There’s something strangely apropos about making the first vineyard diary posting on April 1…not that one couldn’t do a wiser thing than own a vineyard!
Winter rains seemed abundant, and certainly northern California saw its best rainfall in several years. But some of that apparent abundance came from the high frequency of forecasts of rain rather than actual rain, and some from the contrast to the recent string of drier years. Overall, there is a sense of relief because some reservoirs are filled, and snow pack in the Sierra is near long-term averages, but our rain tallies and those we follow generally support the conclusion that we are having just an average wet season in terms of actual precipitation. That will serve our purposes at Shaker Ridge, but it’s unlikely to end the overall water shortage in California.
Budburst in our barbera was evident by March 25, which is about a week later than last year. The overall budburst picture hasn’t played out, but we suspect that the barbera will be indicative of the trend overall which is likely to be another early-ish year, but not as extreme as last year. December brought cold and okay rain, January was very wet, February was warm and dry, and March was fairly wet. So, the warm February set us up for a very early budburst that was prevented only by the cloudiness and rain of early March. We’ll be susceptible to frost for another 6 weeks or so, but if we can get past that, we should be in good shape.
Winter pruning was completed on a single day this year–March 2–actually just before a series of rains would have made it a wet and messy operations. Those same rains caused us to take awhile to be able to mulch the prunings into the soil, but that was finally completed last week. So, we’re enjoying the brief period when our now predominantly 14-yo vertical cordon vines show their old wood and look neat and under control.
We delayed our traditional end-of-January posting of grape availability as we made arrangements to engage a professional vineyard manager to help us out this year, primarily so that we would have a little more flexibilty to do the kind of things that normal families do in summer. Also, while a grape farmer tends to become very good at farming their particular piece of land in a certain way, it’s healthy now and again to get some outside perspective in management practices, and so we hope our transition to a different working model will not only maintain the quality that we aspire to but improve on it. The main impact of our new model on our clients is that we will have less flexibility for multiple harvests, and so we will be looking to harvest on a more limited schedule set, to a large extent, by our main commercial winery clients.
While much of our inventory has been committed to returning clients, we’re happy to have some availability across most of the varietals that we grow, including barbera, primitivo, touriga, tempranillo, and tinta cao. However, interest has been high, and we would encourage those thinking about our fruit to commit early. We look forward to a successful 2016 growing season.