Is it possible that we are just a few weeks from harvest? Yes! Time marches on and the vines have changed to a more mature color of green. The canes went from dark green to yellow and then brown, a good sign of maturity.
It is already February and all of the Italian variety vines have been pruned except Nebbiolo. We prune the Nebbiolo last because it breaks bud and comes out early and is very susceptible to frost. Late pruning delays the bud push.
This has been a cold, wet spring but we avoided frost on the new growth. Now we are hoping for some heat and no more rain. The grapes are trying to bloom and they are dragging behind, which could make for problems later.
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.
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.
As always, I blame Mother Nature! A very short winter followed by a warm spring puts us about three weeks ahead of schedule. Most of the varieties look very good. Unusual heat hurt the fruit set in some of our Sangiovese and Syrah, but overall I am very pleased at this point. Harvest in 80 days.
Last year’s 2013 vintage looks to be one of the better vintages. The wines are showing much promise. It always helps to have perfect growing and weather conditions during harvest. Varieties like Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Sangiovese, which cannot tolerate wet weather, were picked at optimal levels thanks to the beautiful fall. Next year we will get our first chance to visit this vintage.