The Kenwood Press
: 04/01/2013

The Tipping Point

Mark Stupich

March for me is the tipping point. The term comes from the title of Malcolm Gladwell’s book. The premise can be applied to many subjects, from how a consumer product catches fire to global warming. The premise is that many small events can point in one direction but nothing changes until enough factors push over the first domino, and then everything changes at once. I have been basking in the glow of the 2012 harvest since Thanksgiving. The harvest was in and I had a weekend off. The crush equipment was being cleaned and covered. The presses were disconnected. The scale house was locked. I was done turning pounds of grapes into gallons of wine.

The vines were asleep, their leaves frozen and then blown off by the first winter storms. A fire in the wood stove every night, braised ribs instead of grilled. The list goes on. The world keeps turning, however, and before you know it the wood stove is cold most nights and the BBQ has come back to life. But the tipping point is the first push of buds in the vineyards. This is the first direct evidence that the 2013 harvest is upon us. The time of basking is over. It is time to worry.

The tender shoots cannot handle the frosty mornings that have been the norm since Christmas. There is a direct correlation between the length of the shoots during an unprotected frost and loss of tons per acre. It usually happens on a crisp clear beautiful morning that warms to a glorious spring day. And then the phone rings and a grower’s water pump failed or a frost alarm didn’t go off and a vineyard manager slept in and now someone has lost 50 percent of their crop. Or it is May and just when 90 percent of (fill in the variety) is in bloom we get a late rain and the bloom collapses. Less crop and the danger of rot in one event. Or a hot spell just after the leaves were pulled to protect the vines from morning fog causes sunburn on the west side of the vines that get the full afternoon sun. Or the always-newsworthy two inches of rain on the first of September.

So the past is done and it is time to brave up and face the new season. I try to look at it through the eyes of a baseball fan. Perhaps Pablo Sandoval will need surgery on that troublesome elbow and Tim Lincecum won’t find the strike zone anytime soon. But then again they won it all last year, and we kind of did too.