Vineyard Diary 4-19-17

The 2017 vintage is underway, though barely.  We enjoyed heavy rainfall in the Sierra Foothills this winter and spring, with record snowpacks in the High Sierra.  It was frankly just what the doctor ordered.  It’s hard to believe after several years of drought (though we think that was a bit of an exaggeration for our area last year) that the current concerns and headlines would be more about flooding, overburdened spillways, and reservoirs filled to the brim and being forced to dump water.  Feast or famine.

The frequent rains and still persistent cool but beautiful weather have led to a late budburst, or at least later than the last 2 very early years.  This year looks like it may have been average to slightly on the late side for budburst, which will likely be reflected in harvest timing.  We also pruned very late this year, with some early varietals just starting to “push”, and that probably added to the later appearance of buds in our vineyard.  In any event, though it looked like we would never get our in-row weed control spray down in time, we managed to do that, and now we wait for warming and more sun before rapid shoot growth and the imminent start of routine preventative spraying for powdery mildew.

We weighed a number of options for our barbera in the off season, a variety which is a bit of a “water hog” and also prone to raisining in our hot late summers.  One section of our barbera vineyard is on a rock outcropping with particularly shallow soils, and that section is the first to raisin, which is a perennial discouragement as harvest approaches.  We were prepared to graft this section to another varietal or take other extreme measure, but in the end we decided to remove vines selectively to allow those remaining to access more water.  Visually this will be barely noticeable to the casual observer, and yield-wise, we hope it will actually be a wash:  while we lose production from the vines removed, we hope that production will be higher from the remaining adjacent vines, with less raisining.

We’ve received word of additional outstanding results for home winemakers making wine with our Quinta Portugese varietal grapes including a pair of double golds (one for a dry wine, one for a port style) which we plan to update on our website soon.  On the commercial front, we are pleased to report that Due Vigne di Famiglia’s 2015 barbera and primitivo wines made with Shaker Ridge Vineyard grapes each took silver medals in the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.  Congratulations to Due Vigne’s winemaker Ken Musso!  We look forward to reporting on the many upcoming commercial and home winemaker competitions.

Pre-season sales were brisk, and our only remaining 2017 grape inventory–at least until we get further in the season and are able to better assess yield– is  less than 1 ton of touriga, a fabulous red wine grape suitable for both dry and dessert wines.  If you’re interested in making wine this year, we recommend you commit to grapes early…