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Spring has Sprung

by David on April 9, 2008

We’re off and running with the 2008 vintage. The vines here at the winery started coming out of dormancy right on time, mid-March, and they’re growing like crazy! Usually Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the first on our estate to bud out, then the Cabernet and finally the Petit Verdot. The harvest will probably follow a similar pattern. When you consider the whole valley, Sauvignon Blanc is often the earliest to bud, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on its heels. The Bordeaux varieties tend to bring up the rear.

Early spring is called the season of “great growth” in the vineyard, because the new shoots seem to grow before our eyes. As soon as they bud out, I’m on call for frost protection because we can have freezing temperatures at night here as late as into May. The newly exposed, tender buds will be damaged if the temperature drops below 32° F.

Those of you who have come for a visit have probably noticed the large fans in the vineyard. These wind machines mix the warmer air, above, with the cold air, below, to protect the vineyard. Some growers also use smudge pots, which burn diesel or oil to warm the vines. Some years it’s no problem at all and others it seems like I’m up almost every night. This year is more in the latter category – I’ve been driving around checking temperatures in the wee hours a lot lately. I wouldn’t mind a little cloud cover to help insulate things at this point…

This is also the time of “great walking”! As you saw a few posts back, the pruning is severe. Now, it’s time to get out there and sucker. We prune with the idea that we’ll get a shoot for each bud, and a couple of clusters per shoot, but inevitably, the vines do as they please and if there are extra shoots, as there nearly always are, it’s important to sucker out the extra ones. Otherwise we risk over-cropping and crowding, which may exacerbate mildew problems.

Another reason to walk is that the best way to know how the new shoots are developing and to check for signs of insects or disease is to get off of the tractor and walk. As I walk I’ll tuck the new shoots up into the trellis wires.

The vines should flower around mid-May and set the crop by early June. Every season seems to go faster! Let’s hope Mother Nature smiles on us! Cheers!

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