Vineyard Diary – 5/10/16

It has been a typical, busy spring thanks to warming temperatures, rapid growth of both vines and cover crops, and intermittent rain.  May usually brings the last throes of rain– not in great volume but with just enough frequency to be annoying from the standpoint of applying sprays for mildew control.  We are well past full budburst at this point, with rapidly growing shoots and the future fruit clusters ready to flower very soon.  Overall, nature is telling us that the season is about a week “early” vs. our long-term average, so we should be harvesting everything in the very late August to early October time frame. The weather looks fair in the near-term, which should provide good conditions for a successful fruit set.  With solid average rainfall, we are hopeful that irrigation will be a non-issue for us this year.  We think we have avoided any frost damage to date and should be in the clear now.

We have recently completed shoot thinning for the entire vineyard, so the vineyard looks as neat as it is going to until the leaves have fallen in fall.  Shoot thinning is a critical operation to focus the energy of the vines on their fruitful shoots and to open up the canopy for better air circulation, resulting in more effective mildew control and penetration of sunlight for eventual ripening.  We expect additional mowing and many more passes for mildew prevention until we’ll be on cruise control for harvest.

On the competition circuit, we were pleased to hear that the Best-of-Show “other” (other than Red or White) wine at the California State Fair Home Winemaker competition was taken by a Portugese-style port wine made by a client with grapes from our Quinta field grown in 2011.  This adds to a growing resume for our Quinta field of Portugese varietals that includes a Best of Show (El Dorado County Fair), Double Gold (Orange County Fair) in home winemaker competitions and Gold (San Francisco Chronicle) and Best of Class of Region (California State Fair) among commercial winery competitions.  We believe there are several more excellent wines in the pipeline both from home winemakers and commercial winemakers.

As we foreshadowed last time, demand was brisk this year, and we quickly sold out of most of our “paper stocks” of grapes for 2016.  Once we see fruit set we’ll be better able to assess if there is the potential for additional availability, in which case we will take waitlist requests.  We do not anticipate large (eg, ton quantities) of any of our varietals to become available, but a few hundred pounds up to a half ton is plausible.  We do still have the full complement, which should only be 400-500 lbs, of tinta cao currently available for sale from the Quinta block mentioned above.  Tinta cao easily makes the most beautiful-looking grapes we grow. The vines produce small, loose bunches of firm grapes with little or now raisining and have been used successfully by some as a single varietal in dry wines, but are generally blended with other Portugese varietals, often in dessert wines.