Bloom (flowering) came and went in mid-May as expected, encountering fair and relatively rain-free weather. Fruit set happened thereafter of course, and the growth of berries and filling out of clusters has been rapid since. We appear to have gotten decent fruit set across varietals, with only the primitivo showing relatively high “shatter” (loss of berries that results in less full clusters). In moderation, we like shatter in the primitivo, as it produces the looser clusters that we prefer for healthy fruit and full ripening. We’ll need to assess the impact on yield in a couple weeks, but the amount of shatter appears to be within the range of normal, and as we target a modest 2 tons/acre in the primitivo, we currently expect to be able to accomodate the loss.
The last few dribbles of rain came about a week before Memorial Day, and it’s been dry since and likely to remain so until October or so. The weather was remarkably pleasant through most of June, with a heat wave taking us in to the 90s only in the last week or so. So overall it’s been a relatively cool growing season thus far, and that was reflected in how long we were able to hold off providing any irrigation. High heat is forecast to return soon, though as long as it stays in the 90s as opposed to the 100s, it’s nothing the fruit and vines can’t handle. Meanwhile, the cover crops and natural grasses have browned in normal California summer fashion, ending the frantic spring season that includes repeated mowing.
We received more exciting news on the home winemaker competition front, this time from the Sacramento Home Winemaker Jubilee competition. Thad Rogers won Best of Red honors with a 2014 primitivo wine made with our fruit, which is quite an honor considering that dry reds are the most crowded category in just about any California winemaking competition, and puts primitivo up against “noble” reds like cabernet sauivgnon that judges often favor. The primitivo unfortunately missed Best of Show honors, but only because it lost to a 2014 port-style wine made with Portugese varietals also grown at Shaker Ridge and produced by Linda Skinner. For those not familiar with the Sacramento Home Winemakers, they are a large group of people serious about making great wine, they are well-connected, and they are not shy about sourcing fruit from all over Northern California, including Napa and coastal areas. Thus, we are quite gratified to have not just one but two wines made with fruit from our small Sierra Foothills vineyard go into wines that showed so well among wines produced from some of the finest vineyards in the state. Congratulations to the winemakers!
By the next update, we should be in a position to see if yield is such that it would be worthwhile to start a waitlist for our sold out varietals. Currently, the only fruit we have available for sale is a home winemaker sort of quantity of tinta cao, a very good blender used in port-style (or dry) Portugese blends.