As my crew begins to wash up and put things away, as well as my two tractor operators finish drilling cover crop, I'll summarize 2018.
I've been farming this project since 2010 and I can easily say this might be the closest thing to a perfect vintage as I've seen. Although we didn't have a great deal of winter rainfall we had some very beneficial late spring storms. Bud break was about a week later than historical average and most of spring was quite cool. We did not have a true frost event. With ample ground moisture the vines grew well but bloom was about 10-14 days behind what we've experienced the last few years. We knew we would not be picking early this year.
With decent weather during bloom, we were hopeful that set would be good. This is always an issue in our area where we get so much fog and wind. Early indications were that the crop looked decent but not great. We were happy enough. As the season moved on we went about our business. Mow, sucker, spray as I always say, but throw in disc and lift wires too. After having way too much powdery mildew in Chardonnay last year and having a cooler than normal spring, we ramped up our efforts with our suckering and spray programs.
As I would meet with other growers in my area we all agreed the crop was looking better as the weeks went by. We've seen this movie before. Both of my crews spent the better part of August adjusting crop. Mostly the 'weak shoot system' works pretty well. If a shoot is less than 12" you remove all clusters (or the entire shoot itself), if its about 20" you leave one or two clusters if they're not crowding too much. What we had lots of were twin shoots from the same spot. The primary shoot was fine, but the secondary was very short and carried two clusters. With one clip of the shears, the shoot and two clusters are removed and more light and air is let in. The fact we did this early on helped the vines put energy into the crop we wanted.
Day one was August 31st and the final day was Oct 22nd. 640 tons, 68 lots, 19 clients.
With no serious heat spikes during harvest, we avoided what happened in 2017. The condition of the fruit this year was excellent. No mildew like last year and crop levels good. My crew was great, thanks to my core people who recruit them. Many are family members and friends. We had an odd day off here and there mostly due to wineries dealing with space. The big change for us this year was changing our starting time from first daylight, to 5:30 am. We did this about halfway into harvest. Many folks in our area night pick, like starting at 10:00 pm. I'm not going that far. Just getting another hour and a half more cool time and also having the crew fully warmed up, when daylight broke we would have 4-5 tons picked and the crew moving fast. I will say this, in the next couple of years, and maybe even starting next year we will have to pick 100-150 tons by machine. Only because the weather held, were we able to keep up. People asked me why just not add another crew or more people....if you find some more folks, please send them my way!
"Behind every bottle of wine there's someone driving a tractor"