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A Vintage Update from Geoff

by David on June 16, 2008

Since I checked in with you in April, it’s been interesting. I registered a mild complaint about frequent moonlight drives around the vineyard in the wee hours of the morning, due to frost, but little did I know that it was just the beginning. This spring turned out to be the worst season for frost in about thirty years! Talk about sleep deprivation! Millions of dollars in crop loss has been reported throughout the north coast, so I feel incredibly grateful for the lush, green growth and well-formed (for the most part) clusters I see as I walk the rows.

May was cooler than normal, most of the month, but suddenly decided to heat up just as the vines began to flower, mid month. We had temperatures around 100 for about four days, which can fry the tiny flowers and cause crop loss. About a week later we got enough rain to make me worry about impaired pollination.

You might be interested to know that the flowers are self pollinating – if you saw them, you’d know they couldn’t possibly attract a thing. ;-) But, that’s great because it means we don’t have to worry about bees or wind – just the weather.

I’m just getting started on cluster counts but, at a glance, it looks like we came through flowering relatively unscathed. I see a little shatter in the Cabernet Franc, but the loss is minor and, other than that, it looks pretty good. I pruned, last winter, with certain ideas about crop production but the vines don’t always see things my way. Of course, there’s nothing I can do if the count is lower than I anticipated. If it turns out the crop is looking heavy in any part of the vineyard, this is a good time to thin some of the clusters so we get good color and flavor intensity down the road.

Shoot development looks good and we’re continuing on with the shoot and leaf thinning. We strategically pull leaves and shoots to improve air flow, which helps keep mildew pressure down, and to promote light exposure, which heightens fruitiness.

Looks like it’s time for hedging because the shoot tips are growing over the top trellis wire. It’s important to keep the leaf canopy and the clusters in balance – too much leafy growth and we risk vege character. Hedging the top of the canopy is one of very few things I can do mechanically.

The Cabernet grapes look kind of like peas, right now, and I wouldn’t recommend them for tasting. ;-) They’ll continue to plump to the size of small blueberries and should start turning color next month. The next thing you know I’ll be writing a harvest report! Let’s hope my very good luck continues…

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