The other day I was comparing notes on the growing season with my neighbors up the road, George Donati, in our San Luis Obispo Coast region for more than 20 years, and Howard Carroll, who has lived in the Edna Valley for more than 30 years. Howard and I both remarked on how cold and windy is has been this spring, and George pointed out that this is typical of the way it used to be, before the onset of the drought in 2012 and warmer, dryer weather. George told us that his standard response to anyone who complained about the wind in the old days was, “the wind blows until June 20. After that, it will warm up.”
Fog over Rosemary's VIneyard
What does this cold spring mean for our crop in 2018? Here are a few key takeaways so far:
We estimate that we are about 3 weeks behind last year in terms of key milestones in our growing season.
Flowering (the period when the grapes are pollinated) has been extended for a period of about 6 weeks, about double the normal time. This extended flowering has resulted in inconsistent development of the grape clusters and more unfertilized flowers (shatter), especially in Chardonnay. Clusters are smaller, which will reduce the size of the crop.
Chardonnay cluster that has set next to flowering clusters
In general, vine growth has been uneven. For instance, the Monte Sereno Vineyard started growing early in the season and was affected by a frost at the end of February. On the other hand, Oliver’s Vineyard started growing about a month later and both vine growth and the crop looks better there. Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay appears to have the most variability from vine to vine.
Inconsistent vine growth, Rincon Vineyard Chardonnay
To summarize what all this means for the 2018 vintage, we will likely harvest a smaller than average Chardonnay crop and an average sized Pinot Noir crop. Unless we have an exceptionally warm summer, I expect that the majority of grapes will be harvested in September and October, which bodes well for wine quality, since I think we make our best wines in cooler years when we harvest later. In the meantime, our vineyard crew is working diligently--leafing, managing the vine canopy and removing suckers--to ensure that the 2018 crop is the very best it can be. All of us look forward to warmer weather after June 20th. Cheers!