So far, except for a scorching hot weekend that (of course) coincided with the 2009 Paso Robles Wine Festival, it's been cool. Days typically have been topping out in the mid- to high-70's, with relatively frequent cloud cover at night. Normally, by June, we're seeing cloudless, deep blue skies and temperatures routinely into the 90s. By contrast, here's a photo from this afternoon, looking over the hill behind the winery:
Combine the recent cool weather with a late, cool spring and significant portions of the vineyard which were knocked back by our April frosts, and you have a recipe for a very late harvest. We've just finished flowering, about three weeks later than normal. A few shots of young clusters in the vineyard, Viognier on the left and Grenache on the right:
The vineyard, overall, looks very healthy, and the vines look like they've set a good crop this year. This is in keeping with what we've seen with the exceptionally vigorous cover crops this winter, and local farmers (of grapes and other crops) report that they're seeing heavier fruit sets than either of the past two years.
It's interesting to note that we're seeing such relatively heavy fruit set from a year when the rainfall was only 60% of normal. But the manner in which we received the rain -- relatively frequent, light precipitation rather than fewer, heavier downpours -- seems to have encouraged the vines. What we didn't see was the heavy rains necessary to replenish the reservoirs and ground water, so vineyards that rely on irrigation may see hardship later in the season.
We do see some residual damage from the frosts. While every part of the vineyard re-sprouted, some weaker or younger vines didn't set a crop. Others have set a small crop from their second growth buds. These clusters will be smaller (and ripen later) than the vineyard around them, and will require that we be careful when we harvest. A photo of a Grenache vine, frozen bud above a second growth shoot, will give you an idea:
Still, despite the frosted areas, the major challenge for us in the vineyard now is controlling the explosive canopy growth. Most of our vines, with energy stored up after consecutive light crops and encouraged by the regular rainfall this winter, are sending out dozens, even hundreds of shoots. We're going through the vineyard thinning out the canopy and letting air and light in to circulate around the clusters. A good (if extreme) example of this dense growth is the vine below, from our oldest Grenache section:
At this point, we're expecting a substantial but late harvest, probably not beginning before the middle of September.
Anyone who is interested in seeing the rest of the photo set, include a few more detailed photos of the frost damage, can do so on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=85027&id=27438997414&l=fc36dd4214