July 28, 2015
2015 Mid-Season Checkpoint
We are just beginning the process of veraison, when our grapes begin to soften and turn from green to either golden (for white wine grapes) or black (for red wine grapes). It has been an interesting year, with changeable weather and lots of surprises. Due to the fourth consecutive year of drought and a stretch of 90 F days back in winter/early spring, the season started out earlier than most of us have ever seen, with some white grape vines budding out in February (typically this occurs in early April for us). The heat has been interrupted by several periods of cooler, damp weather (though unfortunately for Californians, not much rain), as well as periods of more typical weather. We have even had a few thunder and lightening storms in July, which is quite unusual, and I'm sure that Mother Nature has a few more surprises in store for us before the season concludes.
One of the damp periods occurred in May, during the point when many of our vines were flowering. Grapes are self-pollinated and need dry air to allow the pollen to travel from the stamens to the pistil, so the result of damp weather for us was very poor fruit set in much of the vineyard. As the berries are now sizing up, we're seeing that a large part of our estate has an ultra-light crop. This bodes very well for quality, though production will be down. Some of the early grape varieties, including our whites, sangiovese, and syrah, are just beginning to color, as are some of the merlot and cabernet sauvignon blocks with the lightest crop on their vines.
We are expecting harvest to begin in mid September for our whites and go through to mid October for our reds, timing which is similar to the hot, dry vintages of 2013 and 2014. Because of the light crop, we will be using an optical sorting machine to remove any green "shot berries" (berries with no seed that do not ripen or color up properly). It will be interesting to experiment with this cutting-edge technology that is becoming more and more widely-used in the industry. Every year is a surprise and adventure, but at this juncture it looks like we can be hopeful for another great vintage though with less produced wine than we normally expect. --- Sally Johnson