmosphere in Napa Valley this harvest is simply celebratory,” Pauline remarked.
Chandon escaped the worst of last year’s Northern California Glass Fire – the company picked its last grapes on September 25th, just two days before the fire began on September 27th – but, as Pauline points out, “as part of the Napa and Sonoma wine community, we were deeply saddened and affected by the impact of the fire, and we continue to be incredibly aware of changing climate conditions.”
Water was once again one of the most difficult issues for Napa Valley grape farmers and wineries this year. Different areas of Napa County got between 60% and 70% less rainfall than normal during rainy season, as part of a broader drought trend developing statewide. “Despite the lack of rain and a few major heat spikes, I am feeling very positive about the quality of 2021 and thrilled to see some beautiful, delicious fruit with great acidity ready to come in,” Pauline remarked when asked how weather conditions would affect this year’s wine quality.
However, Pauline, her all-female winemaking staff, and Chandon’s experienced growers had to make some innovative modifications to achieve these outcomes. This year, careful water management and a new irrigation strategy were required, with increased irrigation earlier in the growing season to compensate for a dry winter and a high volume, less frequent irrigation program to compensate for low reservoir levels and conserve water as the season progressed.
The yield in Napa Valley is also lower from prior years due to early spring cluster thinning to accommodate for California’s dry winter. “What we lost in quantity in 2021, we’ll make up for in outstanding quality and taste concentration,” Pauline adds. Every year in the vineyards is different, and we know, just like our colleagues at Chandon’s six wineries across the world, that making excellent sparkling wine isn’t only a question of growing conditions and harvest, but also of knowledge and skill throughout the assemblage.”
“We are very fortunate that wine grapes require relatively little water in the world of California agriculture, and that Chandon is able to grow for quality rather than quantity,” Pauline adds. Over the following four to six weeks, Pauline and her staff will carefully arrange harvesting schedules to ensure grapes are picked at night and arrive to the press cold and in excellent shape. The grapes will be slow-pressed and separated into different tanks as they arrive, with each batch being batched and treated according to its unique texture, flavor, and character.
Chandon has had nearly 50 years to master the selection and learn to assess Napa Valley’s fruit quality as one of the earliest sparkling wineries in the United States – and the first French-owned sparkling wine business in Napa. “I’m sure that the 2021 vintage will yield wines of outstanding, high quality,” Pauline, who is enjoying her 16th harvest at Chandon this year, says. The Pinot Noir we’re bringing in has lovely fruity smells, excellent flavors, and decent acidity, while the Chardonnays have great balance, generous aromas, and fantastic character development.” The disadvantage of getting a head start on this year’s sparkling wine production, according to Pauline, is that “you have less time to sleep!”
Pauline pondered on last year’s crop and the harvest ahead just after popping the cork on a bottle of Chandon Yountville Vintage Brut. “Capturing a location or a moment in time in a bottle is the magic of winemaking. Because of all we’ve gone through together this year, I believe the 2021 vintage will taste even better.”
Napa Valley is preparing to welcome its first harvest since the devastating earthquakes of the past month. Late Thursday, Chandon announced that the first of these new-growth Chandon wines will arrive in Napa Valley before the year is out. The epicenter of the quake, the historic town of St. Helena, will get the first of the new releases on Monday 20 January.. Read more about chandon sparkling wine and let us know what you think.
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