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In 2012, the "perfect" growing season in Napa Valley yielded a rare combination of an abundant crop and quality grapes. Across the Valley, growers and winemakers expressed high expectations for a potentially outstanding vintage. VINTAGE explores a year in the life of three renowned Napa Valley wineries and its winemakers, including Brazilian-born Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock; straight-shooting Kimberlee Nichols of Markham Vineyards, one of the oldest and largest wineries in Napa; and California native Marisa Taylor of Rutherford Hill.

#101 A Vintage for the Ages
Napa Valley winemakers are gearing up for what looks like a vintage to remember. Elizabeth heads out to Chimney Rock’s first pick of the season. At Markham Vineyards, Kim goes sampling at one of her favorite vineyards while Rutherford Hill plays catch-up from a disjointed preparation for harvest.

#102 When Grapes Hit the Fan
Markham Vineyards’ harvest explodes into life when a 120 ton day turns into a 150 ton marathon. In contrast, Elizabeth takes a leisurely stroll through her Merlot blocks, deciding to pick 5 tons and Marisa sets off for beautiful Pope Valley to monitor harvest progress.

#103 Homecoming Queen
The abundant harvest sees Marisa and her 3-year-old son head home to Sonoma County to meet up with her dad and buy fruit from some old family friends. At Chimney Rock, they bring in a small block of Merlot, while at Markham Vineyards Kim feels the need to get her feet wet, in grapes.

#104 DIY at Chimney Rock
The Chimney Rock team take matters into their own hands, picking one row of grapes from their vineyard. They don’t pick quite as fast as the pros and then they have to press the fruit… by hand. At Markham Vineyards, Charlie Wolleson’s grapes arrive at the winery while Rutherford Hill mourns the passing of an iconic member of the winery.

#105 The Never-Ending Crush
Marisa makes a last minute decision to pick an entire vineyard of her best Merlot, resulting in long day, and night, for Rutherford Hill. At Chimney Rock they finally have their first big pick of the harvest, processing 60 tons of Merlot, while at Markham Vineyards they have a little slow time, and a Mexican BBQ on the crush pad.

#106 Pressing to the Finish
The Cabernet at Chimney Rock is ready at last and the team crushes fruit from three vineyard blocks. This signals the final push for harvest 2012. Once all the fruit in, the fermented tanks of red wine need to be drained and then dug out by hand. To celebrate the closing of harvest the winemakers gather at Chimney Rock, try each other’s wines and look back at what they expect will be a vintage for the ages.

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