Vineyard Diary 7-19-20

The growing season continues at Shaker Ridge as normal; the grapevines seem completely oblivious to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well they should be. We are now in the typical summer pattern of intense heat for a period of days or week, followed by a shorter period of relief, followed by a return to high heat. The vines tolerate the intense hot periods better than the farmers, who tend to seek shelter midday from the bright, cloudless sunshine typical of a Foothills summer. That said, the intensely hot periods have peaked in the high 90’s on several occasions but have really not breached the triple digits for more than a few hours at our site. We count that as a positive, and we’re already at that point in the season when anything short of 95 F for a mid-day high feels completely reasonable to us, low 90’s pleasant, and anything lower….downright cool. Such is the re-set of our internal thermostats at this time of year. We even had some June days with highs in the mid-70s…almost unheard of pleasant. We have not seen rain since mid-May, and don’t expect to see it until mid-September at earliest. All in all, if we can stay out of the triple digits (wishful thinking), this is shaping up to be a fantastic vintage, which would be nice counterpoint to the social-distanced and somewhat stressed world around us.

In the vineyard, bloom was on the late side and has come and gone. The fruit set appears solid–at least average for our main varietals–and the vines are healthy. We have been able to meet vines’ minimal irrigation needs given the moderate heat. Veraison started in our Tempranillo on or about July 14, a little bit on the late side but earlier than we would have expected from the late budburst. We immediately began netting our Quinta grapes, of which the the Tempranillo are a part, in hopes that we can get them completely buttoned up before the birds get a taste for it. They already have gotten a taste for cherries, blueberries, blackberries, plums, peaches…basically every fruit and berry we grow that ripens ahead of the grapes. Meanwhile, we’re on the lookout for star thistle–a miserable invastive weed–and pull it out manually wherever encountered to prevent its establishment. We’ll probably need one more preventative mildew spray to protect the grapes prior to full veraison.

Wine competitions were largely cancelled along with county fairs due to the novel coronavirus, but we’ve gotten some very positive anecdotal feedback on last year’s Quinta fruit and Barbera from clients. Our Quinta shares for this year are sold out, though there is still a possibility of securing o share via our waitlist. We still have plenty of our Barbera and–unusual for us at this point in the season–a little bit of Touriga available. This is because some of our commercial winery clients have been impacted more than us by COVID-19 given the closure for several months of tasting rooms at a prime time of the year, a closure which has been recently extended in some places outside of El Dorado and Amador Counties.