July 21, 2008 Veraison!
On Monday, July 14th, we spotted the first pink berries in our estate vineyard. This is “veraison,” always an exciting time at the winery as we look forward to another harvest. Sangiovese, one of our earliest red grape varieties, is leading the charge, beating even the white grapes in the progression towards this year’s harvest. We expect the Chardonnay and Viognier to begin to soften and turn from green to gold within a few days to a week, but color in the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc will most likely not appear for another two weeks. This is about the same as last year or even a little earlier, but it’s still too soon to predict whether this will be an early, typical, or late harvest. Last year, for example, all factors pointed to an early harvest, but in September, vineyard temperatures dropped, and we didn’t really start picking until after a week of late October “Indian Summer” finally appeared.
The onset of veraison is affected by many factors, including the timing of bloom, weather during bloom and weather after berry set. This year, bloom occurred over an extended, cool period, with occasional wind, heat spikes and rain, weather conditions that keep every winegrower awake at night hoping that the crop will set. As bloom and
berry set were completed, we saw that our Merlot vines (and, to a lesser extent, some Cabernet Sauvignon blocks) experienced moderate shatter, where some flowers were not fertilized to form berries. The result is grape clusters that are loose and open, with plenty of room for air to flow and sun exposure – a perfect environment for creating
concentrated, ripe flavors. Our crop is light this year. Frost in the early spring and shatter at bloom reduced what was already a small crop – many shoots have only one cluster and some have none at all, where they would have two clusters in an average year. With weather that has so far been excellent for fruit quality, we will produce less wine this year, but expect to achieve great intensity and concentration. Predictions are for moderately warm weather through the end of July, and we will be eagerly watching our vineyard blocks as they progress through veraison and begin the long ripening process, culminating in the 2008 harvest.