May 30, 2014

The Ravings of a Passionate Viticulturist

(2014 Wine Grape Growing Season Notes From Kiler Canyon Vineyard, Westside Paso Robles)

What's Happening in the Vineyard

Growing Season Timing:  The dates of bud break (first opening of buds into leaves) and flowering are good indications of whether the growing season is early, normal or late.  Syrah and Grenache plants were at 50% flowering  two weeks ago  5/07/14. This is approximately 3 weeks earlier than normal for the past 5 years.  Right now, these same Syrah and Grenache vines have reached fruit set which is when the grape flower has been pollinated and now forms a tiny berry.  An indication of the degree of fruit set is what percentage of the flowers have turned into berries.

Grenache fruit set 5-28-2014 
Grenache bud break 3-15-2014
 Grenache flowering 5-14-2014  
State of the Canopy:  The early red varieties of red wine grapes, Syrah and Grenache have reached nearly full canopy size and objectively(tongue in cheek)  the canopy looks wonderfully healthy.  The later red wine grape varietals in our vineyard, Tempranillo and Mourvedre, are normally about 2-3 weeks later and need a few weeks for the canopy to fully expand.  Flowering in these varietals has progressed nicely.


LXV Shiraz/Syrah block, Kiler Canyon Vineyard
  Grenache, Clone C, Kiler Canyon Vineyard
            
      
Water:  The growing season has been wonderfully cool, leading to less need to irrigate and vines with almost no exposure to heat stress at this time.

Last year, we started honey bee keeping and have become aware that many man-made chemicals applied to vineyards are very toxic to bees.  So, a year ago, we stopped utilizing chemical fungicides in the vineyard.  As a result, all of our powdery mildew sprays are natural materials such as stylett oil, sulfur and etc.  More on the (etc.) and bees in a later writing.

Future Weeks:  Next in the vineyard, these new berries need to grow to full size.  The period for cell division growth in the grape berry is about 6 weeks.  This is a critical period in the development of a berry as it is the largest factor determining berry size which we like to be as small as practical.  The smaller the berry is larger the berry surface area/volume ratio becomes.  The large surface area/volume ratio leads to increasing influence of berry skin vs berry pulp on the characteristics of the fruit and increased concentration of the fruit at harvest.

Conclusion:  So If this temperate weather continues,  I am looking forward to a banner growing season with much room for the extended hang time required to  get each varietal to optimum ripeness.

Cheers,
Don Hofer
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About Don Hofer: Don Hofer retired as a research chemist from the Research Division of IBM in 2000. At IBM he pursued
the research & development of materials for semiconductor lithography.  After retiring Don planted 25.5 acres of wine grapes on their property in Kiler Canyon, Paso Robles. In addition  to continually learning the art and science of viticulture, Don has the hobbies of honey bee keeping and  furniture building. He says his new goal in life is to become a master furniture builder.
LXV Wine sources two  clones of Syrah (including the Estrella clone) from Don!

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