A cool and cloudy early-mid June gave way to seasonable temperatures, clear skies, and abundant sunshine later in the month. The extended period of mild weather should have provided ideal conditions for powdery mildew, but we’re pleased to report that we have seen no sign of it. We anticipate that regular spraying to prevent mildew will come to an end soon…one of our favorite milestones of the season.
The hot period in late June corresponded exactly with the time that our well (due to electrical and not water problems, thankfully) decided to give us spotty service, and this allowed all of our varietals to show the first sure signs of water stress, and to signal to us that they’ve exhausted the ground water from the winter. We have accordingly begun a more aggressive period of irrigation for the barbera and younger port varietals, and are only beginning to provide some irrigation to our more draught-hardy primitivo vines. Grape clusters are hanging on all the varietals at this point, and the period of major shoot growth is long past. The flexibility afforded by the mild May-June period to withhold water from the vines, coupled with well-timed mowing, has made weeds a non-issue at this point. There is no sign of verasion, and we would not expect to see it for a couple more weeks. The quantity of fruit looks modest–neither low nor high–though verasion will bring yield into better focus.
We have planned our first formal experiment to assess the impact of certain leaf and shoot thinning practices near verasion on fruit outcomes in our barbera. The barbera have proven to be water hogs and have traditionally given us a hard time late in the season keeping them adequately hydrated and with reasonable brix levels while waiting for the characteristically high acid levels to fall. While we are doing what we can proactively on the irrigation side, we’ve planned a controlled experiment to see if removal of some of the foliage from barbera can effectively slow the rate of water loss and sugar accumulation, while still allowing the fruit to ripen successfully. Selected rows within watering blocks 1 and 3 will have foliage thinned, while other rows in the same watering blocks will serve as controls. We will monitor sugar, titratable acid, and pH levels of the test and control groups through harvest.
We are looking forward to the release, we expect in the fall, of 2007 vintage primitivo and barbera wines made with Shaker Ridge grapes by the Oakstone Winery in Fairplay, CA. The 2007 primitivo scored silver medals at the El Dorado and Amador County Fairs despite being only recently bottled, whereas the barbera was not bottled in time for the competition season.
Limited quantities of primitivo grapes and our Portugese varietal grapes remain available for the 2009 harvest season.