Two weeks ago, one of our sisters accompanied Tom Eddy on another trip to the vineyard to see how the grapes are maturing and the results of the “green drop” mentioned in the last post. Most of the grapes are now a lovely shade of purple with only a little green fruit remaining. We are 6 weeks closer to harvest than at our last visit, but harvest will likely be in October if the weather stays favorable. This will help to ensure the higher sugar content in late harvest grapes that is necessary for excellent chalice wine.
John Mattern has sprayed oil on the plants to deter the leafhoppers, but unfortunately, they are still thriving. Nevertheless, the clusters of grapes range from very full, plump clusters to smaller clusters of healthy grapes, and some clusters with mostly pea-sized green grapes and a few normal ones. These small green clusters are evidence of what is called “shatter” and results from abrupt weather changes when the fruit was setting. These will not become part of the wine, but will be culled before harvest.
Some of the sisters will have an opportunity very soon to participate in pruning these “shattered” clusters so that they will not continue to consume resources from the plants, and will not have to be sorted out before the crush. The Matterns elected to do a “thinning” drop rather than a green drop in areas of clusters of grapes that were so tightly packed on the vine that mold may have become a problem. Until recently, temperatures have been warm, but not extremely hot, so they felt a thinning drop would provide the fruit with better air circulation which will preserve healthy grapes.
We also learned that, during the winter, when temperatures will drop below freezing, one of the methods used to protect the vines is to spray water on them from sprinkler systems fed from a pond maintained at the vineyard for this purpose. (The irrigation for the vines themselves is a drip system.) This water keeps the vines from dropping below 32 degrees in otherwise freezing temperatures.
This visit enabled us to determine how much of the harvest we will purchase, and samples of large, medium, and small clusters were weighed to help in estimating the yield from “our” rows of vines. The sisters are looking forward to their vineyard trip to prune the vines. We will let all of our readers know the results of that trip.
On another note, our next bottling of California Chalice Wine will be this Thursday, September 7. We are excited to release this bottling, with our new labels! We hope to be able to see some of the bottling process and tell you what we learn.