Saturday, June 26, 2010

Uncle! We Give Up: Water Please!

I've been sponsoring a contest among the vines to see who can go the longest without water. The first to cave in were the top three rows of Tempranillo, located amongst the rocks with little to no soil (and shallow root depth). I gave them a drink of water a week ago, and seconds today. Also today the Zinfandel cried "uncle" giving up the contest for a 2-hour drink, their first watering of the season. (Most of the Zinfandel are located on a cliff without soil.) My objective is to be parsimonious with the water (we're still in a drought situation), without damaging the vines (still young, only in their "fourth leaf"). I expect the lower Petit Sirah and the lower Tempranillo vines to win this content, but the Aglianico and the Grenache are still hanging in. Will revisit them the July 4th weekend to see how they're doing. I'm looking closely at the top tendrils to see what direction they're pointing (are they drooping?) and their condition(are they dry?); also looking closely at the leaves. The photo above shows the Tempranillo vines; notice the fading color of the older leaves near the cordon. Many of the tendrils (photo at left) are beginning to droop a bit. The picture below shows a row of the Zinfandel. We could be two months plus two weeks away from harvest. On my mind are ordering nets (to keep the birds from the grapes -- the nets we used last year had too many holes); ordering glass to prepare for bottling some of the 2009 wines this fall (or, in lieu of bottling, more barrels or flex tanks); and finalizing blends of the 2009 wines. I'm going to ask you (the readers of the blog) and friends of the winery to help us finalize the blends.

Welcome To Fog City USA: San Diego

For 17 mornings straight, drops of fog dew have been dripping off the vines at dawn, as a smokey marine layer generated by the Pacific Ocean creeps over hills and seeps into valleys and ascends as high as 1,600 ft. to the top of Blue-Merle Country. Welcome to San Diego: Fog City U.S.A. As we're inland, by late morning the haze lifts, burns off and at sunset begins to eek it's way back uphill from the coast, for what we can only describe as perfect weather for humans (and for powdery mildew). If I were a "marketeer" of expensive fine wines I'd write about how the grapes bask in sunlight during the day and are made delicious by cool ocean breezes at night. Hogwash! At least according to the experts I've asked. Grapes need heat to ripen. So, like vacationers to San Diego's beaches who are disappointed to find June Gloom, the grapes are missing the sun and are behind schedule. "Be careful what you ask for," I warn them, because surely a heat wave is on its way and you'll soon be dreaming of cooler, foggy days.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Drop to Cure, an Ounce to Kill: Whoops!

I noticed a powdery mildew outbreak in the Aglianico vines along the shed. I had this coming as the canopy is mismanaged, not allowing good airflow. But, I've learned a few things since last year, when mildew spread across half of the vineyard and I found it difficult to control (and lost 1/2 of the Petit Sirah and 1/2 of the Grenache crops). There's miracle, organic, JMS Stylet oil that arrests mildew outbreaks. The recommended dilution rate with water is 1% to 2%, so I remembered from elementary school there are 16 oz to a pint, 32 oz to a half gallon and 64 ounces to a gallon, right?* So if there are 64 oz to a gallon then I should blend in 6.4 oz of stylet oil per gallon, right? Wrong! The correct amount is .6 oz. What was I thinking?! Alas, I overdosed the vines. Fortunately, light was running out that evening, and I only attacked the worst spots, and I got the dosage correct for the rest of the block. The two pictures above show dead leaves and shriveled grapes as a result of my mistake. I've heard that vines are tough characters, so I think these guys may come back with time. The picture below shows healthyAglianico vines I sprayed with the correct dosage. I wonder when they're going to need some water?

*(Wrong! 128 ounces to a gallon! So the correct dilution is 1.2 oz per gallon + / -)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

If It's Thursday We Must Be Spraying


Looking forward to seeing you on Thursday. There's been a "cold wave" in these parts with fog each morning and moisture on the vines. The afternoons have been warming up over 70 degrees, and the mildew index is at 100. It's been two weeks since the last spraying, and we've been busy removing excess laterals from the fruiting area. The vines will be ready for another spraying on Thursday.

Based on our experience last time, here’s what I suggest:

Start at the “back gate” (off of Merlot Mike's road) at the top of the hill (by the shed). I’ll leave the back gate open and put some 2 X 4’s up there to make it easy to unload the sprayer from your truck. There’s a hose by the shed you can use for water.

The whole vineyard uses just shy of a full tank of your 32 gallon sprayer. We have 1,150 vines spread out over 2 acres. I suggest “dosage” as if you’re dosing 1.5 acres.

Let’s use Rubigan. (We sprayed 2 weeks ago using Rally.)

FYI, we are battling a mildew infestation on the Aglianico vines – this is the block at the top of the hill around the shed area (flat area at top). I sprayed JMS Organic Stylet oil one week ago. Things seem to be under control. But if you see they are out of control, let me know.

Using your power hose, not sure if it’s possible to control the stream so you get broader leaf coverage, but if so, the foliage is thick, and I hope you can cover it all.

I gave in and watered 3 rows of Tempranillo vines (at the top in a rough area) on Sunday that were beginning to show signs of stress, but other than that, have not watered vines (except for Admire treatment). Let me know what your impression is about signs of stress vines are showing (or not showing) and if there’s a need to water soon. (All that vigorous growth you're seeing is the work of nature and the 15" of rain we had over the winter.)

Please bring invoice for the Admire treatment and Thursday’s spraying. I’ll leave a check with the Queen. Would like you to leave with a check -- it's good for cash flow.

Please pencil us in for July 8th (Thursday) or the 9th. Based on my experience last year (and talking with other vineyard owners), the Aglianico vines will very likely need another spraying.

Call me with any issues or concerns. Thanks for your help, and if it’s possible to enjoy the work (or at least the views), then enjoy. (Be sure and grab a tangelo; they’re delicious!) And watch out for that snake out there among the rocks.

Bluey & Craig

(P.S. Picture is of mildew free Petit Sirah / Durif cluster at foggy dawn. This area was ground zero for the mildew explosion that almost wiped us the Durrif harvest last year. )