A Cold Spring in the Vineyards (May 12, 2010)

Many have been asking us how the cold spring is affecting us in the vineyards.  As of the middle of May, I’d say we’re 2-3 weeks

Vines after Frost Protection

behind normal in the life cycle of the vines.  The real indicator will be when the vines flower (usually in early to mid-June), but with only an inch or two of growth, it’s hard to believe we’ll be flowering in three weeks.  If the summer is hot, we could catch up and have a slightly late harvest.  However, our farmer minds tend to look at the worst-case scenario which would be a cool summer coupled with an early winter.  Our traditional envelope of harvest (early September to early November) could be skewed later and truncated.  That means that late season varieties for us (Zinfandel, Syrah, Marsanne, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.) could be in jeopardy.

Ultimately, as we try to take as much control of a situation (the weather) which we have no control, as farmers this colder spring means more early handwork on the vines.  We are more aggressive on shoot-removal, which in turn helps balance (or in this case, “lighten”) the crop as insurance for ripening.  The colder weather allows us more time to work the vines at this critical point (which in warm years can be as short as a week) when the buds are easily removed with a pinch of the fingers rather than needing to snip it off.  It’s a much quicker process and valuable energy (from the vine’s point of view) isn’t wasted in growth that is going to be removed later.

The one new and exciting vineyard aspect that we have added this year is using the mildew model.  Mildew is our #1 pest in the vineyards, and for the first three months of the vine’s cycle life, do everything we can to prevent getting any mildew.  Dave, my brother, wrote an algorithm that uses our weather station data to help determine what mildew pressure we actually have in the vineyards at any given time.  Normally with our vines, we would start spraying sulfur on when the vines have at the most 6 inches of growth.  But with this new information and the cooler temperatures, we are waiting much longer than normal to start our spray rotations.  We may even be able to cut one or two full sprays out of the six we do for the year.  It’s better for the environment, our carbon footprint is smaller, and we see savings in the pocketbook.  That’s exciting!

We’ll update you periodically about how the season is going to help keep you in the know.

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