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!"
Harvest at Dyer Vineyard was successfully concluded on Monday, Oct 26th.
A trouble free and relatively mild growing season with few days topping 90, let alone 100, came to a screeching halt when 4 in of rain fell on Oct 12, followed by 5 days of high humidity threatened the vineyards with botrytis and mold infections. We pulled leaves from the fruit zone to help dry out the clusters and finally picked the Cab Franc at Dyer and some of the Cabernet on Sunday 10/18. The next week turned fine and we were able to gain a little more ripeness before harvesting the balance of the vineyard on Oct 26. This was a year when ripeness can't be measured by sugar accumulation...
Below is a weekly blow by blow of the harvest as reported district by district in the local paper.
09/07 Ideal growing conditions
09/14 After the Rain
09/21 Growers worry about heat spikes
09/28 Harvest begins in earnest
10/05 Cabernet being picked in most districts
10/12 Some Cabernet growers wait for rain to subside
10/19 Drying out remaining grapes
10/26 Harvest at DYER!!!
2008 Harvest updates
Harvest 2008 began on Diamond Mountain in early Sept when a heat wave brought sugars up quickly in vineyards with with small berries, light crops. Read the weekly updates for Diamond Mountain and other AVAs in the Napa Valley written by grape growers and winemakers. These will be uploaded Fridays.
Oct 3- Activity picks up with threats of rain
Sept 25- Continued cool weather
Sept 18- Cooler weather slows harvest
Sept 11- The Rush to Crush
Sept 4- Action replaces sunrise strolls
Cabernets Like Cabernets Should Be Eric Asimov writes a thoughtful and compelling treatise on the pendular swing of styles in Napa Cabernet. He visited us at the vineyard in July to taste Dyer wines (he calls our wines "... balanced and delicious") and talk about the subject. It's a fascinating subject and we were happy to be able to contribute.
Calling it The Mountain Wines of Napa: Tasting Notes from Altitude, he tasted approx 100 wines from Spring Mountain, Mt Veeder and Diamond Mountain. "The Napa Valley is ringed by mountains, but the cool, fog shrouded Mayacamas mountains to the west of the valley are perhaps the best known, and the three AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) found in this range are home to some of Napa's best wineries.
Mount Veeder, Spring Mountain District, and Diamond Mountain District are less visited than many of Napa's other AVAs. Tucked in the folds and creases of the mountains and protected by sick-inducing winding roads that lead far from the safety of Napa's main highway corridor, these mountain winegrowing regions are quiet refuges from the hustle and bustle of Napa. And that goes for grapes as well as people.
High up above the valley, vines and wine lovers alike will find cooler breezes, long shadows and lingering sunsets, and special wines that have bright, clear fruit and often beautiful intensity."
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