Just returned from a wonderful trip to Bordeaux, France. It was a great experience to see some of the finest vineyards in the world. We were accompanied by the nicest people you could ever meet. When you think of Bordeaux, you think of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon but Merlot really dominates with over 60% of all the plantings. As a grape grower, I was surprised at how cool and wet it can be. I’m always amazed at the variety of conditions under which people can grow grapes. I was impressed with the care given to their vines and with the 500 years of history.
We are at the beginning of what could be our earliest season yet. Little rain and warm weather have pushed the grapes early. Of course, now that they’re out about a foot, we are spending our nights watching for frost. Fortunately, each night has been borderline, but we did need to be there in case temperatures dropped near daybreak. We’re really just babysitters of the vineyard.
Our vineyard is moving rapidly due to the warm winter. We are doing things in the vineyard that would normally be done 30-40 days from now like shoot removal, mildew spraying, weed control, and, the most scary, preparing for frost. Normally we protect by running our sprinklers. With water being short, we are trying some alternative methods like heat, wind, and cold air removal machines. After having good rain in December, rain seems to be bypassing us. The next worry will be water for irrigation.
There was an article this morning in a wine journal with grape growers from all over California already seeing things beginning to happen in the vineyard. Early bud break usually tells you that you will have an early harvest. It also tells you that you will have a long frost season
This is round number 45 in the saga of growing grapes in Santa Barbara County! One last remark about last year’s vintage is that it should be exceptional. Our harvest was early and we were able to pick all grapes at optimum levels without any interference by Mother Nature.
The harvest and harvest party are over. I guess it’s time to be looking forward to my 45th year of growing grapes in Santa Barbara County. It seems like just yesterday that this adventure began. I can’t let this past harvest go unnoticed, for it’s now three years in a row that we’ve had ideal growing conditions.
Harvest is over. Even the Harvest Party is over. It seems that everything we’ve done this year has been early. That’s not a problem. When we harvest early, we eliminate a lot of issues like rain or frost or a stretched out picking season. Fast and furious was what took place. This vintage has the potential for greatness.
About four days of harvest to go! We have about 100 tons to pick, mostly Cabernet, Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, and our small lot of Freisa. This will be one of the earliest harvests I have experienced in the last 44 years for a variety of reasons, none of which are bad. Our Harvest Party is planned to be right after harvest but this year, it will be four weeks later, which is also ok. We have a great deal of time to get things ready for all of you attending.
We’re well into harvest. Over the past 40 years, very seldom have we picked grapes in August. This is the year. Our crop is about three weeks earlier than normal due to the weather, our previous crop, fruit set, berry sizing, and vines wanting to mature early. We have finished picking five varieties and are this week picking Pinot Noir, the variety we have the most of. One of the issues that is making this year a bit different is that some of the varieties are maturing out of their normal sequence. For example, one block of Sauvignon Blanc in Los Alamos had never been picked before the 23rd of September. This year we picked it the last week of August.