Normal mid-summer temperatures, with abundant sunshine unfiltered by wildfire smoke, have returned to our area. As expected, verasion is well underway throughout the vineyard, with almost all first crop bunches of barbera showing at least some ripening, and most main primitivo clusters showing the uneven ripening typical of the primitivo/zinfandel family. Our experimental crop of tempranillo, by contrast, shows almost uniformly purple bunches already, though it remains a few weeks from full ripeness.
As we enter the home stretch for this growing season, our main challenges will be keeping the grapes hydrated and out of the mouths of marauding birds. We have already begun deploying bird netting on strategic parts of the vineyard adjacent to trees, and the familiar sounds of our mechanical “bird boxes” can be heard echoing across the vineyard from dawn until dusk. As the birds (uncharacteristically) didn’t even wait till ripeness to attack the tempranillo, we expect the birds to be a real challenge this year.
The primitivo crop is light enough that we think we will be harvesting 2 tons or less per acre without any fruit dropping this year. We suspect that this is payback for a relatively heavy fruit set last year. On the barbera side, there seems to be more “second” fruit even than normal for barbera, and we are going to have the seconds dropped this week to allow the vines to focus their energy on ripening our main crop, which otherwise appears to be moderate in size. The health and appearance of the vines for this point in the season remains excellent on both the barbera and primitivo sides of our vineyard. If we can avoid high heat between now and harvest, it should be a very good year.
We are pleased to announce that the first commercial dry red wine made from our grapes was just released this weekend as a vineyard-designated wine at Obscurity Cellars in Fair Play, CA. The 2006 Primitivo from Obscurity Cellars recently won a silver medal at the 2008 El Dorado County Fair and a bronze medal at the 2008 Amador County Fair.