Vineyard Diary 7-10-13

It’s been an interesting ride weather-wise this year.  It was generally a cool spring, with a series of isolated and limited late rains, but summer has been a scorcher.  We endured about a week of 100+ daytime high temperatures leading up to and a little past the 4th of July, followed by the briefest of respites into the upper 80’s.  We’re now back to highs in the upper 90’s, with no cooler than the mid-90’s forecast in the foreseeable future.  There’s really nothing unusual about this for summer in the Foothills, though we hope we get a little more of a breather at some point.

The net result of the weather has been plenty of heat for ripening, which seems to be moving right along.  Our first tell of this was our tempranillo, perennially our earliest-ripening red varietal–and we detected veraison in that grape already on July 7.  The same milestone for our vineyard in recent years is shown below:

Year                 Date of Veraison in Tempranillo

2013                 July 7

2012                 July 16

2011                 Aug 2

2010                 July 31

Of course, 2010 and 2011 were particularly late years, but 2013 is on track to be an “early” year for harvest, given the persistent heat we’re seeing now.  Expected harvest windows have been updated accordingly in our “Current Grape Availability” postings and will continue to be fine-tuned as the observations and data come in.

Visually, our vines are holding up well.  We did see some new sunburn damage in the barbera fruit during the oppressive triple-digit temperature period.  Barbera is our most susceptible variety to this, probably due to its thin skin.  The damage (which results in affected berries completely drying up) typically affected an exposed portion of certain clusters, the rhyme or reason for ones affected not always obvious. Fortunately, we had not yet done any cluster thinning in the barbera at the start of the heat wave, which will allow us to “select” significantly affected clusters for removal when we do this.  As a result, it’s not clear that harvestable fruit load will be net reduced, though we’ll have a clearer picture of yield next month.

Fruit load is generally average this year, with the exception of the primitivo which had a pretty heavy fruit set for the second straight year.  We have accordingly already done a major round of fruit dropping in the primitivo, and expect the start of veraison within the week.

Congratulations to Gin Yang, who won Shaker Ridge’s inaugural contest for best homemade wine made from our grapes with her port-style wine made from five Portugese varietals; she will receive 400 lbs of free grapes.  Gin won a gold medal with her 2011 port-style wine in the 2013 Sacramento Home Winemakers’ June Jubilee, and this proved to be the highest competition honor achieved for an entrant in our contest.  Gin was actually one of several Sacramento Home Winemakers (SMH) to make a port-style wine from our 2011 vintage, a year in which we sold “shares” of the vineyard to many home winemakers.  Gin also made a dry style red wine from the very same Portugese grapes (including same harvest) as her gold medal winning dessert wine, and this garnered a bronze medal in the June Jubilee.   An honorable mention in our contest goes to JD Phelps, also from the SMH group, who took home a silver medal in the 2013 SHW June Jubilee with his rendition of a port-style wine made from our 2011 vintage.

In other wine competition news, we are pleased to report that our own homemade wine made from 2011 estate touriga nacional (Quinta) won a double gold medal at the 2013 Orange County Fair.  Our 2010 vintage port-style wine earned a silver medal in the same competition.   The touriga outcome was particularly gratifying, as it’s not a varietal that most judges would be familiar with, and so they were likely reacting to their overall impressions of the wine.  One concluded, in the judging sheets, “My first ever [touriga], wow, it stands alone.”  Truly, this was a wine that made itself in 2011, but we’re glad that others appreciate the qualities of this varietal as a dry wine.

Some primitivo, touriga nacional, and tinta cao grapes remain available for purchase from the 2013 vintage; we are also accepting wait-list requests for barbera.