Up high, down low, on the side!
This isn’t a hand slap description. It’s how grapes grow on our vines. In the accompanying photos, you see Barb cutting off a cluster about 5′ off the ground and a cluster growing about 5″ off the ground (below the irrigation emitter to the left).
She looks happy but don’t be fooled. Bridget worked very briefly in the vineyard. Evidently she doesn’t enjoy tedious farm labor. Huh, go figure.
The fruit zone is a relatively small area about 36″ above the ground where the primary fruit grows. It is the first fruit to form and ripen. The fruit growing above or below the fruit zone is second crop. It forms later in the growing season and doesn’t get as ripe as the primary clusters. We hand cut all second crop and drop it on the ground as waste. At harvest we want only fully ripe clusters.
This is the process that turns our green Cabernet Sauvignon grapes “red.” You can see in the accompanying photo they actually turn blue.
The vines are like great mothers. They expend amazing energy to develop all their off spring regardless of how it grows. The vines don’t know about winemaker preferences or customer palates. The mother vine will endure and prevail. At harvest in late October, all the clusters, including the second crop, will be blue and to some extent ripe. Each vine however has limited energy. Rather than dissipate that energy among many clusters, we want all of that energy directed only to the clusters in the fruit zone.
That’s the reason we walk the vineyard continuously during veraison, dropping second crop and otherwise desirable clusters that complete veraison too slowly.
Topping or hedging
One of the ways we enhance ripening is by cutting the canes to about 6′ above the ground. In the accompanying photo you can see where the cane has been cut and a cluster of second crop hangs just below the cut.
The canes naturally grow to about 8′ or more above the ground. If we didn’t cut each cane before veraison, the canes would droop over the training wire and create a canopy of shade.
Look down the length of the row and notice that neat haircut. That cut allows heat and sun on the grapes, exactly what we need now, especially on Howell Mountain.
We hope to complete veraison this week, about 10 days later than last year. Harvest is normally about 60 days after veraison is complete. We have 4600 great mother vines doing their wonderful jobs. We’ll continue doing ours by meticulously nurturing them through the process.
Our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from our vineyard will be bottled this month and probably released in fall of 2017.
We are very pleased with how our 2014 Napa Valley Zinfandel and 2014 Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc are developing in the bottle. We plan to release those 2 wines in October or November. We’ll keep you informed through this newsletter. Thank you so much for your encouraging feedback and support.
Barb and Gerry Sieck