It is time again for a vineyard update to provide some insight into the growing season.
On this second day of June, it is forecast to be the hottest day of the year in Sonoma County with the temperature pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Santa Rosa. The optimist in me says this is not an indication for how the rest of the season will progress. Coming off a vintage that produced the smallest crop in my experience as a winemaker, we have nothing but optimism for the 2016 vintage.
“What caused the small crop in 2015?” and “What are the potential impacts for 2016?” were the subject of many discussions this past winter. To explore those discussions may be a topic for another blog post and would require a glass of wine. We learn from past experiences and adapt our techniques, but each vintage presents new and unique challenges that will test the most seasoned winemaker.
To get back on topic…
The 2015/2016 winter rainy season was pretty average for Sonoma County. Most areas received 30+ inches of rain and, unlike parts of the state to the south and east of Sonoma County, we do not rely on snow melt for any of our water needs. It was also cooler and wetter from January through March than it was the previous year. This resulted in bud break being 2 to 3 weeks later than in 2015.
Shoot fruitfulness is lower compared to the previous three years, but most growers expected this and compensated by leaving more fruiting positions. Due to the extremely poor yields in 2015, a common phrase from growers this winter was “you can always take it off, but you can’t put it back on” as they rationalized leaving the extra wood. Overall, this was a good idea as we are seeing many shoots with zero and one clusters, a few with two, and rarely any with three.
Similar to 2015, the bloom period was prolonged and drawn-out due to the inconsistent weather pattern of cool, wet, and warm weather we experienced the prior 3 weeks. If you did not know, wine grape vines are hermaphroditic or self-pollinating. The pollination process is temperature dependent and ideal conditions are between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit or rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, pollination will be reduced or inhibited.
At this time it appears the vineyards in which we source fruit got through bloom in good shape and experienced little or no shatter. Based on a theoretical duration of 110 days between 100% bloom and harvest we should start picking a healthy amount of grapes around Labor Day.
Overall, I am excited about the 2016 growing season so far and, with “fingers crossed”, think it should produce some amazing wines.