The Kenwood Press
: 08/01/2016

Fond memories of summer in the vineyard

George MacLeod

We have a short row of Concord grapes in our vineyard – there to delight grandchildren who like to pick and eat them right off the vine. Sometimes we help the grandchildren make grape juice on the front lawn by stomping on the bunches with bare feet, and then adults process and bottle the raw juice in the kitchen. The children end up with purple feet and grape-stained clothing and faces.

This year, in the first week of July, we were holding a tour for a group of potential wine customers when son John, our vineyard manager, came in from the vineyard bearing a small bunch of partially purple Concord grapes. Now, if this is not the earliest for these grapes to get to this level of maturity, it is certainly close. And thinking about the younger generations reminds me that this small hint of early ripening may indeed be a signal of global warming, which could bring unforeseeable changes – large and small – to the Sonoma Valley environment we have come to know.

Concord grapes are the variety widely used commercially to produce grape juice and jelly. The variety is not part of our wine program, but when the grapes are ripe, we often invite visitors to try to identify the variety by taste. The flavors are so familiar that many visitors can identify the Concord variety by taste and aroma.

Vineyard report

Readers of this column who live locally will recall that in mid-July we experienced a significant hot spell. For four or five days temperatures hit one hundred degrees or more. Like all farmers, we track the weather closely, and made sure the vines had adequate water. The Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc appear to have come through the hot spell in good shape. There was some partial dehydration and leaf fall towards the lower trunk parts of the vines, but overall the vineyard survived the heat spell looking normal, if not even a little better than normal.

The Zinfandel crop is shaping up to be light this year – similar to vintage 2014. The bunches are complete and well formed with very little shatter. (“Shatter” occurs when poor climate conditions occur at bloom time, causing some grapes in the bunch to not get pollinated, resulting in incomplete bunches.) Bunch count in the Zinfandel is only about 20 bunches per vine; in other years, we have had 25 to 30 bunches per vine. It will take a few more weeks before we can get a good handle on crop size, but as we get into August, we will begin weighing a few bunches here and there to get an accurate forecast.

The Terroir book is published

For the past year, I have been working with a team of talented writers on a book to try and capture my thoughts on an expanded vision of the meaning of terroir. To me, terroir involves so much more than the effects of climate and soil on the grapes. Elements of history, culture and even a spiritual dimension of a place lend character and story to our ultimate enjoyment of those grapes in a finished glass of wine.

The title of the book is The Land Remembers. It is a detailed description and analysis of all dimensions of vineyard terroir that come into play here at Indian Springs Ranch. I’m deeply appreciative of the fine work by Arthur Dawson, Jeff McBride, Jim Shere and others whose contributions make the book come to life. Copies are available for sale at our ranch, 833-4209, and at the Kenwood Press office.