YAWN… Did you hear it? The sound of thousands of grapevines, all over the valley, rubbing their eyes, stretching and rolling out of bed after about 4 months of blissful hibernation?
It’s that magical time of year when the vines are transformed from woody stumps into verdant, green growing machines. Honestly, at a glance, the vines here at the winery looked like they were dead a week or so ago. Closer inspection revealed that they were seriously contemplating getting to back to work because the buds were bulging at the seams. The warming temperatures of the air and soil, coupled with their own internal clocks made it clear that winter vacation’s over.
So, first it was the Merlot, its swollen buds tentatively pushing out tender, pink bits of new growth. There’s something very sweet and touching about the look of these nascent shoots. The Cabernet Franc followed suit just a day or two later. Then the Petit Verdot and the Cab finally popped over the last couple of days.
We’re entering the period they call “great growth” and with good reason. Already, that sweet, new growth on the Merlot looks far less tentative – you can see honest-to-goodness leaves, however small, out there now.
Viticulturists say that, once they get going, the new shoots can grow as much as an inch a day, if the weather’s good. There are those who believe we have nothing better to do, here in Napa Valley, than watch the vines grow and they may have a point. Beats the heck out of watching paint dry, as long as there’s a good glass of wine to keep you company. And, with enough wine, you may find yourself waxing philosophical about new beginnings…
We’re off to an excellent beginning, with daytime temperatures in the 70s and night-time lows in the 40s. The 10-day forcast predicts more of the same. What an encouraging contrast to last spring!
But, we’ve only just begun. The threat of frost damage is very real and we can’t really say it’s behind us until about mid-to-late May. Damage begins when the temperature drops below 32 F, so monotony, when it comes to weather, is definately a good thing, right now.
Rain’s okay, too. After a long dry spell, we got enough over the last month, or so, to be able to call it a respectable season, but a little more would bring us up to normal. Plus, there’s less chance of freezing when it rains.
Often, by the time we’re through April, the weather settles into a predictable pattern of dry, warm days and cool, foggy nights. Drama makes for great copy but, when it comes to farming, “predictable” and “monotonous” are glorious adjectives. Bring it!
In another few weeks we’ll begin shoot thinning, which, essentially, is correcting the work we did at pruning time. One of these days we’ll have to get the vines to hunker down and read the vit textbook but, until then, leaf, shoot and cluster thinning are part of life. Besides, it’s a great excuse to walk the rows and see what’s going on, up close and personal, in any case.
So, the 2009 vintage is off to the races! Wish us luck!