Vineyard Diary 10-30-21

Another growing season is now in the record books. This one will be remembered for 3 things: an unusually dry spring, an exceptionally hot summer, and the Caldor Fire. The latter started to our east in August and swept in all directions, most notably leveling the small town of Grizzly Flat. It stretched west through the Fair Play region, up river valleys, until stopped by a dedicated effort by locals and Cal Fire. Foiled coming west, it swept along Highway 50 and over Echo Summit into the Tahoe basin, where it was again stopped by dedicated efforts and, ultimately, more favorable weather. In the end, it scorched over 200,000 acres. Though the fire never got closer than about 8 miles to us, it was close enough, and we certainly saw some smoke over us for a couple weeks, typically in morning. Harvest came fast and furious from there, with the hot weather pushing ripening surprisingly early relative to a normal to slightly late bud burst. As such, we picked most of our fruit by mid-September, and but for one grafted field of Touriga Nacional that carried a heavy crop and so took longer to ripen, with last harvest on October 16, it would have been wrapped up very early this year.

In the end, we picked wine grapes for 5 commercial wineries and about 20 home winemakers, selling out of most of our varietals in, what was for many growers, a light harvest year. The fruit seemed to be of high quality, and we look forward to tasting, at some point in the future, the fruits of our labors in the form of finished wine. We thank our clients as always for their good communication, flexibility around harvest, and on-time pickups that make hectic harvest days manageable, and our good neighbor for helping out with the forklift as he has for years.

In 2021 we harvested our first cabernet sauvignon, having grafted over just a few rows last year, and look forward to seeing what quality of cabernet is possible from our site. Though our grafting project for Rhone varietals was not as successful as hoped, we do have a few vines established of Syrah, Grenache, and Mouvedre that will provide the budwood for a more concerted future effort.

After literally half a dozen separate rain storms in September and October that yielded only 1 inch of rain among them, we enjoyed (vicariously–we were out of town!) an “atmospheric river” on October 23-24 that dumped approximately 5 inches of rain on our site and much greater quantities at higher elevations. The local vegetation finally got a drink, our local river and streams finally got a little flow, and we hope that this is the start of a decent wet season for us, as we really need it.