Summer is a lazy time in the vineyard. The California native grass cover crop in the tractor rows is mowed, the vine rows are weeded, shoot positioning has occurred and leaves shading the fledgling grape clusters have been removed. There is time for socializing, going to conferences, and bottling the vintage from 2 years prior.
Here in Coombsville, starting in July, we can hear the air cannons used to scare the birds away in Carneros, signaling the beginning of the ripening of whites and Pinot noir grown in that AVA.
About July 15th we see the beginning of veraison, the coloring of the clusters, in our Cabernet vines. It is always thrilling to see that harvest will soon be on its way.
Not until August do we need to begin working toward harvest preparation. At that time we do a green fruit drop – the little second crop that grows in the canopy – and remove anything that will not ripen along with the rest of the crop. About half way through veraison we put our bird netting up to protect our product. After the netting goes up we check every day to make sure no bird has forced its way in. We can usually tell easily because the mate will be calling forlornly from the sidelines. While we check for birds we check the crop and the vine status. It is always fun to watch as the rachis, the stem attaching the cluster to the cane, turns brown along with the jacks, the attachment from rachis to berry. These are other signals that harvest is coming.
This August we had fog every morning with moderate afternoon temperatures for most of the month. This allowed the vines to stay continuously physiologically active. The grapes had lots of time to mature at a leisurely rate which allows for great flavor development.
September 15th or so we will take berry samples to see how the crushed berry juice tastes and how ripe the skins and seeds are maturing. We will taste every few days until harvest, which could be anywhere from the 20th of September to the 20th of October, depending on the weather between now and then. In any event, harvest is always exciting. Picking the clusters, dumping the lugs into the harvest bins, and driving off to the winery is one of the best days of the year! Stay tuned for the next installment of our Seasonal News.