Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Preparing For Harvest: The Work That Got Us Here

Our friend and neighbor "Merlot Mike" of Escondido Sunrise Vineyard has issued his first "Merlot Update" of 2008 in anticipation of the harvest. It's an excellent summary of the vintner's toil in Blue-Merle Country. Enjoy the update, and let us know if you'd like to help with the harvest, tentatively planned for Labor Day Weekend (condition of the grapes permitting).

Merlot Mike writes:

"We pruned back in January … cutting back and limiting the number of buds to reduce the yield of our harvest … and then followed by spraying a combination of stylet oil and lime on the dormant vines as a means of reducing the spores that produce powdery mildew.

"On about March 7th, we had “bud break” … when the buds, swelling with life, burst forth and tiny leaves first appear. Within about 10 days, the entire vineyard was alive with baby leaves … very uniform.

"In April, when the leaves were getting larger and the vines starting to grow, we began our application of Pristine and Rubigan … applied in alternating three week intervals … also intended to combat powdery mildew … and used as an alternative to sulfur.
In May, we applied Admire through the drip system to try to protect the vineyard from grassy winged sharpshooters and the Pierce’s Disease they tend to carry.

"In July, we started leaf thinning. On about July 9th, we started veraison, which is when the green grapes begin to change colors … going from green to red … with clusters showing both colors … really very pretty.

"Before July ended, we were completely through with veraison, and could see that the grapes were beginning to rapidly ripen.

"During the first week of August, we trimmed back the vines to make the rows more uniform and began applying the nets … by hand … 2.5 miles of nets applied by hand with the bottoms of the nets tied together with bread ties. We net to keep the birds from eating the ripening grapes … and to enable us to allow the grapes to hang as long as we wish without too much fear of losing the remaining crop to the increasing aggressive birds.

"We are still watering … we will water until about two weeks before harvest … which is getting really close. Once we stop watering, the sugar content of the grapes begins to jump rapidly.
We walked through the vineyard several days ago, selecting 100+ grapes from vines scattered throughout the vineyard … and noted that the brix was a bit over 21. In our experience, our sugar level seems to climb at about 1.5 brix per week now.

"Harvest is approaching … many things need to be done in preparation … selling grapes to wine makers … deciding on how much we wish to use for our own production … scheduling dates for the harvest (trying to break it up a bit this year … perhaps a few days as opposed to a “giant day”) … and chilling the champagne for the traditional sunrise toast as we prepare to venture forth into the vineyard waving our clippers and buckets at the sweet clusters of grapes waiting to be squeezed and pressed, forfeiting themselves to provide us with cases of wine to drink in the years to come."

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