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Journey to Harvest: 05/01/2012

It’s still all about the buds

Beginning bud break

Beautiful rosette of opening bud.

Vintage ‘12 makes its first appearance.
Photos by Jay Gamel

This is a time of great beauty in the vineyard. It has been some three weeks from what we call bud break. Each of the buds we carefully selected at pruning have now come alive with what will become the long canes of late spring. The growth on each bud has now opened up to a small rosette of tiny, fuzzy, gray-green leaves with serrated tips of delicate pink. Each bud is only a half inch in diameter and a half inch in height, but together they give the once dormant vineyard a tint of light green.

There is more to see. Recall that each bud contains the cells to produce what will be the main cane. Recall further that nature has built in a fail-safe mechanism to protect these growing rosettes from frost damage in the form of two tiny reserve buds. Each in turn will come to life if the principal bud is destroyed by frost. If you carefully lift the edge of what will be the first leaf you can see a tiny green bud all ready to spring into growth if the main shoot is destroyed by frost. Normally there are two of these reserve buds. Later, when danger of frost is past our workers will rub off these reserve buds. We only want the first or main cane to grow because this first cane has what will be the grape bunches.

Looking carefully at each of these tiny rosettes, you can often see one or two tiny cylindrical green growths about one/eighth inch in length. These tiny growths will, after bloom time, become our grape bunches. After all these 30 plus years I continue to be astounded at the miracle.

Words from spokesvines

And now a few words from spokesvines Javier for our Zinfandel and Marie for our Sauvignon Blanc – a joint report:

With the work of winter pruning now complete, and bud break behind us, it is time for us vines to take charge of vintage 2012. But first, we would like to acknowledge the huge effort of Manager Chuy and his army, the Patron’s son John, and even the Old Patron himself. During these past four months they have done all they can to make this vintage a success. They have pruned us early in January to pick up a few weeks in harvest date. They have carefully tied each cane so it will be secure when loaded with fruit or buffeted by strong winds. They have fertilized to make sure we vines have correct nutrients. They have invested in a new cane pruning system for our Sauvignon Blanc and have begun more head pruning in our Zinfandel. They have tried to get rid of most of the weeds in the vine rows that could compete with us for nutrients. They have mowed the vineyard weeds so that cold air from frosty nights or mornings can easily move downhill. And they have tied up all our drip lines so it will be easier to check each drip emitter.

Frankly even with all this help we feel great apprehension as we begin our portion of the sprint to Harvest. Our problem is with the Organization’s Board Member Mother Nature. She has become increasingly cavalier in her decision making. Recall the last two harvests have been almost a month late due to lack of warm summer weather. Recall last year’s rains in May and June that caused an explosion of vegetative growth that had to be removed. Recall last year’s rain at bloom time that cause shattering. And recall the terrific heat spells at harvest time – four days with temperatures of 105 degrees. These caused significant fruit loss. Patron, these are too many speed bumps for us vines to manage. We understand your son John is a weather expert. Perhaps you could ask him to put in a good word with dear Mother Nature, and make the next five months of vintage 2012’s journey to harvest a smoother ride!

More on Phylloxera

In last month’s column we talked at length about Phylloxera. Permit me a few follow-up thoughts. During the period 1860 to 1900, growers in France were reluctant to use American rootstocks because they thought the presence of American roots would adversely affect the character and flavors of French grapes grafted to these roots. This fake issue cost the French growers at least 20 years of delay in replanting. Even today there are a few small vineyards in France growing on French roots and subject to the threat of Phylloxera but still claiming that the derived wine is better.

In this country, the issue is genetic modification. There are several very important improvements with this technology covering grape vine disease, root insect control and yeast modification. Through selective plant breeding there are now several potential grape rootstocks that are SUPER immune. But worry persists that the Phylloxera insect will, over time, adjust to our ‘immune’ rootstocks and again threaten vineyards worldwide. As far as our ranch is concerned we have already replanted once at huge expense. If the Phylloxera does adjust to our present roots, we may just give them the vineyard.

Owner, Indian Springs Ranch and Vineyards

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Community Calendar

Oakmont Farmers Market
Yoga Hike
Observatory open
Emmaus Inclusive Community service and potluck supper
Sons of Hermann German Club
Oakmont Kiwanis Club meets
Oakmont Farmers Market
Bill & Dave lead a leisurely hike at Sugarloaf
Hospice fundamentals
Big Heart dinner
GEK Rotary crab feed

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