Vineyard Diary 8/7/22

The 2022 vintage is shaping up as a potentially outstanding one. We had a cool spring and a slow start to summer with memorably pleasant mid-70’s temperatures for the 4th of July. The heat of summer followed, and while triple digits were breached a few times at our site, generally we had highs in the mid- to upper 90’s for an extended period, with characteristic cooling to the low 60’s at night. Of late we even had some cloudy days and, more amazingly, a quarter inch of rain one morning…almost unheard of for our climate in August. Now we are looking at at least a week of upper 80- to low 90-degree highs with our normal low humidity…wonderful ripening weather for the grapes. If this moderate heat can sustain through September, this could be the best vintage since 2012–a year in which we saw highs only in the low 90s for an extended period heading into harvest.

Consistent with the moderate weather, we’re seeing very little evidence of sunburn or raisining in any of our fruit, including relatively highly exposed Barbera clusters. We had completed shoot thinning on our cultivated Barbera blocks relatively late, resulting in less foliage re-growth than usual and very good sun exposure of the fruit. Even the fruit in our few rows of Muscat Canelli, whose skin will brown with high heat, is still yellow-green and looking fantastic as it begins to sugar up.

We are officially in the home stretch now for the vintage, with veraison beginning or well in progress for all of our varietals, and having just deployed the rest of our birdnetting to cover all but the Barbera. The Quinta had been netted 1-2 weeks earlier due to the annual temptation (to the birds) of the early-ripening Tempranillo. While inconvenient for every other operation in the vineyard, the netting seems essential for protecting fruit given birds and indeed all of nature circling for food and water in still overall dry conditions. We have been battling gophers, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, wild turkeys, and song birds in the vineyard for weeks or months, and our local bear is about due to join the fray.

One thing we are not seeing–a relief after the Caldor Fire last year–is any major local fires, though they can appear at any time in the dry conditions. This is not to say that there haven’t been any regional fires–there have been several to our south already–but none that have impacted us for more than a day or two, as Cal Fire has been successful and bringing them under control. We hope that it remains that way.

One of our talented home winemaker clients recently achieved a remarkable trifecta with a Best of Show, Best of Division, and a Best of Class (all for dessert wines) in separate competitions with the same port-style wine made from our Quinta block with 2019 fruit. This block of 5 Iberian varietals has been used in numerous top wines over the years, definitely fulfilling our original vision of showcasing the synergy of varietals in a Portuguese-style port. The yield on this block–a block which is now 17 years old– has been steadily declining, but we’ll be getting what fruit it can yield into the hands of some of our best long-term clients this year.

We still have 1 ton of Barbera and 2 tons of Touriga Nacional available for commitment in half-ton or greater quantities, as well as 250 lbs of Muscat Canelli. Due to frost damage in the region, Foothills grapes are likely to be in short supply, and as noted above, it’s shaping up to be an outstanding vintage. Therefore, we encourage you to secure quality fruit while you can from us or others. Once a given variety of our fruit is fully committed with half-ton or greater orders, we will entertain wait list requests for smaller quantities (as little as 250 lbs), should any fruit remain after our main harvest. We have already established such a wait list for our Primitivo.

We look forward to meeting our clients at harvest, which is likely to be on the early side of normal timing this year, and providing some outstanding fruit.