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.
We started pruning in early December. It takes 35 workers about 90 days to prune our vineyards. It is one of the most tedious jobs that we do. Selection of the proper canes and spurs will determine what kind and what size of crop we have.
This harvest started the first week of August and ended the second week of October - the earliest start and finish in my 43 years of harvesting grapes in Santa Barbara County. One consolation is that we will have had time to prepare for the Harvest Party. Things should be in great shape to enjoy the festivities.