Monday, May 4, 2009

April showers bring May flowers...

Well, not least not this year, our 3rd year of drought which brought us a measly 12 inches of rain vs. our 26 inch average. We did have a fabulous wildflower display in early March, but most were gone by end of April. Our 1/2 inch rain in April did nothing for May flowers, but it is interesting to see the red "bull" clover flowering through the dying perennial grasses, most of which have already gone to seed.

Implication? Well, we have to factor in a brutally cold April (early a.m. only) which has delayed growth noticeably in the much cooler Pinot Noir valley vineyard blocs. Higher vineyard blocs of mountain Cab and Merlot are just a bit behind normal, and Syrah seems to be on its usual development path. The cold valley Pinot, however, is well...cold.

Our new Pinot vines have taken multiple hits below 30 degrees on consecutive days in April. In truth, there were only a few days that didn't freeze for a brief period in the valley floor. Good news is that all freezes were short, most between 4-6 a.m., and temps broke above freezing once touched by the sun. Yes, we did lose some Pinot grafts plus a few transplants. All mature Pinot appears to be healthy, but the cold did keep the vines from budding out until

2-3 weeks past its usual time. Mountain Cab, Syrah and Merlot budded out around March 21st, which means that bloom(usually 60 days after budding out)

is on track and is but a brief 17 days away.

Pinot is either going to bloom late this year, or who knows, maybe not at all. Such are the vagaries of farming, and grape farming is world's apart from most other types of farming. Weather, temperatures especially, are way more important in grape farming than for example, grain farming. The days here have been absolutely beautiful, but we just hate to see nightfall come. Good news is that freezes were short, most no more than 2 hours max, and our days warm up quickly. They say stress is good for making high quality wines...if we make Pinot this year, it ought to be sensational.


  1. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed and hoping the vines stay happy even with these water and temperature issues.

  2. Thanks, Demi, and with your good wishes, we had 95 degrees off the back porch yesterday and today, with valley lows of 47. All this means the Wine Festival is just around the corner in 8 days, when temps last two yrs have been over 105 degrees...with 6000 bodies fit into the Paso downtown park. Oddly after that in June the air conditioning comes on at nite when the ocean breezes cool us off at nite by 55 degree drops which grapes just love. Bloom is but 2-3 weeks off for most folks, and that is the time we got slammed last yr, with 115 in our vineyard, which cooked off half our unopened flower buds. 2008 was a terrific yr, but around Paso, yields were down as much as 50% in places, 30% in others. If we can avoid a heat spike until after bloom, the year will be off to a terrific start.