The Kenwood Press
: 06/01/2017

Six perfect days…please?

George MacLeod

bud break
Start of vintage 2017

During the days leading up to bloom I always hear our vines making the point to me, “Patron, please remember, we vines are self-pollinating. That means we need six perfect days of weather right at bloom time to set you a good crop. So please, no rain, no frost, no wind while we get our tiny blooms pollinated.”

Years ago, when I was first starting our vineyard, I was surprised to discover just how delicate the process of grape pollination can be. There are pages and pages of technical material written about how climate events at bloom time can have a big impact on fruit set. For example, temperature during bloom time should be warmer than 60 degrees to start, but not hotter than 100 degrees to continue. Rain, fog, or even cloudy conditions can significantly reduce pollination. Windy conditions can also interrupt pollination – no surprise when you consider that pollen grains are only .001 inches in diameter. Insects do not play much of a role in grape pollination as the grape flowers are very small and contain very little nectar. And all this can add up to fewer grapes and smaller harvests.

Well, the vines appear to be getting their wish this year. Our spring weather in the Sonoma Valley has been just about perfect for grapes, holding out great promise for vintage 2017.

I feel like the new proud father of thousands of tiny grapes. It is now up to son John to protect each of these tender infants from disease, drought, insects, sunburn, and who knows what else. John has to make sure they have the right amount of water, sun and air flow to develop, and ultimately make their individual contribution to a great glass of wine. This also means full support for the individual vines, for they have the primary job of nurturing these tiny grapes.

There is clear data that the amount of sunlight falling on the grapes can significantly affect the character of the resulting wines. That means there’s a lot of work to be done in the vineyard this time of year – mowing down the now dry spring grasses and pulling off some leaves and small laterals to open up each vine’s canopy so the growing grape bunches can get just the right amount of sun and air. We try to make grape sun exposure as even as possible on both sides of the vine. To do this, we try to remove more leaves and growth from the northern side of the vines, and leave more in place on the southern side of the vines where the grape bunches would get exposed to hot afternoon sun. If these grapes get sunburned it can cause the wine to have a hint of raisin flavor, which will not make the winemaker a happy camper.

We say goodbye to a beloved ranch dog
ranch dog
Panda – a good ranch dog.

Finally, some sad news to report. A very important member of our tour and tasting team passed away on April 27. Panda, our independent, smart, and vocal Australian Shepherd, provided an unforgettable welcome to all who visited the ranch. Her job was to make sure all knew she was in charge. As soon as guests arrived at the barn, Panda would bark, bark, bark until the group had formed a tight circle. As soon as we did as she commanded, she became the docile, loving dog that everyone fell in love with.

We’ve planted a beautiful red rose bramble at Panda’s gravesite near the barn, where she can continue to keep an eye on things and welcome everyone to the ranch. Rest in peace, Panda. You were a good dog.