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?
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