Grapevines are growing faster than we can get the work done. The growth of our vines has already exceded last year’s full growth and we still have 60 days until harvest. Farming is controlled by Mother Nature.
We are still living under drought conditions. Our wells continue to produce at about a 50% level, which is nearly adequate for irrigation. Our water district for the Valley View Vineyard originally scheduled for 5% state water, then raised their estimate to 45%, and then raised it again last week to 60%. Conditions in northern California have greatly improved the availability of state water.
Spring started with a mini cold wave so the past two nights have been spent in the vineyard driving around in circles watching temperature gauges and being prepared to turn on fans, sprinkler systems, or our new frost guard machines which are tractor driven and weave their way through the vineyards. We had an early bud break, at least as early as last year.
We expect to be finished pruning by the end of this week and will be tying by mid next week, just in time to avoid knocking the buds off when we tie to the trellis system. Budding out this early will cause us to have a prolonged frost season. More rain would help protect the crop. At high moisture levels, frost damage is less severe. It still makes for a long time to be on call for frost protection.
We started pruning in early December. It takes 35 workers about 90 days to prune our vineyards. It is one of the most tedious jobs that we do. Selection of the proper canes and spurs will determine what kind and what size of crop we have.
This harvest started the first week of August and ended the second week of October - the earliest start and finish in my 43 years of harvesting grapes in Santa Barbara County. One consolation is that we will have had time to prepare for the Harvest Party. Things should be in great shape to enjoy the festivities.
Harvest is well underway and a couple of weeks earlier than ever before. Our yields in some varieties, like Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio, are unbelieveably low. Both bunch size and berry size are small. This situation is statewide, especially in the coastal regions. Everyone is questioning why.