Having farmer mentality, I would like to start with the weather report. The saying “When it rains, it pours!” describes winter so far. We have already reached thirteen inches of rain, which is our yearly average for most of our vineyards. Our vines are in good position with plenty of water in the soil, which means we won’t have to irrigate until June and we will be finished by late July.
This time of the year, the vineyard is very dormant. Leaves have all fallen with the aid of some of the cold weather that we’ve had. We are busy pruning, praying for rain, and taking a good look at the nutritional needs of the vineyard. There is always something to do.
We finished the 2016 harvest the day we left for the cruise. This year, we had plenty of grapes of exceptional quality. We had a few challenges during harvest that were heat related but we survived thanks to the canopies on our vines. Our Italian varieties were exceptional. I was really impressed with the Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. For something new, we picked Pinot Grigio for Sparkling Wine, something to look forward to. For this, our last shipment of the year, we have selected wines for the coming holidays.
We just started with the second week of harvest and we are getting our pickers fine tuned. Father John Finley gave us all a blessing, which was badly needed and enjoyed by all! Growing grapes and making wine has a lot to do with the wonders of nature. Sometimes a little bit of divine guidance makes it work.
Harvest is in the air. It has been a very good growing season. Our crop looks to be twice the size of what we saw in 2015. A good chance to break even! There were some issues with water but we have had enough to make the crop. Last year our Pinot Grigio crop was almost non-existent. This year, I would say it is back to normal.
We’ve had two major heat spells and made it through without any major issues in the vineyard or with water shortages. Last Friday I saw my first sign of veraison - a little black berry showed up on a bunch at the High 9 Vineyard. It means that we’re at about 40 days to harvest. So I pushed the panic button! We have wine that still needs to be bottled and Dan still needs to put on the finishing touches in the vineyard.
Grapevines are growing faster than we can get the work done. The growth of our vines has already exceded last year’s full growth and we still have 60 days until harvest. Farming is controlled by Mother Nature.
We are still living under drought conditions. Our wells continue to produce at about a 50% level, which is nearly adequate for irrigation. Our water district for the Valley View Vineyard originally scheduled for 5% state water, then raised their estimate to 45%, and then raised it again last week to 60%. Conditions in northern California have greatly improved the availability of state water.
Spring started with a mini cold wave so the past two nights have been spent in the vineyard driving around in circles watching temperature gauges and being prepared to turn on fans, sprinkler systems, or our new frost guard machines which are tractor driven and weave their way through the vineyards. We had an early bud break, at least as early as last year.
We expect to be finished pruning by the end of this week and will be tying by mid next week, just in time to avoid knocking the buds off when we tie to the trellis system. Budding out this early will cause us to have a prolonged frost season. More rain would help protect the crop. At high moisture levels, frost damage is less severe. It still makes for a long time to be on call for frost protection.