Stages of Napa Valley Harvest » BALLOONS ABOVE THE VALLEY - Hot Air Balloon Napa Valley

Photo courtesy of

Each September in Napa Valley, preparation for the new harvest begins. The extensive care and adjustments to weather conditions during the growing season are nearing the end as growers begin to collect the grapes for crushing.

The harvest season occurs over several weeks, beginning in late summer and continuing into November.

Grape harvest also coincides with one of the best seasons for a leisurely hot air balloon Napa Valley excursion. You can watch the harvest take place from a unique perspective as you drift lazily in the clouds above the vineyards.

Factors that Determine Harvest Time

Napa Valley is blessed with a wide assortment of microclimates, elevations, and soil variations that support the cultivation of many different grape varieties.  As a result, the many grape varieties ripen at different rates. The white wine grapes are usually picked first, followed by the more delicate reds, and finally the rich Cabernet Sauvignons and the late harvest wines.

The timing of the harvest depends on factors that may vary from year to year. These are:

  • Grape variety
  • Location: hillside or valley floor
  • Degree of sunlight or fog exposure while developing
  • Winemaker’s style
  • Soil types: rocky, sandy, clay
  • Prevailing weather and rain throughout the growing season

Timing of the Harvest

The variables may change from year to year, but the general sequence of each harvest is as follows:

  • Sparkling Wines are picked first to preserve the acidity for these types of wine
  • Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chenin Blanc are aromatic grapes that produce the tropical and fruit flavors. These mature earlier and are ready for crushing relatively early.
  • Chardonnay harvest varies depending on the level of delicacy and fruit flavors the winemakers are seeking in the final product
  • Pinot Noir picking is usually later, but the timing varies depending on the winemaker’s preference for the right balance of sweetness and acid, color, and mouthfeel.
  • Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Syrah grapes are thinner skinned and harvested earlier than the more tannin-laden Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hot Air Balloon Napa Valley

While enjoying the abundant harvest activities throughout Napa Valley, you should include a hot air balloon ride Napa in your itinerary. A rare and exhilarating experience, a Napa balloon ride by Balloons Above the Valley offers an incredible perspective of beautiful Napa Valley.

Check out the hot air balloon Napa Valley packages at our Balloons Above the Valley website before your visit. You can also include a gourmet champagne brunch and a wine tour as part of your experience.