The first day of Spring with three-quarters of the vineyard in bud break and some shoots five inches long. Spanish and French lavender are in full bloom. It is a period of renewal for the vines and for the United States as well, I hope. In the vineyard's case there is a threat lurking underneath the serene picture of green shoots: mildew. Since hope is not a strategy I'll take decisive action to implement a spraying program in upcoming weeks to control it.
In hindsight, we made serious mistakes managing the vineyard this winter that could easily have been avoided. Novice vineyard owners and future grape growers pay attention. It is yet to be seen how grave the mistakes will be, but we have definitely made our vines susceptible to fungal infections this year. In hindsight, it is better to:
1) Wait until pruning as late as possible in the season. We started pruning in mid-January, but there is no reason why we couldn't have waited until mid-February. One reason for waiting is rain encourages mildew and other fungi to enter the pruning cuts in the vine. Our error this year was pruning early. After we pruned, the vineyard experienced heavy rains -- and strong fungal growth around the pruned spurs.
2) Immediately after pruning (i.e., the same day), apply a fungicide to the cuts. This is easily done with a paint brush. Next year, I will make this brush application part of the pruning process: prune a row then paint over the cuts. This is to protect the wounds from fungi (and the health of the vine). Think of it as washing your hands with soap and water after a cut to reduce the risk of bacterial infection.
3) A day or so after pruning apply dormant spray and oil, soaking the entire vines. (Our error this year was waiting two weeks before spraying, allowing fungi to grow.)
For a compilation list of errors in the vineyard & winery, I invite you to click on this link: http://www.winemakersjournal.com/lessons.html
What's done is done. Once again we've become a laboratory for unwanted vineyard experimentation. Our consolation will be topping off the barrels this evening (and tasting the 2009 wines). The last time we did this the Tempranillo was to die for.