Joe’s Winemaking Notes: May 2019
The vines took advantage of warm temperatures in the past week, to grow skyward; and, have exposed many young flower clusters, as the shoots elongated. We don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch, but early signs are promising! Inspection in the vineyards shows a lot of clusters, without fruitless or single cluster shoots present, in some vintages. Almost every shoot in the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blocks is carrying two clusters (this is ideal), and the uniformity in the estate vineyard is extraordinary.
Our current tasks involve thinning out unwanted shoots, to prevent crowding along the trellis wires, as well as “suckering.” This is when we remove shoots sprouting, from the rootstock, just above ground level. We want the vines to focus their energy on the premium cultivars of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which have been grafted onto these rootstocks.
Rainfall totals in April were minimal, totaling just over one inch for the month. So much for my prediction (based on historical data), of a wet April! However, with the massive amounts that fell earlier this year, we’re actively trying to move moisture, from the soil profile. This is the job for not only the vines, but also for our cover crop of grasses and legumes. During the next few months, they’ll remove a large percentage of the available soil water via transpiration, while providing valuable habitat for beneficial insects. The legumes will also increase fertility of our soil, by fixing nitrogen.
CHANGE IN THE WEATHER
We’ve already experienced our first hot spell of 2019, with temperatures reaching record-breaking levels in the mid-90s Fahrenheit this past week. It’s amazing how quickly we went from persistent rain to summer-like conditions, and the plants are loving it!
The high soil moisture levels, along with warm temperatures, create rapid growth in the cover crop. This requires additional tractor passes, to control the vegetation, and brought out the “Sunflower” tiller, for its first appearance of 2019! This is a great device that’s allowed us to manage growth underneath the vines, without the use of herbicides.
Here’s a couple of photos showing before and after images of the vines. Reducing competition immediately under the vines is important to minimize irrigation needs late in the season; as well as encouraging air flow for reducing humidity, in the fruiting area of the vine.
Before Sunflower Tiller
After Sunflower Tiller
BOTTLING RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY CHARDONNAY
The last week of April saw the first of our barrel fermented wines go into bottles. Well-balanced acidity and ripe, yet fresh, flavors made the 2018 vintage wine one of my favorite recent vintages, for Chardonnay. I was very pleased with the expression of oak aromas, textures, and flavors from the barrels used, to ferment and age this year’s Russian River Valley Chardonnay juice. Integration of oak and wine occurred quickly, and resulted in a seamless, gorgeous blend.
Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Last year was a very productive one for Russian River Valley Chardonnay, with great freshness and quality, to go along with the larger than normal harvest. The vintage provided a win-win-win for the grape growers, winery producers, and all lovers of this amazing Russian River Valley wine!