Journal | June 25, 2018

Hardscrabble Journal


Aeration

This has been a very intense week in the vineyard.  Vine growth is unprecedented as copious amounts of rain and typical summer temperatures create hothouse conditions. Grapes are now “pea-sized” and are very susceptible to fungus diseases. If the young clusters stay buried in layers of leaves with little or no exposure to airflow or sun, they are likely to have problems with mildews and rot. This year, with its rain, fog, mist, and jungle-like growth, presents us with the proverbial perfect storm disaster scenario.

So we get down on our knees. Not (necessarily) to pray, but to remove leaves and shoots from the fruit zone of the canopy. The goal is to expose clusters to drying breezes and a bit of morning sun. But not too much. If too many leaves are pulled off, especially those above the clusters, we risk sunburn and off flavors, especially if the summer turns hot and sunny.

This year our vines have unlimited access to water in the soil. Most shoots are pushing large laterals. These are side shoots that can grow from each node of the main shoot. In most vintages they are minimal and easily removed from the fruiting zone (where the clusters are) by the flick of a finger. This year they are massive and are crowding the clusters. Because of their size, we have to use shears to cut them off of the main shoot. This requires a lot more time and effort.

This work can be back breaking (the fruiting zone is about 24” to 30” above the ground) and hard on the knees, but it is rewarding. Approaching a shaggy, leafy vine where no grapes are visible, and then unveiling its hidden clusters, gives one a sense of accomplishment. We also know that this is the only way that great wine potential can be realized. We’ve started making vintage 2018 wines.