June has been payback time after an exceptionally pleasant May weather-wise. It can be described in 3 words: sunny, hot, and dry. Following an isolated rain event on June 10 that clearly capped the “rainy season”, we have consistently been in the 90s to low 100s in temperatures, with no relief in sight. We can hardly expect less for July and August, so the key will be spending as little time as possible in the upper 90’s/100s.
In the vineyard, we are enjoying a slight lull before more handwork resumes. The weeds between rows have at last exhausted surface water and won’t grow back now after 3 rounds of cutting. The vines are looking healthy and squarely focused now on berry development. After getting some warning signals from our well, we are altering our irrigation pattern to maximize irrigation efficiency. Going forward, we will only be watering at night when evaporation will be less. Limiting irrigation to night will have the effect of drawing from our well more gradually, giving it time to recharge. This will result in less “deep” irrigation than we would like, but it’s what we need to do to get through the season.
The next major operation will be fruit dropping, which will need to be timed to maximize impact and minimize sunburn, and yet as soon as practical following the last powdery mildew prevention spray so that we can then deploy bird netting. If bird (and skunk, and raccoon, and squirrel!) pressure on our other fruit is any indication, we’ll want to get those nets on early to protect the grapes.
Fruit set looks decent overall, with what looks like plenty of crop in the barbera, and lighter but adequate crop in the primitivo due to “shatter” (loss of berries after fruit set) that is typical and variable year-to-year in primitivo. The fruit load in the Portugese varietals look about average. We’ll adjust crop to where we want it with fruit dropping in a few weeks.
Wine judging season, driven primarily by the State Fair this year for us on the commercial side, has yielded some big winners. Though not identified with vineyard designated bottlings, a barbera and a touriga wine made with our fruit earned high honors at the California State Fair. The 2013 El Dorado barbera from Westwood Family Cellars took a gold, best of class of region. This means that, in the opinion of the judges, it was the best barbera from the Sierra Foothills region (encompassing El Dorado, Amador, Calveras, and several other counties) at the State Fair this year. Considering that Amador and El Dorado counties have established themselves as the source of much-and we believe some of the finest-varietal barbera in the state, this is quite an achievement. Wreckless Blenders’ 2013 barbera, also made with our fruit, captured a solid silver medal in the same competition.
We were equally excited to see that Wreckless Blenders’ 2013 touriga–made from our grapes and blended with a little barbera also from our vineyard–took a gold medal, best of class of region, at the State Fair. This is the same wine that we blogged about enthusiastically after tasting it a couple months ago. The varied microclimate, soil, and terrain of our region support quite a variety of excellent miscellaneous varietals, so best of class in a category of miscellaneous red varietal blends is a gratifying result for a varietal that we particularly favor here at Shaker Ridge. This wonderful touriga is currently available for sale directly from Wreckless Blenders.
Finally, in our 3rd Annual Home Winemaker competition, we can’t yet declare a winner, but we have an entrant with a commanding lead at this point. Terry Piazza-Perham’s 2013 touriga wine captured a double gold at the Sacramento Home Winemakers 2015 Jubilee competition, one of only a handful of double golds awarded there. This puts her in a clear lead over a pair of 2013 primitivos, one from Tom Montgomery and one from Steve Barrett, which earned respectable bronze medals in the same competition. While entries are still possible per our contest rules, judging has already occurred in a number of the regional wine competitions, and the double gold should prove difficult to top (would require further distinction like best of class or show…).
We expect to be able to update our barbera availability next month with the water availability situation hopefully more clear at that point. We hope to be able to confirm availability for some on our waiting list and may have additional fruit to offer.