I often write about the weather, and it’s hard not to be obsessed by the weather when it controls everything we do in the vineyard.
Although June was fairly ordinary this year, at least we’ve had a summer and it looks like it may continue for a while yet.
It’s not just us though; global temperatures for the first seven months of 2016 have smashed yet more records, suggesting we are on track for the world’s hottest year on record
Flowering in the vineyard is such a wonderful time, it can bring a lot of stress and worry, with one eye constantly on the weather but once it is complete we can finally see just how much fruit we will have this year.
Sure we can do bud counts at pruning, shoot counts early in the season, and inflorescence counts once the flowers are visible but it’s not until the vine has actually set its fruit for the year that we can get a true idea of that years crop.
The weather at flowering is critical to production in vineyards, and luckily this year it’s been pretty good. June, although warm was fairly ordinary with rain regularly throughout the month, in fact we had 18 days of rain. By chance the rain stopped just in time for the beginning of flowering. So far most varieties and blocks are well into flowering with some near completion.
So what does flowering in a vineyard look like?
With the 9th International Cool Climate Wine Symposium less than a week away, preparations are coming to an end, and the final touches are being added.
This time around England is hosting the Symposium in Brighton, bringing together the great and the good of wine, viticulture, and wine business to share ideas and meet with others in the wine industry.
Each year the Oregon Winegrowers hold their annual symposium in Portland. The symposium is comprised of two full days of panel discussions and presentations covering the most relevant topics in viticulture, oenology and wine business. In addition to this it also hosts the Northwest’s largest wine industry trade show.
This year I was lucky enough to attend the symposium as well as spend a day visiting vineyards in the Willamette Valley. For those of you who aren’t up to speed with Oregon wine this is prime Pinot Noir country.
Finally it’s starting to feel like winter.
We’re getting frosty starts, and colder days, still plenty of rainy one’s too but we’re managing to work around those.
This winter we have almost 240,000 vines to prune, which is no small task.
Now that the harvest is complete, and we look ahead to pruning it’s a fairly quiet time of year in the vineyard, which gives us time to reflect on the season just past.
One of the interesting moments of this year’s harvest was when we discovered a harlequin grape in the Pinot Gris. I have often seen a vine that has produced different coloured grapes on the same vine, and plenty of times even in the same bunch but this was the first time I’d seen different colours in the same berry!
Just a quick blog this time, as we’re right in the middle of harvest and everything is looking good so far.
Tonnages are up on predictions, and we have a fabulous crew of pickers who are all local and from all walks of life. Special thanks to them they’ve been doing a great job, with many expressing an interest in coming back in future years for pruning and further work over next summer. Its great to have such a happy English speaking crew who despite the miles they put in each day always have a smile on their faces.
I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.
As I sit here writing this blog, it’s raining outside in biblical proportions, 37mm of rain this morning on top of the 25mm we had last night. The winery drains are flooding, the vineyard is too wet to drive a tractor on, in fact there are rivers running down some rows- I thought this was summer?
Now that flowering is well and truly over it’s time to start our first part of yield estimations. Bunch counts, which is actually just as it sounds, counting bunches is hardly the most riveting job, but is a good way to get a decent estimation of what fruit we have hanging on the vines. It’s also an interesting way to see the variability between the individual clones and their different growth habits. We have 10 different clones in the Pinot Noir alone, and the differences are quite marked.
I say that summer has finally arrived with a tone of caution. It was only earlier last week that we had a northerly wind blowing and it felt like we were back in winter.
The vineyard is starting to actually look like a real grown up vineyard now, with lots of lush growth. So much so that we have to thin out some of the shoots, in a process believe it or not we call ‘shoot thinning’.
Shoot thinning is the first stage of canopy management in the growing season- not including pruning of course. Each year once the vines start to grow, they send out shoots from the buds that we laid down when pruning.
This years planting was quite unlike any other, and for more than one reason.
Once again we had the team from Vinplant over from Germany to get our vines in the ground at the beginning of last week.
Unlike previous years we planted quite late (for us) the last week of April rather than the first. Luckily this meant we planted into moist soils from the previous weekends rain and have since had a few good downpours of rain to help bed in the vines. If we had planted early the vines would have gone into parched, dry soils, with no rain for weeks. So much for April showers!
It is often said that we know less about our oceans than we do our solar system, what is more amazing is that we know less about our soil under our feet than we do the surface of the moon.
In order to broaden my knowledge last week I attended a field lab on Soil analysis, which looked at different approaches to soil analysis and comparing them. As growers we are faced today with various methods and approaches to assess the fertility and health of our soils, and new methods are being continuously developed.
We’re still Pruning and it was suggested that we try and explain why we prune and how we prune the vines so what better way to do this than with a short video…
So we have produced a short video on pruning, with Rick Burrows from the vineyard explaining how, and why we prune:
While all the tasks in the vineyard are important nothing is more critical than pruning. There are a four main reasons we prune:
While we haven’t started pruning for real yet, we have done a little bit to get our eye in before we really get started after the holidays.
This is the first year we can truly feel like we are pruning for a real purpose. The vines are now getting bigger; they have grown more this past season than any other, and we are starting to refine our techniques and systems of pruning.
We ‘cane prune’ all the vines, because in our cooler climate the lower buds of the vine are less fruitful and will generally have less vigour than a lot of vineyard sites, partly due to our shallow soils.
When you prune, you have to keep in mind not just the season just gone, but what we want to see the coming season and following season after that.
Pruning is both complex and a simple process at the same time.
Another season draws to a close for the vineyard.
The vineyard is winding down, we had our first frost this morning, giving everyone a bit of a shock considering what a warm autumn we’ve had.
The fruit has been harvested, and its juice is now slowly bubbling away in the winery, and I’ve never seen Jonathan happier. Finally he has a chance to be in his element doing what he’s here to do.
All the development blocks are now finished with posts and wire, the guys in the vineyard can finally do something else!
It’s a quite time of year for the vineyard, doing all those jobs that we’ve been too busy to do through out the year, catching up on much needed maintenance, cleaning the barns out, and generally getting things in order before winter sets in proper.
Given the temperature’s we’ve been having we’re madly trying to get as much grass seed in before we loose the opportunity. Its always a battle in Autumn to get as much of the vineyard grassed down as possible before A) it gets too cold, and/or B) it gets too wet. We’re right at the end of the weather window at the moment, we just need a few more dry days…
Cameron Roucher – Vineyard Manager