Just sharing a quick time lapse video from this evening taking in the rolling clouds and beautiful sun...
With the San Diego-like temperatures this past week (clear, sunny, mid 70's), the vines made a quick leap from bud break to a first showing of the clusters. The forecast for this week doesn't look like there will be much of a change, so we're probably going to see some significant growth this week.
What are the next tasks?
We'll begin the process of "suckering" this week to remove the shoots that have emerged from the trunk. This allows the vine to focus on putting energy into the shoots on the fruiting wire for this seasons production.
Next, we will do some shoot thinning to remove shoots that are too close to each other. The grape clusters need appropriate air drainage, so it is important that each shoot (bearing 2 clusters) has its own space. It is much easier to perform this task at this point in the season when you can use your fingers. As the shoots mature and harden off, pruning shears are required for removal, and the task becomes more difficult.
We will continue to post photos and updates as the 2013 season progresses, so be sure to check back to see where we are in the vineyard and cellar.
Just in time for the derby season.... "And They're Off!"
Yesterday (April 30th) marked the beginning of the growing season at Heart & Hands - bud break. While in some of the vineyard the buds continue to swell, a majority of the lower block is showing some green. Last year's bud break was much earlier, exposing us to frost risk. This year we can breathe a little easier knowing that we're only a few days away from the "last frost" date.
We're looking forward to a great 2013!
One of the first signs of season for the vine is the movement of sap. Stored in the trunk throughout the winter, the pruning cuts stimulate those juices moving upward. The vine wounds naturally heal themselves (but draw plenty of activity from the insect community) and the sap eventually begins to move toward the buds. Historically speaking, the sap from a grapevine has been used to treat everything from skin and eye diseases, to snake bites, or used as shampoo.
Despite the cooler spring temperatures (it was 25 today with a wind chill of 14), the vines seem to be on their own schedule with this sap movement. With the forecast later this week showcasing some temperatures a little more in line with this time of year (50's). Purely speculative, the vines may just be on a lunar schedule and shrug off these cooler temps to push through winter in order to get on with their job for the season.
We can hope that this is a sign of good weather to come over the next few weeks.
Many people ask me what we end up doing in the winter (usually assuming that we have absolutely nothing to do). While things are comparatively slower during our "off-season", there are still plenty of things to work on.
From a winemaking aspect, there are usually a few tanks of Riesling that are fermenting into the new year. Once those have completed, we cold stabilize the wines and begin blending trials. The blending trial evaluation can take weeks to complete with all the different variables (i.e. 8 different tanks of Riesling from 3 different sites to make 5 unique Rieslings can take a fair bit of time). While the 2012 Pinot's are resting in the barrels, we still have the 2011 Single Vineyard Pinot's to prep for bottling, along with the 2011 Barrel Reserve. Additionally, we still have all the post-fermentation chemistry to catch up on (yes, there is the science aspect to winemaking too).
The vineyard needs an annual pruning, which usually takes a few weeks. This is followed by tying the young trunks to the stakes to keep the vines upright. Finally, once things begin to warm up, we can tie the canes to the fruiting wire for the season.
What does the winery dog do when it's this cold out. Well, her Swiss roots really come out with snow on the ground. Check out the latest vineyard snow romp from our pooch:
The conditions for bloom to ensure a proper fruit set were not ideal, but what can you expect in the Finger Lakes. Nevertheless, we woke up Sunday morning (6/10) to fruit set on the clusters. It's too early to tell if there is any unevenness in the berry set, but in the next week we'll have a better idea if some of this wetter weather impacted bloom.
The past week, we've been focusing on shoot thinning and positioning. I'll post some pictures of before/after here shortly (when I have some additional time).
On May 29th we received quite a scare. A "microburst" of 90 mph wind ran through our area and took down a number of trees along with severe rain and hail (read the NOAA report here). Fortunately, we dodged both the extreme winds and hail and only received a touch of the rain.
May 30th delivered a different surprise - bloom in the vineyard. The fragrance is remarkable and makes the vineyard work much more pleasant. And while it's wonderful to work out there, this time for a wine grower can be pretty nerve wracking. Weather like rain, hail, wind, and cool temperatures can impact the delicate flowers and cause uneven fruit set despite the close proximity of the stamen to the ovaries (vitis-vinifera are able to self-pollinate). Multiple daily checks from the different weather services are normal protocol now.
And while all the great weather technology is available, we are still reminded that mother nature is in control.
Some replacement vines have arrived. Occasionally, a vine is struck by the tractor or just doesn't seem to perform like the surrounding vines and needs to be replaced. These vines are marked in the Fall and are ordered from the nursery. Once we are in the clear of any additional frosts for the season, we have the vines shipped out from the nursery. Next, we break them out of their packaging and let them rest in the barrel room to keep them cool and out of the sun. The roots need to be watered multiple times a day in this state. Once we are ready to plant, we'll place the vines into buckets of water to allow them to have one last opportunity of a good drink before they go into the ground. The matching clones are chosen for the rows we are working with and, with a shovel, we remove the old vine and replace it with the new. Lastly, we give the vines a little shot of water so it will be able to have a good start on firing up the shoots for the season.
We were met with some pretty cool temperatures (29 degrees) last weekend and after a couple of warmer days, we were able to assess the damage. It looks like the frost was minimal at best. Maybe one bud per three vines.
In fact, a number of the buds that were damaged were at lower heights on the trunks - potentially saving us some addition time with the later process of "suckering" the vines. Also, we haven't begun "shoot thinning" yet, so we should be able to work around many of the toasted buds in the fruit zone that probably would have come off anyway.
In speaking with other growers, it looks like the highest damage numbers might be around 30%. With those percentages, I'm really glad we dodged a bullet this time around and I'm hopeful the warmer temperatures will persist. Thank you Cayuga Lake.