The 2018-19 wet season started out quite dry, with rains only arriving right around Thanksgiving. This was too little, too late for some things in nature (like fall mushrooms), and after a pause to rains in late December and early January, it was beginning to look sparse for winter rain as well. But the rain began again in earnest–not in crushing amounts–but regular, soaking amounts, and February and March were cool and wet, almost textbook-like in California. Then, when it started to dry out and warm up in April, and it seemed like we might be through, then came historic rain amounts in May–like more rain than any May since the 1800’s–a remarkable occurrence.
In the end–and we do think this is the end of rain for the season–we have obtained generous winter and spring rainfall to fill the soil profile and provide an above-average snowpack, we have had a cool spring leading to the latest budburst in the vineyard in years, and we are well-positioned for a fine summer growing season. Irrigation has not been necessary to date and won’t be for awhile, but we have completed much of the work that makes late spring the busiest time in the vineyard: shoot thinning, mowing between rows, and regular spraying to prevent powdery mildew.
The late budburst presages a late harvest, and we’ve reflected that with our best estimates of harvest times in our “grapes available” postings. If anything, the risk would be to slightly later harvests than shown. If the summer stays on the cooler side like the spring, we may be looking at our coolest growing season since 2011. We think that generally works in our favor, particularly for Barbera which doesn’t particular favor super-hot, dry conditions at harvest as our region can often produce.
Right now in the vineyard, bloom is just wrapping up for most of our varietals, with flowers turning into tiny berries, and the vines will soon be shifting gears from shoot growth to berry growth. It was a challenging spring scheduling the shoot thinning and early spraying around the rains, but the worst is now over, and the vines are looking great.
We were excited to offer “shares” in our Quinta vineyard of Portugese varietals for the first time since 2014, which give home winemakers the starting materials for a true Portugese-style port wine without having to shop all over for the constituent varietals. The grapes will be picked and distributed on a specific Saturday to be determined in late September or early October. Our Quinta vineyard has enjoyed a remarkable record of success for both home winemakers and commerical winemakers in competitions, as documented elsewhere on our website, and our Quinta grapes have made some excellent dry and dessert wines. The Quinta shares, by their nature, are finite in number and now sold out, but those interested can still get on the 2019 waiting list, as we hold back a certain number of shares for the “house” to buffer yields (over which Mother Nature has primary control), and so another share or 2 might possibly become available.
Still available without waitlist are a couple tons each of Primitivo and Barbera, as shown on our “Grapes Available” listing, reservable on a first-come, first-served basis. We are looking forward to a great harvest in a few months.