Vineyard Diary 4-26-20

The “March Miracle” of generous rainfall continued briefly into April and then shutdown abruptly, giving way to sunny or partly sunny skies and slowly warming temperatures, culminating in some 80-degree plus days in late April. With a full soil profile of water, this was the signal that the grapes and annual grasses were waiting for, and the reluctantly green hillside gave way to verdant green, though inevitably to be baked to brown. We’ll enjoy the perfect spring weather and beautiful green in the meantime.

The vines didn’t come awake until mid-April, and though the different varietals pushed buds in their customary temporal order, it was a compressed period of about 2 weeks in which each of the varietals pushed. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of the pause (finish?) of rain and start of budburst to finish grinding the winter prunings and get some weed sprays down before the grapes pushed. We have since already started shoot thinning in our earliest pushing varieties: tinta tao, muscat canelli, and tempranillo.

This past week was an historic one for our vineyard, as we cut down 500 of our 18-yo primitivo vines to graft over to additional touriga nacional, tinta amarela, and cabernet sauvignon. The section of the Primitivo vineyard chosen was one with a distinctly different soil than the balance, so we think this operation, while obviously providing some of the above varietals, will make for a more uniformly ripe Primitivo crop and benefit that varietal. The cab is a modest planting suitable only for home winemaker-type quantities and very much experimental. Though cab can readily grown well in most climates, it does not necessarily make the best wine in all climates, and the Sierra Foothills are not traditionally a strong area for this classic varietal. However, we had to take a shot, and we have chosen the highest point of our vineyard and a somewhat shaded area on well-drained soil, and we’ll see what’s possible with good care. When cabernet was grown more extensively in the area about 40 years ago, it was in an era that predated the widespread use of viticultural practices likely to give the best quality wines. Some excellent cabernet has been since made by certain growers in the Foothills, so we know that quality is achievable on the right site with the right care.

The tinta amarela planted would, for the first time, give us perhaps half-ton quantities that might be usable by a microwinery or home winemaker working on scale. It makes a lovely fruity dry wine or rose in addition to its traditional use in port-style blends. We have heretofore only had a modest planting as part of our Quinta block.

Shaker Ridge is pleased to offer again in 2020 our Quinta fruit as 250-lb shares. These allow buyers working on a home winemaker scale to obtain, with one stop, a complex blend of 5 different Portugese varietals suitable for a classic port-style wine or for a delicious, complex dry red. The grapes will be distributed on a single Saturday in the mid-September to mid-October time frame to be determined.