On July 3rd of this strange year, we hit 60 degrees in the Arroyo Grande Valley. The sun decided to take the day off and sleep the day under the thick covers of the occasional “No-Sky July” marine layer. This was kind of the norm for most of the spring, except for the North winds that blow the marine layer out in the afternoon. These winds start to lighten up by May, allowing the May Gray to linger a little longer past 10am. By June, you get the occasional all day June Gloom, but it usually starts blowing out with gentler winds by 10am. That’s pretty much it: marine layer until 10am, stronger winds until June, calm winds after that, temps ranging from 50’ to the high 70’s, and occasionally you’ll see temps hit the 90’s. However, this year was different. Mostly cool temps with the marine layer hanging later in the day: a cool vintage.
So three days later from that cool day in July, there was not a cloud in the sky and the temps were a raging 107 degrees by 10 in the morning in the Arroyo Grande Valley. It was HOT. The air was hot, the ground was hot, the wind was hot, and of course the plants were hot. We’ve experienced occasional temps in the 100’s, and as stressful as it is- we usually come out ok. Our protocol is to put a little water out (1-2 gallons per plant) to help the plants deal with the stress of the heat. We also pull leaves in the fruit zone on the morning sun side as it’s the side that will receive sunlight at the coolest time of the day. Leaf pulling is done to allow air flow on the fruit to naturally keep moisture off the fruit and preventing mildew. It also allows sunlight to penetrate and help the ripening process. (I strongly recommend reading Sunlight Into Wine, by Richard Smart and Mike Robinson, to any aspiring viticulturalist looking to understand vineyard canopy management)
Unfortunately, this particular heat wave saw temperatures rise to 110 degrees before noon. It was too hot for some Pinot Noir blocks, regardless of our normal heat wave procedures and we had some berries go from unripe green berries to dried-up raisins in a matter of days. That 10 degree increase at an early point in the day was too much for the thin skinned berries of Pinot Noir. Fortunately it was just isolated to a few areas, but regardless it was heartbreaking to see good fruit burn.
As for it affecting our wine quality, the dried fruit is getting cut out before it even has the chance to make it to the sorting tables come harvest time. We are beginning to drop under ripe fruit as our Pinot blocks are around 80% verasion: “change of color of the grape berries; ie ripening”. With the green drop, we’ll be cutting out the dry fruit so you can expect the same quality that you expect from Talley wines!