Journal | July 30, 2018
Veraison has commenced. This is when the grapes turn color and start the ripening stage. So far only a few berries have colored. When 50% of the berries in any given block turn, the date is noted. We can then compare 2018 to other vintages and get a pretty good idea as to when harvest will begin. Typically Merlot harvest begins 50 days past 50% veraison. The Cabernets need more time.
I have to admit to some trepidation going into this year’s harvest. The vineyard is fragile. Hard to explain, but other growers I talk to have the same impression. The leaves have a different color and even texture. They seem confused by all the rain and clouds of last week. Some blocks have slowed their shoot growth, which is a positive at this stage, while others don’t seem even close to slowing down. Cluster condition ranges from healthy (Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng and Cabernet Sauvignon) to vulnerable (Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc).
Soon we will begin putting up bird netting. This is the last opportunity to remove leaves from around the clusters. At this point I’m feeling like we should pull more leaves than usual given the condition of the clusters and weather trends. Exposing the grapes to more air circulation helps prevent rot if the weather stays wet. However if August turns hot and sunny we risk excessive exposure, which can lead to sunburn and cooked flavors in the wine.
Up to this point the weather has not been a major factor in the quality of the vintage. Soon it starts to count. We need to dry out in August to set the stage for September. September is the critical month. Cooler, sunny, dry conditions could turn this challenging growing season around.