Journal | June 18, 2018

Hardscrabble Journal


Brilliant sunlight, breezes, and low humidity make for a better outlook when walking the vineyard. The crop will be shy, especially chardonnay and merlot. But there is enough. Commercially, Linden will take a bit of a hit with a lower production, but professionally there is enough crop out there for us to continue learning and keep excited about the prospects of vintage 2018. That is why we do this.

Anyone who has farmed, or gardened for that matter, knows the feeling of a loss outside one’s control. It is a consequence of the life we have chosen. We have had a string of bountiful vintages. This one will not be, but I’m content with what we do have. The forming clusters are rather sad looking. Bedraggled is a good description. They look like they’ve been through a lot of inclement weather, which they have.

But I’ve seen much worse in other vineyards. I walked a Sonoma Coast vineyard with its stoic manager in 2011 where cold temperatures during flowering made for a truly pitiful crop. In Burgundy in 2013 we walked the vines with a veteran winegrower just after a devastating hailstorm that took out 80% of the crop in 5 minutes. I wanted to cry. He wanted to taste last year’s vintage in the cellar. Fortitude. In Chianti, last summer, vines were withering from drought, but irrigation was illegal. Our host was forlorn, but also philosophical as he shared his family winegrowing history with a Zen like calmness.

The challenge for the remainder of the season is to address vine vigor. Normally, the vine’s newly forming grapes take energy from the developing leaves and shoots to balance growth. With little crop and more than enough water availability in the soil, the vines are in a position to grow like a jungle. This is problematic for the grower (more work), the vine (too much unchecked growth can make it less hardy for the winter), and for wine quality (wines from vigorous vines tend to have a harder, green character). So for now, we are allowing the weeds and grass to grow unchecked in order to compete with the vines for water and nutrients. Not pretty, but necessary.