October 4, 2011

Yesterday we received some pretty significant rain in Northern California, and Sonoma Valley was no exception. Rain can potentially pose some problems to a winery that still has grapes out in the field (basically everyone at the moment). For one, the cool weather and increased water uptake by the vines can delay ripening. For another, all of the moisture in and around the canopy of the vines can lead to botrytis growth. In extreme cases, the water uptake will cause ‘cracking’, meaning that some of the grapes will actually split open, which creates an ideal condition for botrytis.

Over the last few days, many wineries around Sonoma have been hustling to get their grapes in ahead of the rain. We would love to bring in our remaining fruit, but the fact is that our remaining fruit is not physiologically mature yet. Bringing it in early would be pointless, because the resulting wine would simply not achieve our standards for quality.

Thankfully, it turns out that we’re not in particularly bad shape here at Amapola Creek. The varieties we produce that would be most affected by the rain (Chardonnay and Zinfandel, because of their tight clusters and relatively delicate skins) are already in. The lionshare of what’s left out in the field is Cabernet Sauvignon. All of our Cabernet Sauvignon clones come from what is known as the Entav family, which tend to have very loose clusters, small berries, and fairly tough skins. They are pretty resistant to both botrytis and cracking, although we’ll have to keep a close eye on the Cab once the weather dries up. It is possible we’ll have to drop some clusters if botrytis does turn up, but as long as we stay on top of it we shouldn’t lose much.

Other than that, we still have some Petite Sirah in the field over at Monte Rosso. This is potentially problematic because this variety has very tight clusters, but the skins are pretty tough and the canopy is very open, so we might have to drop a little bit of fruit, but it likely will not be a big problem.

As you can see, the Petite Sirah is trained so that the fruit hangs down free of the bulk of the canopy, this will help prevent botrytis growth.

The only significant problem we’re facing is our block of Syrah and Grenache, Bobcat Run. The Syrah is ripening particularly slowly this year, and it can be susceptible to problems of cracking and botrytis. What we’ve been doing to prepare for the rain is repositioning the shoots so that the clusters are hanging free (to allow ventilation), and thinning leaves out around the fruit. It is likely we will have to thin out the clusters in the Syrah once the rain is over, but we are planning to start early so as to catch any developing problems before they become significant.

The Grenache is the rows to the right, the Syrah is the rows to the left. This block will take a lot of attention once the rains stop, fortunately it's pretty small so this shouldn't be a huge issue.

 It can be a little stress inducing, but this is just how it goes in any agricultural business. We are at the mercy of the weather, the only thing we can control is how we react to it. Fortunately, we have a pretty experienced team here, so it will mean extra work, but we will be able to see it through.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main website, please click here.


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