As I previewed in the introduction, we have been living with very pleasant conditions here in Sonoma County. A few days ago, the vineyard weather station recorded a high temperature of over 80 degrees Fahrenheit! It’s hard to believe, on days like that, that we are preparing to protect our vines against potentially damaging frost. If dry conditions continue in March and April, and the sky remains clear, temperatures could certainly drop below freezing at night, so preparations are necessary.
In addition to warm daytime high temperatures, the other remarkable thing about February 2020 is the complete lack of rainfall during the month. Not a single day with measurable precipitation, a situation almost unheard of for a winter month in our region. The rainy season is far from over, thankfully, and still offers plenty of opportunity for rainfall.
The month was a striking contrast to last February, when we were dealing with flooding throughout the Russian River watershed, and dodging raindrops the entire month. February 2019 subjected us to over 20 inches of rainfall! The wet conditions kept the soils cold and delayed bud break, pushing the entire season back two weeks from an average year. This year, we’ll cross the starting line early and can expect a relatively early harvest.
One distinct advantage of the Goldridge soils at our estate is their ability to hold onto the rainfall we have received during the fall and winter. One of the members of our advisory “Dream Team” is Dr. Mark Greenspan. Mark is highly respected for his insights into vineyard water management, and coaches us on irrigation practices. He assured us recently that “our soils are like a sponge”. The good news is that even in a low rainfall year, we have plenty of water available to our vines!
BUD BREAK IS COMING
The warm, dry conditions are bringing our vines out of their winter slumber. We can see evidence of this in the slow weeping of sap from the pruning cuts and the swelling of the buds. The buds will continue to swell until they are about the size of a pencil eraser, before leaves pop free and the new shoots begin to grow. It’ll only take a few weeks of warm weather for the vines to green up and start climbing up the trellis.
Pruning and tying of canes to the trellis wires was completed two weeks ago, and the vineyard is in great shape for the coming season. The final block of Pinot Noir has now been converted to cane pruning, and several blocks had cross arms added to the trellis, to improve airflow among the clusters. Every year we make improvements such as these to the vineyard, based on experiences of the previous vintages.
Next month, I’ll share some highlights of our blending trials, as we select and evaluate the 2019 Chardonnay lots for our upcoming bottling blends. I’ll also keep you posted on the impact of weather during this critical period, and show off the new shoots on our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines!