It has been hot and dry this year, we are definitely experiencing drought on the Central Coast. Despite the dry conditions, the vines look good, and we have experienced fruit set in June. Berries are forming in the clusters and we are expecting harvest to occur in just 3.5 short months!
[The canopy is thriving with warm weather conditions!]
The canopy is thriving with warm weather conditions!
[We have been irrigating more than usual this hot Spring.]
We have been irrigating more than usual this hot Spring.
[Fruit set looks good!]
Fruit set looks good!
We hope to see you at the end of the month at the Release Party! Get up close and personal with the vines on our vineyard tour!
Finally, some action in the vineyard! Crews have pruned 95% of the vines so far and now we are awaiting bud break. The remaining vines (all Syrah) have not been pruned yet because they are planted in the lowest part of the vineyard which is susceptible to the coldest temperatures. We have delayed pruning these vines to further protect them against frost. Check back next month to see the first signs of growth for the 2013 vintage!
[Merlot vines, all cleaned up!]
Merlot vines, all cleaned up!
[Pruned Merlot vine.]
Pruned Merlot vine.
[Waiting for bud break!]
Waiting for bud break!
[Hoping for more rainfall this year, so far one of the driest on record.]
Hoping for more rainfall this year, so far one of the driest on record.
Last week, I spent about 48 hours in Paso attending a compliance training and meeting with a potential grape buyer. I made sure to get a few pictures of the vineyard before verasion (when the grapes turn from green to purple) hits. Here are some of my favorites!
Sunset in the vineyard. Gorgeous this time of year!
Grenache in the front, new plantings in the middle, Merlot in the back!
Close-up of a Grenache cluster.
Syrah cluster, looking good this year!
Vines planted in the Spring. We will be able to harvest some fruit in… 2015. Not soon enough!
The vines have obviously been loving this warm Spring weather! Here are a few pics of the vineyard from yesterday. Lots of lush green canopy ready to provide some shade for the developing clusters as summer unofficially arrives this Memorial Day weekend!
Clusters starting to form on the vines.
Overlooking the new plantings and Merlot.
New vines are looking strong!
Close up of a new vine.
Gorgeous Oak trees in the middle of the vineyard.
It’s amazing to watch the transformation that takes place in the vineyard! Just six weeks ago we were looking for any sign of bud break – now the vines are well on their way to producing the 2012 crop. A post on weather updates for this growing season will come soon!
Last week, Mindy, Randy and I attended the largest wine industry conference in North America, the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento. It was three full days of interesting sessions, trade show browsing, Bachelor sightings, eating, drinking wine, and networking. I was exhausted when I returned home Thursday night!
One of the major themes at the symposium this year is the issue of weather. More specifically, how the climate change is affecting vineyard practices and the resulting fruit and wine. Keep in mind that there are many factors that impact the fruit, in this post, I give a brief overview of some common issues that most people do not think about when shopping for and consuming a bottle of wine.
In recent years, it seems that every region has experienced climate change and growers have had to alter vineyard practices to account for these changes. There are many ways in which the grapes and the resulting wines are impacted by these trends. One of the most obvious, and one that affects more than just grape growers, is the threat of drought. The amount of rainfall we get each year determines how much we will need to irrigate. When we don’t experience enough rainfall in the vineyard, we rely on the availability of water to keep the vines alive and thriving. Fortunately, we have a well on our vineyard. But, the supply of water is an issue that requires long-term planning, even for those that have access to water today.
Typically, after harvest, throughout the winter months, the vines are dormant and resting up for the next growing season. Cooler temperatures are required to keep the vines in the dormant stage. However, when we experience a warming trend, like we have this year, it impacts the vines by triggering an early “awakening”, making the vines more susceptible to frost which impacts the fruit set and ultimately the yield. There are things that can be done in the vineyard to delay the growing season, such as pruning late, but not every vineyard employs those vineyard practices.
Dormant vines before pruning.
While we have experienced this warming trend in months that are typically cooler, we have also experienced cooling trends during the summer months that are crucial for the development of fruit and can negatively impact the vines as well. One grower on the panel entitled “Quality Grapes and Wine in a Challenging Climate” pointed out that in 2003 there were 21 more days of necessary high temperatures to evenly and fully ripen his grapes than in 2009. That’s a big difference! When there are not enough hot days in the vineyard, harvest is pushed out further into the Fall which creates a whole host of other issues…
The grapes need to achieve a certain level of ripeness (sugar content) in order to be acceptable for harvest. When there is a cooling trend, it takes a longer amount of time to achieve this necessary level of ripeness. When that happens, vineyards can experience Fall rain that will delay harvest and create problems of disease in on the grape clusters. Warm weather and exposure to sunlight is needed to control the disease without chemicals, which, unfortunately, is not always an option.
Ripe, healthy grapes ready for harvest.
So what happens when we experience a “challenging” growing season in the vineyard? There are many steps that can be taken, both in the vineyard, and in the winery, after the fruit is harvested, to “fix” the problems the vines experienced. Many wineries (and therefore growers) are worried about the consistency of grapes and wine. Consumers expect a certain style each year from a particular label, which is to be expected. Every time I buy a Diet Coke, I expect it to taste the same. However, the challenge lies in the fact that Diet Coke plants (facilities, not the type that grow) do not experience the same challenges that the weather can have on grapes in a vineyard.
While the changing weather, or differences in weather year-to-year, can be “challenging” and create a lot of stress for those managing the vineyards, I would like to emphasis the fact that wine is an agricultural product. I encourage consumers to embrace the differences between vintages and realize that what you are experiencing is a larger story than what you see on the label. Think about the particular weather trends that occurred around you during the same year as the wine you are enjoying. Compare the same wine that is produced in different years (you can do this with Record Family Wines starting July 1st!) to get a sense of what you like in a particular vintage.
I understand how it can be comforting and safe to expect the same thing out of a particular wine each year as you do with other products you consume. But realize that it can be fun to experience these differences in style and that a “challenging” year weather-wise does not always mean a “bad” vintage. We still get quality grapes out of challenging years, even though it may take a little more work, and are excited to see how each growing cycle leaves a lasting imprint on the wines produced!
Do you prefer consistency in the wines you enjoy? Or are you open to embracing the difference between vintages?