In our last newsletter, we expressed our hopes for a nice wet winter. Well, we had one day with six inches of rain, and a couple of weeks later, one day with five inches, which made conditions challenging.
After beautiful December rains, we had a winter drought in January and February, but our forecast for the middle of March looks good. We should be finished pruning by then - one of the more important jobs that we do.
Today we are experiencing the first truly hot day of the year. At Valley View, it peaked at 106°F for a few minutes To me, the vines are a little behind schedule although, with warmer weather, we might catch up. Right now, we are expecting harvest to be late August to the first of September.
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.
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.
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.
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.