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Wine Blog


Carolyn Tillie
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ImageGullet is back up again! Hooray! Took these pictures yesterday (I try to always take them on Monday). For the vine, I'm having to stand completely out on the edge to get it all in. I keep pestering Gabriel on when we'll be suckering and he keeps muttering, "it is still growing...."

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I figured I would actually hold the grapes to give you an idea of proportion with my hand - getting bigger and bigger, aren't they?

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I'm standing so far away from the vine so that I can get it all in -- if you look far to the left, you can somewhat see there are long, spindly arms of vines reaching out:

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And the grapes are getting considerably heftier:

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I've lifted back some of the leaves to show the multitude of clusters, hidden beneath:

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At this point, Gabriel has been informed by Karen that suckering is going to take place at the same time the fruit is dropped -- probably three weeks or so from now.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't think you will see a noticeable difference in the vine from here on out (at least until it is either suckered or it starts turning colors):

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However, I am noticing a difference in the grapes. On the same vine, there are some suffering a bit from the erratic heat. Karen called this 'chicks & hens' and is not necessarily bad -- it is just that some of the grapes are not fully forming:

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Yet, a few inches away, is a perfectly formed cluster:

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Of a different note, at this point clusters have been pulled from all the vines for weighing. They are starting to calculate the amount of wine that will be projected from this year's harvest.

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Interestingly, apparently this year's odd weather HAS been causing some problems, as is indicated in an article in today's Napa News.

Vineyard managers throughout Napa Valley are reporting that highly unusual weather patterns -- early warm weather in mid-March, followed by a strong cold spell before temperatures shot up again -- is causing uneven ripening in grape clusters that will shrink the size of this year's harvest.

While not every bud will push at the exact same time with the same vigor under normal conditions, growers are reporting that the early temperature swing accentuated this affect.

The disparity in temperatures staggered growth in grape clusters, especially for the more sensitive chardonnay and merlot varietals, with some grapes developing rapidly in March and others lagging way behind. As a result, clusters have an unusually high amount of shot berries -- grapes with stunted growth -- which will not reach full maturity by harvest.

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We have shot berries in our zinfandel as well, but ours are due to uneven pollination. We have not had any heat here to speak of--days are seldom over 82 on the west side of Paso so far. But we have had a lot of wind, and that can interfere with proper pollination. Zinfandel clusters ripen unevenly as a matter of course, so we really don't like chick berries. :angry: They tend to stay green and bitter and affect the wine's pH. Fortunately, only a few rows on the edge of the vineyard are badly affected. We will either drop the fruit, or see how they come along and do selective harvesting.

Edited to say I'm not sure the reporter fully understood what he was reporting. Shot berries are an early phenomenon, and in your area are probably caused by the heat causing flowers to drop prematurely, not because the heat affects each berry individually.

Edited by DoverCanyon (log)

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Edited to say I'm not sure the reporter fully understood what he was reporting. Shot berries are an early phenomenon, and in your area are probably caused by the heat causing flowers to drop prematurely, not because the heat affects each berry individually.

Very good point -- when I saw Gundlach Bundschu's shattered Merlot last year, it was remarkably more shot than what I photographed here at Ladera. We've been getting the heat, but it is still that dichotomy of not getting as much as those on the valley floor. We also get the early morning fog that takes longer to lift 'up here' than 'down there.'

All-in-all, it will be interesting to see how the year develops.

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I'm slightly regretting that I picked the PV to blog -- the rest of the grapes are starting verasion but this is the one grape that takes the longest to mature. The backside benefit is that this blog will last a bit longer....

Vine -- can't see much of a far-away difference. However closeup, there are a *few* leaves beginning to darken.

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And the grapes look similar as well:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm a day behind because we finally got to suckering the Petit Verdot as well as dropping some fruit!

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However, the guys were still a few rows away from our chosen vine, so you won't see much difference in today's shot:

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Nor, probably, in the grape:

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However, look closely at the leaves -- that mottling is the sign that the vine is struggling at its production. If anyone likes, I'll shoot another picture of the vine this week so you can see how it was trimmed back.

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If anyone likes, I'll shoot another picture of the vine this week so you can see how it was trimmed back.

Of course we like! We are living vicariously thru your blog!!

I was in Italy 2 weeks ago and its amazing how much further along your grapes are than those in Tuscany/Umbria. They were just getting the tiny little grape-ettes while you had full blown fruit.

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Hathor, I'm sorry I didn't get around to re-shooting the vine right after it got suckered last week. Hope you can see the difference here:

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Funny that verasion is starting almost everywhere else (heck, Winesonoma even said that Mumm has started HARVESTING!). it just means for a longer blog, my friends... :raz:

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We might have an early harvest here in Paso Robles, at least with the whites. The reds seem to be on schedule, maybe just a little early. Keeping our fingers crossed for a nice, normal hang time!

Our syrah looks like your petit verdot, the zinfandel is quite a bit further along.

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Carolyn,

Thanks for posting the updates.

I am not a gardner so I have no idea what suckering is. It looks like the plants are being "thinned"...excess leaves removed so the remaining plant energy will go towards the developing the fruit. Am I in the right ballpark?

 

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Carolyn,

Thanks for posting the updates.

I am not a gardner so I have no idea what suckering is. It looks like the plants are being "thinned"...excess leaves removed so the remaining plant energy will go towards the developing the fruit. Am I in the right ballpark?

You are exactly in the ballpark -- but it includes more than excess leaves, but also whole stalks and sometimes fruit as well, although "dropping fruit" can be a separate act often done several weeks after suckering. In our case with the PV vine, we suckered AND dropped fruit simultaneously.

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...it includes more than excess leaves, but also whole stalks and sometimes fruit as well, although "dropping fruit" can be a separate act often done several weeks after suckering. In our case with the PV vine, we suckered AND dropped fruit simultaneously.

What is "dropping fruit"?

Also, if the fruit is trimmed off as part of suckering, does it continue to "ripen" off the vine? Or is it waste? If it's waste, how is it determined which fruit gets cut off and which fruit stays on the vine?

Are the trimmings composted to be used to amend the soil next year, or does the risk of disease mean you can't compost the trimmings?

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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When would you expect these grapes to be harvested?

Mumm started yesterday so we're 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. My group will pick Sav Blac early Sept. Then the reds will come. Champagne; whites then reds. Any idea's Carolyn since your in another county and higher than us? I'm in Sonoma.

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When would you expect these grapes to be harvested?

Mumm started yesterday so we're 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. My group will pick Sav Blac early Sept. Then the reds will come. Champagne; whites then reds. Any idea's Carolyn since your in another county and higher than us? I'm in Sonoma.

I'd be surprised if we started any earlier than the second week of September -- and that will be REALLY early for us.

Like Winesomona said, I'm in another county and much higher in elevation. I am seeing PV vines on the valley floor that are at full verasion and quite beautifully purple where our's has not a hint of color yet.

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...it includes more than excess leaves, but also whole stalks and sometimes fruit as well, although "dropping fruit" can be a separate act often done several weeks after suckering. In our case with the PV vine, we suckered AND dropped fruit simultaneously.

What is "dropping fruit"?

Also, if the fruit is trimmed off as part of suckering, does it continue to "ripen" off the vine? Or is it waste? If it's waste, how is it determined which fruit gets cut off and which fruit stays on the vine?

Are the trimmings composted to be used to amend the soil next year, or does the risk of disease mean you can't compost the trimmings?

Well, "dropping fruit" is literally that -- clipping it from the vine and letting it drop to the ground. I was wrong in assuming we were dropping fruit during suckering. It was just leaves and vines being trimmed.

Fruit is dropped when they are 90% colored -- the ones that are dropped have a percentage (30% to 50%) green to still to them. Also there is "second crop" which are little clusters that start to form on the vine -- those are dropped so the vine won't keep working to produce them.

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Most of the harvesting I've seen in Italy (Tuscany) has been in late September or early october. it seems as if California is always several weeks ahead in most varietals.

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Most of the harvesting I've seen in Italy (Tuscany) has been in late September or early october. it seems as if California is always several weeks ahead in most varietals.

Not necessarily -- it is just that this is a surprisingly freakish year with budbreak having occurred a full six weeks early. Last year, we were still harvesting into the first week of November.

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Autumn is coming -- as can be seen by the color of the leaves on the vines:

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I'll be keeping a close eye on the grapes -- there are small, dark dots on the individual grapes and I have a feeling we'll be seeing color by the end of the week ('cuz there is some a few rows over):

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We might have an early harvest here in Paso Robles, at least with the whites. The reds seem to be on schedule, maybe just a little early. Keeping our fingers crossed for a nice, normal hang time!

Our syrah looks like your petit verdot, the zinfandel is quite a bit further along.

Ciao DoverCanyon!

Any chance you can post a photo so we can see the difference between your grapes and Carolyn's? (If Carolyn doesn't mind....)

This blog is just amazing...its been a real treat to be allowed to become so intimate with these vines. Thank you Carolyn!

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Ciao DoverCanyon!

Any chance you can post a photo so we can see the difference between your grapes and Carolyn's?

Hathor and Carolyn, here you go:

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Only a few Zin clusters are this ripe, and they are all on the south side of the bushes. Our vineyard has east-west rows, and the summer sun hangs lopsided to the south so these berries get more sun exposure. You can see that this cluster is loose and uneven due to the uneven pollination set during our windy spring. By the time this cluster is fully ripe, these little berries will be shriveled and raisiny. A refractometer measures Brix with only a few drops of juice, so to get an accurate sugar reading from a bush or cluster, we drop them into bucket, moosh 'em up together, and then take a sugar reading. If the uneven clusters have too many raisins, or the pips are unripe, they'll be left behind.

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Here's a single purple berry on the shady north side of another bush. This is the kind of cluster we're looking for--small and uniform, although you can see that it also has unpollinated spots. We still have tons of purely green clusters, though. The Zin has a long way to go, but our viognier growers are keeping a close eye on the fruit.

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Here's a different perspective! Shawn and I hopped over to Sonoma this evening to have dinner with our favorite authoress -- on the way to Sonoma Saveur (where else to eat when in Sonoma?), I pulled over to these vines. They are either Ravenswood or Sebastiani owned vineyards, but it will give you an idea of how things are progressing on the valley floor!

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Edited by Carolyn Tillie (log)
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Once again, good vineyard practices, such as sustainable agriculture, keep the vineyard soil in good condition to produce year after year.

Along these lines, I had the good fortune to be at Frog's Leap Winery on July 24, for one of the Outstanding in the Field dinners. I regret not having taken notes of John William's tour of one of the vineyards. (Photos here.)

This is a close-up of John, making a point about the care they take each year in amending the soil. He's not only organic, he's biodynamic. He spoke about wineries have to "double oak" (I think that's the phrase he used) wines to put flavor into them, because the grapes had been growing in such sickening and depleted soil, treated with chemicals and additives. His land, during the winter, has cover crops...I can't remember exactly what, but I think he said peas and barley. I will try to find out.

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It's one of the prettiest wineries I've ever seen, and visitors are encouraged to pick fruit, vegetables, and herbs in the surrounding gardens.

Carolyn, this blog is just wonderful. Keep up the good work.

I'm thinking of doing a farm blog with one of our local farmers. We'll see.

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