Relieved, Grateful, and Anxious

This photo was taken on our property on August 19, about 4 hours before the police entered our driveway and directed us to evacuate our Angwin home. The view is north toward Pope Valley. The smoke plume you see is from the LNU Complex fire, one of the massive wildfires that was started by lightning strikes on August 17.

We are relieved because the fire was stopped in Pope Valley about 8 miles from our property. That’s the closest wildfire has ever come to us. We are grateful to the brave firefighters who worked 72 plus hour shifts trying to contain the fire. We are anxious because wildfire season is just beginning. We haven’t received measurable rainfall since May and we’re not likely to receive any before November. That’s normal.

Before the fires started we were in the vineyard everyday cutting off grape clusters that will not be harvested. This is a tedious and time consuming task that requires us to move leaves and canes to locate the undesirable clusters, including shatter, second crop, Eutypa, and clusters that don’t complete veraison fast enough.

This is a shattered cluster. Notice the large spaces between grapes. Shatter is caused by irregular pollination.

This is second crop. It forms weeks after the primary crop forms and does not grow in the desirable fruit zone, between the upper and lower training wires. Second crop can develop anywhere on the vine from 6” above the ground to the top of the vine.

This cluster is deformed by Eutypa, a virus in the vine that usually develops in the spring when heavy rain arrives soon after pruning. The virus can be eliminated by cutting off the infected section of the vine.

Veraison is a 3 week process when the grapes turn from green to blue. There isn’t anything defective about the green cluster on the right side of the frame. We cut it off because it is too far behind the nearby clusters in veraison. It won’t be as ripe as the other clusters at harvest.

We drop all of these clusters because the vines will divert some of their limited energy to ripening these clusters, even the defective ones. The winemaker wants all of that limited energy directed only to the clusters we know will be harvested. August is the best time to distinguish the desirable fruit from the remainder.

Now we wait. Harvest isn’t likely to occur before Halloween.

In the meantime we invite you to join us in raising our wine glasses in gratitude to the firefighters and other first responders who work tirelessly to protect us from these devastating wildfires. We pray for their safety and for the healing of all those affected by the fires.

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