Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the beginning of June felt like we'd been transported to Santa Barbara for some of their "June Gloom". That unusually cool, overcast weather lasted another week. But the last week has seen things start to feel more summer-like. Not the 100°F temperatures that some associate with summer in Paso Robles, thankfully, but at least sunny and in the upper 70s and low 80s. It's honestly been glorious, and we're feeling lucky that it's this late in the year and we haven't yet seen any oppressive heat.
I was feeling stir-crazy in my office today and with it being so beautiful out I decided to take a ramble around the vineyard. There was enough going on that I thought it would make a fun blog to share with all of you. First, to set the stage, a view looking down through our largest Mourvedre block over the winery and across Las Tablas Creek to Scruffy Hill and Jewel Ridge:
We're excited about all the new vineyard blocks that we have going into the ground or coming into production. In addition to everything going into Jewel Ridge (some 25 acres that have been planted in the last couple of years) we've made the decision to pull out a few underperforming blocks on our original property so we can start fresh. One such block, formerly virus-weakened Roussanne, is being replanted to own-rooted Mourvedre on wider spacing, to help reduce the stress levels on this notoriously stress-prone grape. Note the 33% wider spacing compared to the 20-year-old Grenache block on the left, the higher irrigation lines so sheep can graze more easily, and the amazing sky:
Another Mourvedre block that we planted last year (named the Santos Block after one of our long-time and deeply missed late vineyard crew members) is growing well and looking healthy. We won't get a crop off it this year, but next year is looking likely:
The Syrah block where we've been experimenting with grapevine layering is looking amazing. Both the mother and child vines have leafy, healthy canopies and are carrying fruit. First, an overview photo of a mother vine (center) with canes buried on either side to produce child vines:
And second, a closeup of the cane descending into the ground (foreground) and reemerging thicker and healthy in what had been a missing vine position. You can see the new Syrah clusters hanging down:
Speaking of clusters, despite our worries about shatter due to the chilly spring, we've seen a good fruit set this year, though we're something like a month behind where we've been most recent years. Below, see Grenache (left) and Syrah (right). Normally these berries would be pea-size or larger and starting to squish together into clusters:
There may be some unusual sequencing this year. Counoise (below left) is usually one of the latest grapes to flower. This year it's ahead of the Syrah. And Mourvedre (below right) is just finishing up flowering. If I had to make a prediction, it would be that we're looking at mid-September before we're seriously into harvest, which would be our latest start since 2011.
Once challenge for us this year has been that with all the rain, the cover crops keep re-sprouting even after we've grazed and mowed them. But the flip side of that challenge is that even in our less vigorous blocks we're noting remarkable vigor and vine health. You can see both issues in the below photo looking up our oldest Counoise block:
The grapevines and the cover crops aren't the only plants excited about winter rains. The olive trees are as covered with blossoms as any of us can ever remember:
I'll leave you with one last photo, of one of our handsome head-trained Grenache vines from the western edge of our property. I feel like you can positively see the health of the year bursting out of the vine's pores:
So, that's the report from the vineyard, as of mid-June. Late, but looking great. Next stop: veraison.