The last several weeks have continued the previously mentioned pattern of hot days and cool nights, but without any triple-digit temperature readings. The lack of super-hot days is highly unusual for a Foothills summer, though a welcome development for both the vines and the humans that tend them. But make no mistake about it: it’s still been plenty hot and dry in the afternoons! We still think we’re on track for a ripening schedule similar to last year, with primitivo in late September, touriga in early October, and barbera in mid-October. But, like always, we’ll let the grape chemistry and grape flavors guide us as we get closer.
The primitivo fruit is particularly heterogenous in its ripening this year, both within a cluster and between vines. The former is typical of a zinfandel family grape, but seems particularly pronounced this year, both in terms of berry size and berry color. Presumably this has to do with an extended bloom period. So we will wait at least until we get uniform color in the fruit before we bother taking chemistries, and we’ll need to be particularly attentive to sampling practices to get a representative read. Fruit load is generally light to average, with the more vigorous plants carrying more fruit than the less vigorous ones, the primitivo seeming to self-adjust well. We have already netted about 1/4 of this vineyard in the section closest to trees and most likely to be attacked by birds. Indeed, we were too late for a few row-end plants that were already cleaned out.
The barbera vines, as noted in the vineyard gallery, have never looked better at this point in the season in our experience. Veraison is in progress but behind that of the primitivo, as usual. The vines are dark green and healthy, so seem well-positioned to ripen the fruit in this late season. Crop load would have been uniformly light, but we’ve achieved what we think will be close-to-target yields by retaining part of most of our kicker canes, adding back some fruit load. We’ll be watching the vines, and the grape clusters should tell us by their color if a given vine is overburdened, in which case fruit can be dropped from that vine. However, this is likely to be a rare occurence this season.
The “new” (2009) touriga nacional has an average fruit load and has just started veraison. We had seen some water stress earlier in this field, so it’s been getting extra irrigation for a few weeks, and appears okay now. This field has trees adjacent to two sides and so is the next candidate for bird netting, though we have a little time before this needs to be deployed. Again, we’ll be watching veraison to see if any individual vines seem to have too much fruit, but we think shoot thinning removed most of the excess.
The “quinta” vineyard of Portugese varietals is looking very good at this point and is completely enclosed in bird netting. As usual, the rolling out of the overhead netting was an iterative process wherein we let the birds tell us if there were holes, and there were. So we kept fixing holes and gaps, and we haven’t seen any unwanted avian visitors inside the net for 4 days now. This is important, because the tempranillo is fully turned color now and would be decimated in short order if the birds could find a way in. The touriga nacional and the other Portugese varietals except the souzao have started veraison at this point. This vineyard appears to be on cruise control, and we’ll started monitoring the touriga nacional chemistry in early to mid September to hone in on a harvest date. We look forward to a visit from some of our quinta “shareholders” on September 3rd.
Just a final note that two 10% shares of the Quinta, a ton plus of primitivo, and 3 tons plus of barbera remain available for sale.