Journey to Harvest – The grand period of growth
Suckering: Experienced vineyard worker Ivan Seron selectively removes all canes that will not bear fruit this season. We want all the plants energy to focus on this year’s crop.
We are all teenagers again
Walking out in the vineyard at this time of year makes me think I have a huge family of teenagers. The canes are growing one to two inches a day and there seems to be uncontrolled enthusiasm everywhere. No cares for tomorrow, no worries about insects, diseases, water shortages, or if the old Patron will find a home (a.k.a. winery customer) for their grapes when they grow up. I am torn between joining them in their abandon, or playing the dutiful adult and planning endless contingencies for all the perils ahead on the journey to harvest. Then I remember that I would not be in this business if I were not terminally optimistic. So I say, “Young vine, go for it!”
I remember a conversation I had some thirty years ago with Bob Kunde – a local grower with a successful lifetime in the vineyard. He told me, “George, you want your vines to be happy!” Being new to grape growing at the time I asked, “Bob, how do you know when the vines are happy?” Bob jumped up out of his chair and threw both arms high up over his head saying, “when they have their canes up like this reaching for the sky they will tell you they are happy!” This morning our vines are happy!
Bloom time again
We are half way through bloom. Remember that grape vines are self-pollinating. They need at least six perfect days with no wind, no rain, no cold fog, no hot sun. As the grapes tell me, “Old Patron….just SIX perfect days and we can deliver you some nice fruit, JUST SIX PERFECT DAYS!!” Each tiny bunch is a mass of tiny white star-like flowers.
Now let’s hear from our vine representatives, Marie and Javier.
All of us Sauvignon Blanc vines are excited about the new cane pruning experiment in progress in our vineyard block #6. Without a doubt, the block 6 vines each have more potential bunches than the rest of us. What’s more, we can tell that our winery clients have noticed because they are all wearing very happy smiles as they walk through the vineyard counting bunches. As Sauvignon Blanc chair I am cautioning all vines to just BE CALM; wait and see how this works out at harvest time. It’s one thing to set a lot of bunches. It’s another thing to bring them through to harvest with the right quality. But if these first approximations hold, we will be changing the pruning for all of our members beginning with the 2010 crop year.
All of our Zinfandel vines are showing great vigor. Many canes are already over three feet in length and have two great bud bunches of good size. Thanks to the generous rain in early May and all the great mulch and organic fertilizer applied the last two years, I see our members standing tall and waving their canes up to the sky. (You know what that means.)
One small complaint though – the late rain and generous fertilizer have made the weeds think that our vineyard is their own personal playground. Chuey says once all the suckering is complete his team will come through and give the weeds another dose of herbicide. In our move to go organic we have not applied a winter spray with a pre-emergent mix, so all the weeds think they are having a real holiday. With all this good cheer and promise of a great harvest some of us Zinfandel vines are worrying if the Old Patron has found enough clients to be certain that all our grapes have a winery home come harvest time. The response from the Old Patron is the same every year. “Javier, you and your team do your jobs, and I will do mine!”
A cake that fell
As part of our program to become a certified organic vineyard for the last two years, we stopped using copper compounds to keep algae from growing in our lake. It is essential, however, that we have clear water since the emitters throughout our irrigation system can easily become clogged. So instead of the copper, all last year and this year to date we added bacteria to the lake that were supposed to consume all the nutrients in the lake water and thus starve the algae. Didn’t work. The algae thrived. If anything, the evidence suggests that the bacteria I have been adding has only improved the algae’s sex life! My dear mother would call the results of such an experiment, “a cake that fell.”
That, however, is not the end of the lake saga. Our lake, along with lakes all over the county, have been invaded by an aquatic water plant called Azzola. It has been transported on the tail feathers of ducks and geese. Left unchecked, Azzola could cover the entire lake with a two to four inch thick layer of this plant within a month. Needless to say, finding a solution that keeps us on track for our organic certification, and that keeps the water in our lake clear for irrigation has suddenly jumped to the top of the priority list. Sigh. Grape growing is not for sissies!
Owner, Indian Springs Ranch and Vineyards