Neyers Vineyards since we picked the Evangelho Carignan on August 27, it has been going slower than normal, thanks to some beautiful, chilly weather during much of September. This kind of ‘Autumn Chill’ is uncommon but oh so good for the grapes, permitting them longer ‘hang time’ to develop physiological ripeness, while maintaining high natural acidity levels. I remember similar harvests in 1975 and 1995, both of which were responsible for some of the best wines I’ve tasted in my career. Today was another milestone as we began to harvest grapes from our Conn Valley Ranch. Looking back, the last year we began picking on October 1 was – you guessed it — 1995. Last year, this same parcel – our house block Merlot – was picked on September 21. Moreover, the crop in 2017 was one of the smallest ever, a mere 2.68 tons from this 1.2-acre vineyard. This year the same parcel yielded 5.80 tons, or 4.83 tons/acre, still short of the Napa Valley average, but much better than in the past few drought years. The crop size this year seems to be up across the board in Napa, due largely to the mild weather in May and June when vines were flowering — completing the self-pollination or grape fertilization process during which they are so fragile. A normal-sized crop of high quality is the stuff that Napa Valley dreams are made of, and this looks like the year, so far. If the weather stays warm and mild for another two weeks, prepare yourself for some of the best wines we’ve made in years. Barbara and I were out at first light this morning meeting with our crew, and minutes after the first bin was filled, she turned to me and said, “I don’t think they’ve ever looked more gorgeous!” That’s pretty high praise from a demanding grape grower.