August Vineyard Update from Winemaker Russell Hearn
The 2021 Growing Season is progressing nicely. After a slow start to the season with a cool May, we have since had plenty of heat and sunshine. Crop levels look solid across all varieties and I am happy with the vine size related to crop levels. Up until fruit set it is all about vegetative growth (shoots and leaves) whereas from late June onwards it is about reproductive growth (fruit). The goal is to direct all the energy from photosynthesis towards ripening the grapes rather than growing more leaves or longer shoots. Hopefully Mother Nature will be kind to us in the coming 12 weeks as she is in charge of what happens until the fruit is harvested, despite all our efforts in the field.
Since mid June (post fruit set) this is the most intensive time of the growing year. The warm weather and higher than usual amounts of rain mean that we are seeing higher than normal vine growth this season. All of this rapid growth has required two movements of the catch wires (which hold the 'shoots' vertical) versus the one that we typically do during this time.
In addition we 'hedge' after fruit set, which is cutting off the ends of shoots that have grown too long above the posts and are drooping down (disease control and shading the fruit below).
Once this is done, leaves in the fruit zone (12-15" vertically around the clusters) are removed first by machine then by hand to expose the grape clusters to sunlight. This is done to allow all of the vines' energy to focus on ripening the grapes. By opening up access to the grape clusters it also ensures improved spray coverage as well as air movement. This reduces the humidity around the clusters which can lead to fungal growth on the fruit.
Now that the leaves have been removed from the fruit zone, crop counts (cluster counting) is performed to ascertain the expected yield for each variety per acre. Based on these numbers, some 'green harvesting' (cutting excessive clusters off) is sometimes performed to reduce the total quantity of fruit, bringing it to the correct level to ensure the vines are able to fully ripen the fruit. All of these activities need to happen in a 5-6 week period before bird netting is applied at the beginning of August. It is a blur of activity.