We received an unexpected inch and a half of rain on June 28, but after that little aberration, it’s generally been seasonal Sierra Foothills weather: sunny, cloudless skies, hot days, and cool nights. We’ve had two runs into the upper 90’s, including about a week in early July, but have avoided triple digit days to date. Our vines started showing some water stress beginning in early-mid July, and we have been irrigating regularly since. The berry growth seemed exceptionally fast this year, going from bloom to obvious fruit clusters in about 3 weeks. Primary shoot growth is all but done now as the vines concentrate their energy on fruit development.
In the barbera, we waited until mid-late July to remove the “kicker canes”–a single intact cane left at pruning to absorb some of the vigorous vegetative growth of barbera. This year, the April frost damage resulted in light fruit set on most barbera vines, so we actually used the kicker canes to augment fruit production and hopefully bring the vines into better balance than would otherwise have been possible. Thus, the kicker canes were generally removed only in part, to a degree decided on a plant-by-plant basis, so that the fruit that they carried could add to the total for the vine.
Shoot growth in the primitivo was exceptional–that is to say long–this year, probably helped by the late rain. This is not a particular problem unless driving a tractor between rows, which can be a punishing experience with primitivo’s stiff shoots. Shoot thinning there is well underway and should be completed soon. Shoot thinning in the port vineyard and “new” touriga field was completed by early July.
Weeds loved the late rain and have had to be mowed and re-mowed for us to gain any semblance of control. In or near the vine rows, our old friend (not) horsetail remains weed enemy #1. Though easy to pull out, it is remarkably prolific and obviously refractory to our preemergent weed treatment. On the bright side of pest control, we have gotten extremely handy with two kinds of gopher traps after nearly giving up on these contraptions. In the last 3 weeks, we have sent 8 or 9 gophers to the great gopher hole in the sky, but not before they had a field day tunnelling in and around our orchard and vineyard.
On the county fair circuit (home winemaker division), we are pleased to report that our port-style wine Dorado (2008) won a double gold at the 2011 Orange County Fair and a silver medal at the 2011 Amador County Fair. Our 2009 primitivo won a silver at the 2011 Amador County Fair (not entered elsewhere).
Five “shares” of our mixed port varietals as well as some primitivo and barbera remain available for sale for the 2011 season.