Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Looking Forward 2009

As I write this, the vines are showing the first signs that the '09 growing season is well under way. As the daily temperatures rise the vines begin to bud and the official bud break for this season happened about three days ago for our vineyard. Different varieties of vinifera grapes leaf out at different times. Chardonnay, for instance, is usually earlier than Petite Sirah and many of the growers will prune twice to delay the bud break in areas where there is danger of frost.

Once the new shoots start to grow the main thing we have to hope for is that we don't have a late frost. Last year many vineyards were devastated with the late frost, especially in the north. We got some damage here but it was relatively mild compared to some northern california vineyards that lost much of their harvest. Even with some loss of fruit we still harvested 4.5 tons last year. We had beautiful well ripened fruit in spite of the frost and a hot spell that sunburned many of the clusters just after they were formed.

Our hopes for this year's harvest is to keep the grapes thinned to about 2.5 to 3 tons per acre. Left to their own devices the vines might produce as much as 5 tons per acre, even more. The problem with that is that quality of the fruit would suffer and the vines might be less productive in subsequent years. The vineyard is still young and we are building the vine structure that will serve to support the grapes for years to come so we don't want to push them beyond their capacity. In nature the energy of the plant world goes mainly toward fruit production so we have to hold the vines back some so they will continue to develop strong trunks and cordons (arms).