Vineyard Diary-5-8-15

Premature summer has given way to some beautiful spring weather, including clouds and, yes, a little bit of rain.  We actually received an unexpectedly generous shot of 2.3 inches of rain on April 24-25 that was readily soaked up by rapidly drying topsoil.  Unfortunately, this past week’s chance of rain/thunderstorms on several days translated into only an additional 0.1 inches of rain.  Overall, we have received an essentially average 23+ inches of rain during our traditional wet season, but this is unlikely enough to fully recharge our well after several drought years.

The vine shoots have nearly reached their maximum length, growing rapidly in the last month.  Bloom–the flowering of grapevines– has already happened in our Quinta touriga and tinta cao sections and is just about to begin in the primitivo and barbera.  Bloom is not marked by showy flowers but rather by a delicate, distinct, honey suckle-like aroma that lasts about a week.  We typically sample petioles at this time to check on nutritional status of the vines ahead of fruit set.

The main vineyard operations at this time of year are regular spraying to prevent powdery mildew–we primarily use an organic oil product–and shoot thinning (sometimes called suckering).  Our grapevines try to produce many more shoots than we intend them to, and the extra shoots need to be removed to focus the vine’s energy and better open the vine up to sun and air.   The shoot thinning is a very labor-intensive operation for which we typically need to engage outside labor to augment our own in order to complete in a timely manner.

Two additional commercial wines made with our grapes have recently been bottled and are available for sale from Wreckless Blenders in Carmichael, CA.  We had the pleasure of tasting the 2013 barbera and 2013 touriga at a Wreckless Blenders event in mid-April, and they did not disappoint:  both are excellent examples of their respective varietals.  The 2013 follows a sold-out 2012 barbera also made from our grapes by WB, whereas the 2013 touriga is WB’s first effort with this wonderfully aromatic Portugese varietal.  Both wines are available for sale directly from Wreckless Blenders; get them while you can!

Our 3rd Annual Shaker Ridge Home Winemaker competition remains open to entries for the 2015 judging season.  In short, we are offering 250 lbs of our winegrapes to the best homemade wine made with our grapes based on results in selected, reputable public wine competitions such as the El Dorado County Fair, the Amador County Fair, the Orange County Fair, the California State Fair, and the Sacramento Home Winemakers June Jubilee.  Critical to the entry is informing us, prior to judging of the respective  competition, of entries made at least 85% with our grapes.  Please see our previous (March) post for full competition rules and details.

In light of the drought, we have decided to idle–which in this case means not irrigate and not harvest fruit (the grapevine pretty much does what it wants…) from Block 1 of our barbera.  Block 2 will be brought along but not committed to any clients until we are confident that we will be able to irrigate it adequately.  Nevertheless, we still have ~2.5 tons of barbera that we are definitely cultivating and that is still available for sale.  Waitlists are available for our primitivo and touriga.