This week I’ve been on the first leg of an international sales trip which began earlier in the week in the beautiful city of London. I’ve been all over, presenting Robert Mondavi Winery wines to trade and media this week but in between I’ve made the most of my small amounts of down time to see the sights of the city. I’m joined on this part of the trip by esteemed Zinfandel winemaker, Joel Peterson, who is pictured with me above in one of the beautiful gardens of London. Spring has a firm hold on the city and not only is it mild weather, the spring flowers
My inner plant nerd was loving the flowers and some of of the trees that were not budded out yet were still very impressive like this European Beech (Fagus syilvatica)
On my way out of Napa there were signs of the new vintage as I spotted the first bud break in To Kalon vineyard in the N2 block, another sign that spring and vintage 2014 is upon us.
Now I’m saying goodbye to London and hopping a quick flight to Dusseldorf, Germany to attend Prowein, which I will have an update on next week.
This week I found time to get out in To Kalon and work a bit. The fastest way to get to know a vineyard is to work in it. Moving through the rows with steady purpose and rhythmic cutting you start to get a feel for the strong and weak areas. The undulating rises and dips in the ground where frost or water may settle at various times in the season. I only had time for a little but so I started in Monastery with our vineyard manager Matt Ashby.
This particular block of Monastery is Reserve Sauvignon Blanc that is spur pruned and cordon trained.
We’re leaving two buds per spur so that there will be two fruitful shoots this next season per position.
When you are pruning you take between 90-95% of last years growth off. I’ve taken a before and after shot below.
This was my first time pruning To Kalon. It’s a little daunting knowing what this vineyard is capable of but you still have to make the cuts reasonably fast. I found out two things; I still know what cuts to make but I’m A LOT slower than I used to be when I was pruning more often. Good pruners can prune close to or above 100 vines per hour. I was around 30 vines per hour which is embarrassingly pathetic from where I was three springs ago when I pruned last. It just goes to show you, if you don’t use it you lose it! The vines are bleeding profusely so budbreak will be shortly upon us and with it the beginning of my vintage note updates for 2014!
We need water. We REALLY NEED it very bad! During the whole of last year we only saw around 6 inches of rain when average is around 40 inches or so. San Francisco got just over 5 inches which is getting into desert-type conditions. So far this year, the picture has not improved much. We had a sprinkle of rain (0.01 inch) a few weeks ago but that was it.
The culprit is a high pressure system that has been parked off of the Pacific coast for several months redirecting the rain we usually see down to Mexico. Time magazine recently announced they believe we are moving into an El Niño year meaning a super warm year for the west coast. While they are the only people proclaiming this so far, that on top of a drought year could mean an extremely challenging vintage for grape growers.
1) Low rain and warmer than average winter means early bud break.
2) Early bud break plus extremely dry conditions means a nasty frost season.
3) A bad frost season and low water supplies means that those growers that rely on overhead sprinklers for frost protection have to chose to protect the crop now and risk not having enough water to irrigate later when the summer comes.
4) Low water resources and a warm year means increased irrigation needs further stressing already stressed water supplies.
5) Further stress on already stressed water supplies means agriculture and urban water needs are put at odds once again. That battle is usually won by the urbanites.
6) Reduction of water for agriculture means less crops over all. Lower yields for wine grapes and food crops alike.
7) Lower yields for crops equals higher food prices to the end consumer.
When I say “we need water” I don’t just mean those of us who make our living in Agriculture. I mean ALL of us, collectively.
In all seriousness, start praying for rain. We REALLY need it!