I’m sure all the news east of California has massive rainfall with flooding in California…and the drought it over. But that is not the case here in Northern California.
GOOD NEWS – We are getting moderate amounts of rainfall here in Russian River Valley spread over a long period of time which is soaking the soil without flooding. The rainfall/storm window continues to remain open with the prospect of more rain for the foreseeable future. We have not had any big storms and El Nino storms historically have come in February. In addition, the snowpack is growing in the mountains and in much better shape than last year (see picture above)
BAD NEWS – We are below last years rainfall total and below our long term average. Sebastopol is currently at 19″ for the rain year and we need to get 45″ just to get to our average. Hate to say it but we need about 5″ of rain for the next 6 weeks! Just hope it is constant and not all at once.
As much as would like to be outside pruning and getting ready for the year…let it rain!!!
As farmers we live and die by the weather, in fact I get a wine industry weather report sent to me every day via email so I can plan my week. Grapevines need moisture in the winter and fall to replenish the soil. They need to be warm in the spring and hot, but not to hot, in the summer and fall. Pinot Noir likes the range of temperatures in the days and nights to be large to develop wonderful flavors.
This brings me to this post on rainfall. Sebastopol (in Sonoma County) for 2013 has had only 8.1 inches of rain as of mid-December (I hope it rains during the holidays). Normally we get 36.3 inches of rain, with most of it coming in the winter and spring to recharge the soil and fill the aquifers. . If we don’t get much rain this winter I think the vines will suffer and we will get a smaller crop for 2014. Global climate change, El Nino, who knows…I know I may regret saying this as I need time to get ready for the growing season and prune in the spring…but I sure wish it would rain a lot this winter. Sure we can irrigate, but it is not the same.
Yesterday I was out in the vineyard sowing insectary flowers every 10th row. I’m hoping this will help our organic vineyard attract beneficial insects in future years. As I started my day I heard running water near the back of the barn and you can see in the picture above what I found…our 1.5″ vineyard irrigation pipe had broken due to the cold weather and was gushing water!!! This could have been a disaster had I not been home when this happened as we are connected to a well.
I know it was only 27F, nothing compare to most parts of the country, but I’m guessing the PVC setup was causing stress on the system and the cold exacerbated the piping and it broke! Looks like another winter project around the vineyard to keep me busy.
FYI…normally in the winter the low temperature is around 35F, since we are only 20 minutes from the ocean. Record lows for most months are 22F, so this was pretty cold for us.
Botrytis is a fungus that infects grape shoots, flowers, leaves and fruit. If your vineyard gets this fungus, think of a moldy melon, yuck! Why am I worried now? The spread of the fungus sportes is aided by summer rains, heavy dew and juice from split berries. The popular song…”it never rains in California”… is normally correct for Sonoma County. However, a rare storm is heading our way and will drop 1″-2″ of rain on the vineyard. Now I have to worry about Botrytis.
What can be done to prevent Botrytis?
– Have grapes that are not tightly packed. Sauvignon Blanc (see pictures) has a loose cluster but Pinot Noir (see picture) is a tight cluster grape, bad.
– Remove excess shoots and leaf around the cluster to get good air flow – done!
– Organically spray with Stylet Oil, Serenade Max or Sulfur right after it rains. I will do this Friday. Hope it is not to late.
Well the good news is that I needed the rain…the bad news is I may get botrytis in addition to driving potassium into the berries since we are between set and veraison. Lastly, if you look at the Sauvignon Blanc pictures…we will have a great crop this year!!!
Sauvignon Blanc Vines
Sauvignon Blanc Cluster
This is one of the nicer looking vines right now in the vineyard. Below I put a close-up of the bunches. You can see in the picture the berries have swelled and the bunch has almost closed up. Very exciting! What does this mean for harvest and how can we predict it?
In 2012 we harvested on September 23rd at a bris (sugar content) of 22.8. This year I would like to be at 23.5 to give an alcohol content of a little under 14% but add more flavor. – add 5 days
– For 2013 our bud break and bloom were 3 weeks early – I don’t have enough information on our vines to tell.
– Our Growing Degree Days are a week ahead of last year – subtract 7 days
– We have 4 times the grapes, but also more than 4 times the foliage as 2012 – subtract 7 days
– We had a dry spring, only 25″ of rain this season vs 45″ last year
So…our new estimate is September 14!!!
In 2012 I estimated 1300 lbs of Pinot and we picked 1190 on our first harvest! This year the vines are more mature and we should get roughly 60% of our eventual total, which would be 3 tons. However, in walking the vineyard the east end is not as vigorous as the west end, so my guess is 2.75 tons. This will make 193 cases of wine.
Let’s not forget our Sauvignon Blanc which has been getting rave reviews but is very limited. My guess is we will get 4 cases of “Nonna’s Vineyard”
Lastly, given the warm spring with lack of rain, we will harvest early to mid-September. I’m hoping September 21st as this is when our friends and relatives said they could come help!
Seeing that I’m a farmer now, I get to worry about all sorts of things that I can’t do anything about. A few months ago it was frost…but the spring here was amazing with warm weather, although a not enough rain.
Now is fruit set. As you can see in the picture the grapes flower (the white bursts around the berry) and then they self pollinate and become grapes. Something I didn’t know realize is how few of them become berries. In the case of Pinot noir, only between 30-50% become berries in normal years. So, for the next few weeks we hope the weather is nice and calm with no rain, little wind and nothing really hot or cold. Not much to ask for! As soon as “set” is complete, I can do a crop estimate for our 2013 vintage.
What is next? It is time for shoot positioning. The tedious task of lining up the shoots to give all the grape clusters room to grow but never touch. This is perhaps the most labor intensive job we have, and one of the most important.
Something exciting here at Turtle Vines. On Sunday March 31st, a Thunder Storm arrived in Sebastopol. Heavy rain, thunder and lightning! This old tree just 100′ from the house was hit and 5′ pieces of the wood/bark came flying off. You can’t see it, but the wood that came off went all the way to the top of the tree.
Luckily for us and all the neighbors, it didn’t catch on fire. The good news is we probably got at least an inch of desperately needed rain. More rain to come on Thursday.
What can I say…I woke up this morning to a beautiful sunrise over the vineyard as the vines are showing fall colors!