The Kenwood Press
: 05/01/2013

The journey of Vintage 2013 has begun

George MacLeod

Bud break is over and the individual shoots growing out of the buds left after pruning are now about one to two inches long. Viewed from a distance, a lovely light green tint now covers the once dormant vineyard. On every shoot you can now see two tiny pre-bloom bud clusters that, with luck and good weather at bloom time, will become the grape bunches of vintage 2013. The crop last year was so large, many thought that the 2013 crop would be smaller. So far, that does not appear to be the case. Early yesterday morning, while it was still dark, we gave the nubile crop a dusting of sulphur to protect against mildew.

A word on climate change

There have been many articles to the effect that rising temperatures will push premium grape growing areas to the north. Here in Sonoma Valley, we might just dodge this prediction. What we've seen the last few years is that hotter air in the Central Valley rises more vigorously and draws more cool Pacific air into our precious valley. At the same time, we have now gone two seasons without the March or April frosts that used to keep us growers up in the middle of the night adjusting fans and sprinklers.

Marie and Javier are both lurking off the margins here just itching to give their reports. (Note to new readers: for years now in this column we've let our vines recount what's happening in the vineyard. We've personalized it and given them names - Marie is 'spokesvine' for the Sauvignon Blanc, and Javier for the Zinfandel.)

Javier's Zinfandel Report

“We vines cannot wait to report our huge successes last year. Wines from our grapes won three gold medals - at Sunset Magazine, at Orange County, and at the North of the Gate Wine Faire - prestigious competitions all. We vines believe that the Old Patron's decision to convert to head pruned vines is what brought in all these medals. About 40 percent of us are head-pruned and El Patron says he plans to convert the rest. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

There are several reasons why grapes from our head-pruned vines may be better. Consider just one: the head-pruned vine stands independently so that it gets the effect of the sun uniformly all day. Sunlight distribution on cordon-pruned vines is a function of vine row orientation.

Marie's Sauvignon Blanc Report

Don't think for a minute we Sauvignon Blanc vines are going to just passively grow here and let Javier and his gang hog all the glory. Wine from our 2012 vintage has been honored as the Governor's Choice by the Stanford University Alumni Association for their annual fund raising drive this fall. This was a blind tasting competition before a large committee of wine experts. The final flight consisted of five Chardonnays and three Sauvignon Blancs. When all this is released this fall we will have earned nationwide recognition for all of us.

A victory for the good guys

Out in our vineyard, there are a couple of bright red triangular boxes hanging on vineyard wires. These are the first line of defense against the dreaded European Grapevine Moth. Inside, the boxes are coated with stickum. In the middle of the box is a small tablet emitting the aroma of a female moth looking to mate. Any male moths flying by catch this scent, think they have found free sex, and zoom into the open end of the little red boxes where they get stuck in the stickum.

Every few days an entomologist from the County Department of Agriculture comes out, opens the trap and counts the number of stuck males. Depending on the data collected, the entomologist prescribes an insecticide application for the specific affected area. Just think about this for a moment. Insecticide application is only used as a function of the male insect count. Areas where there is no count do not get sprayed. This technology has drastically reduced the amount of insecticide spraying and has been used for all types of crops. Bad news for the makers of insecticides. Good news for all of us. Bad news for the European Grapevine Moth and his friends.

In Sonoma and Napa Counties we are on the verge of winning the European Grapevine Moth War. Thanks go to the great folks at the State and County ag offices and to those young entomologists in their pickups who come out and install the traps, and then return to count and check. Our heroes! Unchecked, this insect could have literally destroyed our grape industry. If there are any out there who want to cut their budgets…you will have to get by us first!