It’s summer in the Sierra Foothills, and nothing is new under the sun. A string of scorching 100+ days around the 4th of July marked the official beginning of summer, but these have mercifully passed. Apart from that, temperatures have been quite reasonable in a Foothills sort of way, low-to-mid 90s during the day and upper 50’s to low 60’s at night. As happens about once a summer, we did receive a brief but measurable rainfall this past week, which was not particularly welcome since it automatically triggers the need to spray for powdery mildew.
Based on signs in the vineyard, it’s clearly going to be an early harvest year, which means that the blessed off-season is that much closer! Our experimental plot of tempranillo grapes, which means early in Spanish, have already begun verasion in earnest, with the first signs on about July 6. We think the same early-ripening variety of grapes began ripening about 2 weeks later last year, so this is the first clue of an early harvest. Our main varietals, primitivo and barbera, show only slight and occasional signs of veraison as of today, but we would expect more clear evidence in about a week.
Mildew control has remained excellent, and we’re happily about one spray away from being done with that for another season. Water supply is holding out, and we pushed (with the help of the aforementioned scorching days) our vines to the point of water stress in the last 2 weeks. A small fraction of our grapes suffered some sunburn damage during the hot weather, but this has actually helped our fruit-dropping efforts, as these grapes effectively drop themselves. Manual fruit-dropping has begun and will remain the primary focus through harvest, as we try to maximize quality at the expense of quantity.