We always begin writing these blogs by reading the prior one, to see where the story left off. In this case, the prior installment seems like a different narrative, or a long forgotten epoch in history, that we would be talking about the amazingly cool spring. Like someone hit a switch, we transitioned abruptly in mid-June to typical summer Sierra Foothills heat. By now, we have certainly hit triple digits on multiple occasions, with the surges now going from the low 90’s (which now feel like “cool” days) to the upper 90’s to low 100’s. Actually, we enjoyed some astoundingly pleasant weather–we’re talking 75 F–at the annual 4th of July parade in nearby Plymouth, but the 4th was definitely the exception and the low point (for daytime highs) in the last 6 weeks. As of this writing in late July, we are just grateful to have avoided the really high heat that this climate can also produce–into the 103-110 range. We dream of another pre-harvest period like 2012 when the thermometer was stuck in the low 90’s (for daytime highs) for over 4 weeks heading into harvest.
The part of the narrative that has not changed since our last installment is that the vintage continues to progress very nicely. The fruit set was robust–at least average, probably above average in the primitivo–and the vines are healthy and green. We’ve had virtually no issue with powdery mildew, and as we get into veraison (grapes turning color)–which started on July 18 with our tempranillo and is now widely evident in our primitivo–we are looking at one more preventative spraying at most before we are in the clear on that front for 2018. Veraison in our tempranillo always signals the immediate need to deploy our unique overhead bird netting in the Quinta block that allows us full access to the vines while greatly hindering songbird access. This has now been completed. The deployment of netting, in turns, signals our house cats’ favorite time of the year when they take advantage of a buffet of our local avian visitors which become entangled trying to penetrate said nets.
We recently had an annual but unusually brazen visit from a member of the local black bear population. Normally these large visitors come at night around harvest time for grapes, partially squashing a section of our outer vineyard fencing in the process. In this case, a bear was spotted in the vineyard in broad daylight, well before harvest. We think it was drawn in so early by ripe peaches from our home orchard, which were giving off a scent that must have been too much and caused the bear to throw all caution to the wind. In reality, that caution is best reserved for the farmers, who would be no match for the speed and power of one of these guys. Fortunately for us, the bear chose to hightail it out the back fence once spotted.
We are irrigating regularly now, rotating among the blocks (the entire vineyard cannot be watered at once), monitoring water levels in the soil and keeping the vines hydrated short of the wilting point. So far, ground water has held up just fine, but without a weather break in August, we could start seeing signs of well fatigue.
As a result of the solid fruit set, we are confident enough in yield to make available an additional ton of primitivo and an additional ton of barbera for pre-sale/reservation. Additional fruit may become available, including possibly a few hundred pounds of Quinta fruit suitable for a red blend or port-style blend. If you do not see the grapes available that you are looking for in our postings, we encourage you to reach out and get yourself placed on our waitlist. The season is moving along quickly, and by the next blog we will be talking about harvest, which should begin in early September and extend through early October, depending on varietal. As always, we look forward to seeing our clients in person again.