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Dawnine Dyer
May 25, 2010 | Dawnine Dyer

Is May the new February?


Vintage 2010... Is May the new February?

Yes, Al, we know the difference between weather and climate- and we'll talk about that another time. But for now, it continues to rain in Napa Valley and daytime temperatures have been averaging 15 degrees below normal all this month. So far the vines look pretty happy. Knock on wood, we have dodged the bullet for frost- we have had to get up only two nights for frost protection (after the terrible frost damage in April 08, even here at 600 feet on Diamond Mountain, we installed "pulsaters" that shoot a tiny spray of water down the vine row to protect the tender shoots from frost burn, even if the water freezes on the leaves).

Rainfall totals are really not that high, just a bit over normal, but the storms keep coming through, not big ones, but abnormal for this time of year. The snow pack in the Sierra was 143% of normal at the end of April and is now 167%. Not so much because of additional snowfall, but because it is not melting as it would in a normal year.

We are supposed to get warm weather after Memorial Day, maybe even above normal temperatures. That will make the snow pack melt really fast- so we are thinking about going toYosemite (after we declare frost season over), to see the falls which may have the most spectacular volume in years! And maybe a side trip to forage for the Morel mushrooms that should be popping up in response to the rain.

Back to the vines- so far the cold, wet weather is not a big problem. We have been treating the vineyard with sulfur every 10 days to prevent mildew and botrytis. We moved in early to do our shoot thinning (no more than 15 shoots/meter) to make sure there is plenty of air movement and light getting into the canopy. The vine vigor is ok- but the concern is excessive growth. We don't want the vines to grow too fast or they develop long internodes (bushy vines that shade the fruit excessively can lead to green flavors and interfere with fruitfullness in the next season). Our loose, volcanic, gravely soil acts like a flowerpot and we count on the soil drying out quickly once the rain does finally stop, so the vines won't push too hard.

But the weeds (excuse me, the cover crop) are really punching it. We have already made one pass to knock them down... now it's time to do it again. The picture is of Dawnine in the vineyard... "Hey! she forgot the weed-whacker!"