An unbroken string of 90+ degree days extending for several weeks back into August finally came to an end yesterday, though we received no measurable rain out of thunderstorms which appeared to rage just to our east. We managed to avoid a single triple-digit day this summer, which is remarkable for our area. The break in the weather came just in time, as heat and dessicating winds we’re just starting to make the barbera vines look thirsty, and now we should be able to keep the vines adequately irrigated with our normal irrigation rotation.
The first primitivo chemistry samples were taken on Friday, and suggest about 2 weeks to harvest. We’ve noted some areas heavy with “seconds”–bunches that often form off of side branches of the main shoots–so we are removing those to focus the vines’ last couple weeks of sugar accumulation on the main clusters. Otherwise, it will be all about keeping the birds off the fruit, which is tasting good now (both to us and them) and monitoring the ripening.
The “new touriga” field proved to be heavy on fruit once veraison kicked into gear, but catching this mid-veraison allowed us to selectively remove the less advanced clusters, and we dropped about 1/3 of the crop in all. This vineyard will be mostly or completely covered with bird netting given its proximity to trees and the need for adequate hang time. We now think that a mid-October harvest is likely for this field.
The barbera is coming along very nicely, and is at a point now where the green “seconds”–which don’t get harvested–stand out clearly from the main clusters. Unless a vine is particularly light on main crop and thus in need of a sink for some of its sugar production, we plan remove these easily recognized smaller clusters, which can be heavy on barbera with our vertical cordon “trellising”. Our first chemistry sample for the barbera will be taken this Thursday, and we suspect that it will already show sugars in the mid-20’s brix, and the only question will be how high the TA (and how low the pH) is. Particularly with the break in the heat that is forecast, we’re optimistic that we’ll get plenty of hang time for the barbera, and still expect harvest in mid-October. If there is risk to this prediction, we would expect it to be earlier and not later.
The Quinta (Portugese varietal vineyard) appears to be in great shape as we head down the homestrech, with the souzao now well into veraison. The tempranillo would be pickable now if harvested on its own, but we are (as per plan) waiting for full ripening of the touriga nacional–the backbone of the Quinta’s five varietals–to drive the timing of harvest for the balance. We did just a little fruit dropping and hedging of shoots to fine-tune crop load and sun exposure, respectively, and time is on our side with the grapes fully protected form birds by overhead netting. We’ll take our first chemistry on the touriga this Thursday, though we anticipate it will probably take at least a second reading next week before we’ll be able to confidently pick a harvest date and announce this for our Quinta shareholders. Of note–if this were Portugal–our weather pattern this year would have all the classic features of a vintage port year, and as we aspire to have wines made from the Quinta rivaling the quality of a single quinta vintage port, this is good!