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Thursday, July 28, 2011

2011 wine grape growing season--late July update

Every year it seems Mother Nature has a few surprises.  The good news is, in relation to other wine grape regions, California's surprises usually aren't drastic.

OK, last year was tough with mostly cool and damp weather during the growing season with a couple blasts of heat towards the end.  A lot of grapes were lost in 2010 to sunburn.

This year started with a big, "Oh, oh, here we go again," but has settled into a nice growing season--so far.   It rained into early June--the seasonal rains usually end about a month earlier.  This did a couple things:

1. Grape clusters were lost during bloom because of the rain.  Some fruit was lost, but the thinning of the fruit can actually be a good thing for quality as the premium vineyards are manually thinned anyway.

2. Canopy management is probably the most important thing being done now.  All the rain in the spring followed by heat led to vigorous growth in the canes and leaves.  This has to be controlled to allow the right amount of sun and air into the developing clusters.

Image from
Currently the vines are in the grape growth stage.  Next is the beginning of ripening, or veraison. This happens around the end of July. The grapes start to turn color and during the ripening phase physically increase in size, weight, and sugar content.

The countdown to harvest is about to begin!