Tag Archives: vineyard growing season

Cluster Thinning in the Vineyard








Napa Valley came through flowering quite nicely this year, thank you very much, and the crop is looking good.

Vineyard managers should have finished up with springtime shoot thinning by now – a way of keeping the vine in balance. And, now that we have cute little baby grape clusters hanging, it’s time to take a close look.

Believe it or not, part of managing a crop destined for fine wine production (as opposed to most wine) is counting the clusters. Yes, literally.

After the lovely weather we had during flowering (rain, hail, high winds and extreme heat can cause problems) there’s a very good chance that there are bonus, unexpected clusters out there. Unfortunately, for fine wine, more isn’t better.

If there are far more than expected there’s a chance those grapes will never get ripe, but in our climate, that’s rarely the concern. It’s just that if you add a few extra clusters per vine, the flavors can become diluted. This stuff isn’t regulated but It’s really hard to get $40.00+ for a bottle of Cab that’s kind of thin and lackluster.

Or, it could be that you see a kind of short, wimpy looking shoot in there with 3 clusters on it. There’s no way there are enough leaves on that shoot to bring three clusters to maturity. Better to go with one or two clusters, depending upon just how wimpy…

So it’s quite common to see tiny little clusters scattered on the ground around the vine rows this time of year in Napa Valley.

Shoot, leaf and cluster thinning are ongoing activities that begin in April and can continue almost up to harvest time, depending upon how things shape up. Vineyard management has become almost like gardening!

Next big event: veraison – when the grapes turn color, probably late next month.

Anybody out there making plans to visit wine country and see any of this stuff up close and personal?

Send me your wine question

For a free email subscription go to the top of the page



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Today’s Wine Word: Bud Break!


It’s happening. Mostly in the southern part of Napa Valley at this point, but it’s happening. The vines are emerging from their long winter slumber.

Every year I kind of worry because the vines look so very dead, especially once they’ve been pruned. I’m afraid that March will go by and they’ll still look like they’re dead – that they’ll never push out that very lovely little bit of pinky-green new growth. 

But, this marks the beginning of the 2012 growing season – may it be a MUCH, MUCH better and easier one than 2011! After what the vineyard managers have been through in 2010 and 2011 I think they deserve a frost-free spring and perfect weather from there on. 

What’s perfect? Around here, from April through October, we’re looking for warm, sunny days (maybe even a few hot ones) and cool, foggy nights – and no rain. Oh, it’s okay if Mother Nature wants to sprinkle a bit to dust off the grapes now and then, but no heavy rain, especially not during harvest!! Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized