It's always exciting when we see the first signs of veraison in the vineyard. The red grapes start to soften and turn red, while the white grapes start softening and add a little yellow to their green tone. It typically marks a point about six weeks from the beginning of harvest.
Overall, the vineyard appears to be just slightly behind the last two years. The recent three-week stretch of very warm weather has really accelerated the ripening process. And yields appear higher than either 2007 or 2008, though not to the levels of 2005 or 2006.
So far, we've only seen veraison in our Syrah and Viognier. I got some good shots of the first Syrah clusters to show some color change:
The next shot shows the vines' natural yield control. Around the time of veraison, the vines allow excess fruit to dry out and fall off. This permits the vines to fully ripen the remaining berries. You can see the veraison raisining below:
At this stage, the clusters often look a little ratty, with a mix of green berries, red berries, and raisins. The cluster below is representative:
It's harder to photograph veraison in the whites, but the berries are getting a little softer and a little less green. I liked the photo of the row of Viognier clusters lined up on a trellis wire and silhouetted against the deep blue sky:
And finally, one last shot of the vineyard, looking down between two rows of Syrah. It's worth noting that I had to search out clusters that were showing signs of veraison; the photo below shows a more representative view, and all the clusters appear green. You can also see faintly on the ground the dried canes from the canopy management that we've been doing over the last month; we have been removing extra shoots and leaves that are overshadowing the grapes or are preventing the passage of air.
If you are interested in more detail about the physiological process of veraison, you can learn more from my post on veraison in 2007. And, if you would like to see the complete photo set, you can do so on the Tablas Creek Facebook page.