Vineyard Diary as of 5-14-12

A final large slug of rain over several days in April has set us up for a beautiful start to the 2012 vintage. In the end, local rainfall was only modestly below normal. The rain’s late arrival made the annual grasses and weeds very happy, and they have proceeded to shoot up between the rows in a sprint to set seeds. They have been mowed once, but will surely need to be mowed again before the month is out. The vines really took off, and one could practically see them grow before one’s eyes in late April and early May. This growth has brought with it the need for regular sprays to prevent powdery mildew, and no issues have been encountered on that front to date. The vines look very healthy, the future fruit clusters are visible and abundant, and we would anticipate bloom to follow in the next couple of weeks. We seem to have escaped frost damage, and we suspect that most growers are breathing a sigh of relief at what looks like a normal, healthy start to the season. It was definitely a late start–with our primitivo finally pushing on about April 20–but there is reason to think we should make up some time now with the favorable growing conditions.

We got a good jump on shoot thinning–a critical operation for quality control– and we have already completed that operation in the Quinta vineyard and a separate touriga field, with work on the main varietals (barbera and primitivo) to follow this week. Irrigation has not started, but the ground is drying out quickly, and don’t expect that the need to irrigate will be more than 2-3 weeks off, either. California is truly beautiful during this mid-spring window when the hillsides are still green, the air still has a little humidity in it, and the high heat has not started, and our vineyard is no exception.

The first homemade wine competition of the season happened this past weekend at the El Dorado County Fair. We were braced for anti-climax, as our 3 golds and Best of Show showing in that competition last year are pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime sort of outcome that we knew we could not improve upon or perhaps ever see again. We chose to enter two estate wines: our 2009 primitivo and our 2009 dry blend of Portugese varietals. The primitivo won a double gold, and the estate red won a silver. This was a gratifying result, as there were only six double golds (double gold means all 3 judges on a panel thought it merited a gold) out of 210 wines total entered. The silver was a solid showing for a blend of varietals that most people, let alone wine judges, have probably never heard of. Next up are the Amador County Fair and California State Fair.

Fruit remains available for sale for the current season, but the region is seeing healthy demand from other parts of the state, as the Central Valley (which had been on a rip out mode for vineyards for several years) finds itself short of grapes with continued growth in domestic wine consumption. Thus, if you are on the fence, we recommend that you secure your grape supply — whether here or elsewhere–before it’s gone. In the absence of a sale of our Quinta fruit to a single client by June 1, we will be releasing additional touriga nacional, plus tempranillo and tinta cao, for sale by the pound.