The storm arriving tomorrow (February 19) will likely put us up over 60 inches of rain for the season here in Napa Valley. After 4 years of draught, we were giddy, at first, at the idea of a rainy season but now the fact that it looks like Ireland in the vineyard is starting to get old.
Kidding aside, there are practical implication for the vineyard. The vines are still dormant, so aren’t in any danger from the winter wet and our gravelly volcanic soils drain quickly. But 5 feet of water is a lot–Diamond Mountain Creek is roaring and straining at its banks. In a little over a month the vines will be budding out and we are beginning to think about strategies anticipating the soil remains wet into the spring. Excess vigor, once shoot growth has started, can lead to vine canopies that are too bushy for the dappled light conditions that are favorable for grape quality. So one thing we will do is delay cultivating in the vineyard (discing) and instead rely on mowing between the rows and weed-whacking under the vines (we do not strip spray with herbacides). This will allow the cover crop, consisting of grasses and clovers, to continue to grow, pulling water from the soil and competing with the vines to tame their growth. Another thing we are considering is that when we prune in the next few weeks we may leave a cane from last season—this is often called a kicker cane, and sometimes these are left to increase yields (more buds, thus more clusters). But in this case, we would clip that cane off late in the Spring, when it has served it’s purpose—which is to draw vigor away from the other shoots. This would be done just prior to bloom and set, when the vines need more light to promote fruitfulness. We’ll continue to report on the progress and decision-making through out this unusual season.
On a personal note, we have managed to miss quite a bit of this rainfall—timing is everything! During the first major storms in January, we were in Hana, Maui resting up between seasons. And the storms that hit last week came as we were heading home from a road trip to New Mexico, pouring our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 Cabernet Franc at the Taos Winter Wine Festival. (Full Disclosure: this also involved four days of skiing). We have been attending this event since the early 90’s—and if you like both wine and skiing, you might consider attending next year: http://www.taoswinterwinefest.com
On the way home we detoured to check out an entirely different terroir—check out the photo above. No it’s not Mars, this is in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument on the border between Utah and Arizona.
Next up? Pruning. Then we’ll start to work on releasing the 2014. It never stops!