Greg Schultz
August 1, 2016 | Greg Schultz

Raising the Wires



Wildflowers in front of vineyard truck

Photo by Leslie Bloss

In 2001, Uwe Meier categorized the growth stages of a grapevine and its fruit. There are nine principal growth stages, each subdivided into intermediate steps. Step 00 represents winter dormancy; step 99 is after harvest and leaf fall. During the growing season, each vine moves through these steps. Our Tempranillo vines were at bud break (step 08) on April 9th. As of August 1st we were just starting to see a few berries beginning to develop a little color (step 81). Veraison is the French term for describing berry color development and softening. We are not quite there but are getting close.  

A little color starting to develop on a Tempranillo cluster

About 99% of our vines are not quite as far along as the one pictured above--probably step 77 where the berries are green, but are enlarging and are beginning to touch. To encourage further development, we have been actively managing the vines. We've had a lot of help from Kevin Breck who is a student in the Umpqua Community College's viticulture and enology program. Kevin is making a career change (something we are quite familiar with), and we are very happy to have his help one day each week! In the past month, we have completed the thinning process whereby we remove every other shoot so as to give the remaining ones more energy for development. We have raised all of the catch wires to their highest levels and tucked the shoots between the wires so as to facilitate sunlight penetration and air movement. And just today, we started leaf pulling.

Debbie pulling leaves from east side of clusters

Leaves are manually pulled from the east side of vines to give the berries the ripening benefit of the morning sun. Grape leaves are quite large, and if left in place, shade the clusters which would delay or inhibit ripening. Generally, the leaves are left on the west side to prevent sunburn from the hot afternoon sun. Sometimes, these too are pulled if more air movement and spray penetration is needed to prevent mold and mildew formation. At this time, we don't think we need to pull the west-facing leaves.

Berries are ripe for harvest when they reach step 89. Since this is our first harvest, we don't know when this will be--maybe about 6 more weeks. Experienced growers in our area are expecting another early harvest, but not as early as last year. I think we had 20+ days last summer above 100° in our valley; this year there have been very few, and at our site, zero. We hit 99° a few days ago, but it is noticeably cooler than last year. This is good for the grapes as it extends and slows the growing season a bit and doesn't stress them too much.

In addition to Kevin, we have some more new team members...

Eleven chicks arrived this week via the US Postal Service

Chickens are great additions to any vineyard. They spend all day scratching around, eating bugs, and fertilizing. They are an important part of our sustainable farm program. And their eggs are fabulous!

One day closer to a harvest...


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