Journal | June 4, 2018

Hardscrabble Journal

Biblical Rains II

Angst. Intellectually I know that everything will be all right. I’ve lived through this before. Spring 1997 experienced this level of precipitation, and it continues to be one of the all-time great vintages. However, emotionally I cannot detach from the weight of day after day of rain. No sleep at night when it is raining. This has not been a pitter-patter. This is gutter overflowing torrents. Nighttime transitions into morning lethargy when the fog and mist hide the views of Rattlesnake Mountain. The forecast is constantly checked, as surely this will end soon. Then life will get back to normal.

But we don’t stop working the vines. At least it is warm, so when our clothes become totally drenched it’s not really that uncomfortable. Looking on the bright side, when we wear rubber boots with pant legs tucked inside, the ticks aren’t able to crawl up our legs.

But it is the vines that I worry about. They have started to flower. This is the first important stage of the season where the weather influences quality (and quantity). Cool, rainy conditions can prevent successful pollination. Clusters will have fewer berries and yields reduced. A little bit of this is fine and sometimes desirable, as later in the season, these looser clusters are less susceptible to rot. But if the clusters “set” very poorly, yields can be minuscule.

An additional problem can occur if flowering drags on for weeks. This can contribute to uneven berry development (some individual flowers can be pollinated days or weeks before others on the same cluster). With red wine grapes, uneven ripening can significantly reduce wine quality.

Rain at flowering can also increase disease pressure, as the young, tender flowers and developing berries are highly susceptible to fungus organisms that prefer a wet environment. We are frantically removing leaves and small lateral shoots from the cluster zone in order to dry out the interior of the canopy. A well-timed preventive fungicide spray was also applied last Friday, just before a long wetting period.

With luck and a lot of work we will be okay. Forecasts say that the weather will change soon. In about two or three weeks we will have a pretty good idea of how the vines have fared. Until then we just put our heads down, feet on the ground and try not to think about it too much.