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The Incredible Shrinking Vintage

by David on October 15, 2010

If we had create a theme for the 2010 growing season, I think the word “thinning” says it all. A certain amount of shoot, leaf and cluster thinning is part of being a grower, but this year takes the prize!

Here, you see ordinary springtime shoot thinning, which is done to assure we don’t have too many shoots, and therefore, clusters (too many shoots cause crowding; flavor intensity suffers with too much crop):

The first cluster thinning normally happens right after flowering. If there are more clusters than we anticipated or more than we believe the vine can ripen with good flavor intensity we thin out some of the immature grapes.

But, we had some very  bushy vines this year, thanks to heavy rainfall in May (not normal). It’s important to keep the “canopy” of leaves open so air flow is good and mildew is under control, so more thinning:

And, then came the “Summer of no Summer”. Cool, damp conditions added to the normal mildew pressure, so gotta keep the canopy open!

Cluster thinning at veraison (when the grapes change color) is quite common (we have our winemaker on video kind of thinking aloud as he thins):

The “summer of no summer” came to an abrupt end in mid September, when we had a severe, 3-day heat wave!  The vines weren’t acclimated to the heat and all that shoot and leaf thinning left the clusters rather exposed. Result: dehydration!

So, more cluster thinning:

And, again more heat a few weeks ago!  More thinning:

So, the 2010 vintage may not be plentiful, but we’ve saved all the good ones for you!

This is one of the most challenging harvests ever, according to a number of growers. After a very cool summer and long ripening season the outlook for quality, for those who have taken the trouble to thin, should be very high. We expect to wrap up the 2010 harvest tomorrow with estate Petit Verdot and the rest of the estate Cabernet. Cheers!

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