We all know that great wines are made in the vineyards . . . given the right circumstances! A “Normal” season of grape growing starts in the spring, when the vines send tiny new “buds” of growth out with the warming of weather after 6 months of winter dormancy. In approximately 50 more days (mid May), the vines are full of long canes and lush green leaves, and tiny self-pollinating blossoms bloom and set the crop. Another 50 days on (mid July), veraison occurs, where the pea-sized hard green grapes start to turn soft and take on sugar and show color (red or white, depending on the variety). And the spurt of final growth, in a “Normal” year, accompanied by warm summer weather, brings us fully ripened grapes ready for harvest between somewhere between September and the end of October.
The last two growing seasons have been anything BUT normal. We harvested our Sauvignon Blanc a full month later last year, and struggled with spikes of heat followed by September and October rain storms and cool weather to bring in our Cabernet Sauvignon fully ripened. This year, the extended cool weather has delayed every step of the ripening process again, from rains during bloom which gave us a much smaller set, to cool foggy mornings and mild day-time temperatures, leaving us about a month behind. But the season has at least been even, and the fruit is ripening uniformly. Hopefully, an extended Indian will extend the summer growing season to ripen the grapes, and we won’t have to battle Mother Nature again this harvest. Ideally, this will make it a winemaker’s year, with nothing but opportunity in the winery.
The effects of the odd weather are also abundant in our own gardens and at our local Farmer’s Market, where cole crops are still in abundance, with lots of kale, chard and beets and even spring peas, and we are only just starting to see cherry tomatoes ripen. The multiple plantings of different tomato varieties are just showing some color, and what growers call a “Train Wreck”, when all the varieties suddenly ripen all at once, may be just around the corner in September.
Harvest has just begun with the sparkling wine varieties slowly ripening, “Normally” occurring a month before we start to pick our still wine grapes. As different grape varieties ripen at different times in varying micro-climates throughout the valley, we are all anxious to see some warmer weather soon and experience a “Normal” harvest, without varieties over-lapping in the winery. Do
a little sun dance for us, won’t you?