Chandon California officially announced the start of its 50th sparkling wine harvest today, with Head Winemaker Pauline Lhote calling the first pick of Napa’s 2023 season. Grapes for California’s sparkling wines are typically harvested earlier than those of still wines, though this season’s significantly cooler weather patterns meant slower ripening across all of Chandon’s estate vineyards and a start to the Napa sparkling harvest three weeks later than in 2022.
Celebrating five decades of Napa farming and winemaking, Chandon began harvesting grapes from its Yountville estate vineyard in the cool hours around midnight on Thursday, August 24th, bringing in 9 tons of Pinot Meunier and 12 tons of Pinot Noir. Gathering together with her all-female winemaking team to begin harvest, Pauline noted, “This cool growing season and late harvest is certainly one for the record books. But then 50 years of sparkling winemaking in Napa teaches you lots of patience!”
While 2023 is potentially one of the coolest starts in Sonoma and Napa in more than 20 years, Winemaker Pauline Lhote and her team are excited about the high quality of the 2023 harvest, noting that cooler than average temperatures after veraison (beginning of ripening) helped to slow the process and preserved the bright acidity and fresh fruit character that Chandon sparkling wines are known for.
In terms of crop size, Pauline is optimistic about grape yield this harvest, noting that winter rains and slow ripening allowed vineyards to grow extremely well, with clean, loose clusters that have high potential to deliver quantity as well as quality.
“While this year’s crop size is likely to be about average rather than high, Chandon is extremely fortunate to be able to farm for quality, not quantity,” noted Pauline. “Whether the year is high yield or low, wet or dry, our goal is always to make sparkling wines of exceptional acidity and delicious quality.”
A pioneer of sparkling wine in California -- and the first French-owned sparkling wine house in Napa -- Chandon continued to embrace innovation and change as it celebrated its 50th growing season this year. As part of its goal towards cleaner farming and reduced fossil fuels, the winery installed solar panels in Carneros and Yountville to offset energy use and replaced its tractor fleet with electric vehicles. In addition to irrigating with 90% reclaimed water and enriching vineyard soil with more carbon, the winery also planted over 60 acres of drought-tolerant vines in Mount Veeder, Yountville and Carneros.