For those unfamiliar with the vineyard season…most of the daily work is performed from early March to the end of June. So what is left for me to do?
As you can see the vines are in great shape this year. We had record breaking rainfall this winter so the vines still have not been irrigated, and I’m hoping that continues for a few more weeks. When I do need water, I have to “stress” the grapes with only 75% of their water needs to produce flavorful grapes. Next…I have 2 or 3 more sprays with oil to prevent mildew and botrytis. Then…we finish tucking the vines in the wires and hedge the top a second time. Additionally…the nets go up the end of the month to prevent birds from eating our crop. Only then do I switch hats from vineyard manager to winemaker on a full time basis to monitor the crop and decide when to harvest!!!
From the picture below you can see the bunches are about ready to close and then veraison will occur when they go from green to red. Approximately 60 days later we will harvest…and 2017 looks to be a pretty good year based on what I see so far.
I’m guessing we will be harvesting around September 16th…so if you are in the area contact me and be prepared to work!
With 2.5″ of rain on Friday we set a new rainfall record for Santa Rosa that was set in 1890, and, we still have until June 30th for the season to end! We have now had over 58″ of rain, and most of it since October 1, 2016. What does that mean for our grapes? It is good news for the soil as we want as much rain to fill the soil until the end of April so we won’t have to water until August. The only issue with rain later than May 1 is that it might hurt fruit set and give us mildew on the vines. Right now though, I’m happy for the vines…but personally sick of the rain!
PS Historically we get 4″ of rain from April 1 – June 30…so can’t put away my umbrella just yet.
We went to a great deal of effort and expense to orient our vineyard 42 degrees from North/South. Why…do try and get the same amount of sunshine on the grapes evening morning and evening.
But is that enough? No…from earlier posts we thinned the shoots to balance the vine. Now, to add to our “subtraction makes good wine”, we need to remove leaves. Again, why? If you keep all the leaves then you will have herbaceous tasting wine, probably mold on the vines since the spray can’t get to the clusters and it will increase the anthrocyanin levels (taste). But you can’t take to much off or you could sunburn the grapes later in the year. In Russian River Valley, we normally take more leaves off on the morning side (above picture) and keep more on the afternoon side (below picture). You do this after the grapes are BB size to build up their tolerance to the sun.
Another complicating factor is that some varieties want more leaf removal. Pinot has very thin skin, so you can’t take to much off. Sauvignon Blanc is more tolerant so you will probably see most of the leaves removed.
Last year was our first harvest, so the plants were not very vigorous so leafing was very easy. This year…I have to think hard on which ones to take and which to keep. Won’t know until the heat of the season if I took to much.