Friday, October 22, 2010

No hang time issues this year

No one will remember this harvest for the great weather, or the fantastic harvest conditions.
Frankly, I don't know anyone in the wine industry who'll miss seeing this year when its gone.

The wet weather we're starting to get right now will put the brakes on all but a few of the hardiest reds that were already close to picking. Everything else that could be picked should have been picked and in the wineries by now. White grapes still on the wine that see the cooler temps and moisture this weekend will probably not be useful for anything...
Below we see Zin which got totally sunburned and was dropped & left on the ground; the raisined portion was about 1/3 of the total expected. (By many accounts this year, it can be considered a success at only 2/3 crop...)
 Mother Nature (weather) sure did a tap-dance on our fortunes, and not in a good way (actually it was more like a mosh-pit, or slam-dance). While we could see the horrible effect of molds early in the year (and the threat of the EGVM - European Grapevine Moth), there was still hope for a decent year. But June had 16 days of fog, followed by a whopping 21 days of fog in July. August was even worse with 26 foggy days, and September started looking better with (only) 18 days of fog. The heat summation (degree-days) started to rise slowly through the year, and at a glance it looked like maybe most areas were doing OK but about 2~3 weeks behind schedule when compared to an "average" year in ripening, though that number is/was deceptive. The real culprit for our woes was the way the heat came when it came at all...during the foggy days it was limited to the late afternoon for just a few hours while there was still plenty of moisture for molds and botrytis to take hold. Many (myself included) started to think that pruning back a bit more to get some sun on the fruit was a prudent idea. Then the real heat hit - and it came in hard and fast!
Many days had a temperature swing of 50-plus degrees, with the vines going from inactive (too cold & foggy) to inactive (too hot & dehydrating) in a 3 to 4 hour window, providing more "degree days" without any real ripening benefit for the fruit. 8AM to Noon was the time when the vines were in the "happy zone" temperature-wise, and after that the vines had shut down and dehydration was the force at work.
Development was stunted. Sugars were all over the place - even within the same block - making decisions about when to pick really hard, with sugars soaring sometimes but the fruit still tasting green...pick or not? With more dry weather in the forecast, we played it safe for flavors, and applied more water to the fields hoping the vines would hang on and develop more flavor. We all held our breath and waited for more moderate temps, while we watched our hard work (and fortunes) wither in the sun. Some growers lost entire blocks of fruit at this point. Others like myself were lucky to only lose a portion of their crop. Still, what will we all do to make payments on our loans? I know quite a few who are still paying off last years' loans, and I'm not too sure how that'll play out in the end, but it won't be good for a period when all of us are tightening our belts due to the economy.
Still, harvest approached, and we could all see the nighttime temps dropping. Knowing harvest was essentially here, and having an estimate of how much fruit we'd be bringing in, all of us started doing the math for how to get all of it in the door in some sane fashion. But we won't get everything this year...the last of the whites should be in, but there's still more red out there which won't last too long with the wet weather we're going to be seeing this weekend.....

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