Autumn Vineyard Photo Essay, Part 2: Near and Far
Autumn Vineyard Photo Essay, Part 4: Seeding the Cover Crop

Autumn Vineyard Photo Essay, Part 3: Relics of a Challenging Vintage

2008 was a challenging vintage.  As I described in my 2008 vintage assessment, we saw issues with late frosts in the spring, early frosts in the fall, low yields, shatter and uneven ripening.  These all left marks on the vineyard which you can see even now.  This first photo shows clearly the area of frost damage (on what we call "Nipple Flat").  You can see the brown, leafless vines in the valley, with areas of green vines just a few feet higher:


This frost damage didn't end up being devastating, as it was fairly limited in impact, affecting jsut a few acres, and it allowed us to do some whole-cluster fermentations on the frosted Mourvedre vines.

The next photo shows one of the many clusters of second crop, this one from a Mourvedre vine at the top of the hill pictured in the photo above.  Vines set these smaller, later-ripening clusters every year, but it's most prevalent in years where there is a spring frost.  These clusters are a vine's reproductive defense system against inclement conditions during flowering.  Should the primary clusters be frosted or otherwise damaged, these secondary clusters can ripen and allow the vine to reproduce.  Of course, for our purposes they're largely a nuisance.  They delay the ripening of the primary fruit and can confuse the picking crew.  The cluster below was left on the vine after the Mourvedre was harvested in October.  Even now, the berries are sitting somewhere south of 20° Brix:


And finally, a photo of a phenomenon we saw this year more than any other year since we began.  Vines, despite the lack of water, kept producing new green shoots all the way through harvest.  This is extremely unusual, and we have not found a satisfactory explanation as to why we've seen it this year.  There were two varieties most affected: Roussanne, and Grenache.  The vine below is a Grenache vine from the top of the hill behind the winery.  You'd expect most of the leaves to be brown in mid-November, but you can clearly see the bright yellow-green leaf growth at the top of the canopy:


We don't know what to make of this late leaf growth.  It will stop when we get a hard freeze throughout the vineyard, but we'd rather the vines be storing their energy for next year rather than expending it in growing pointless canopy after harvest.

Any winemakers out there have any experience with things like this?