What a spring this has been! When spring decides to arrive 5 weeks earlier then normal it really gets the wheels turning on our winter outside work. Things like pruning, transplanting, and building new trellising. And the wines, well they are safe and sound in the winery and we'll get back to them in April/May while we wait for Bud Break!
You see, this will either be one of the best years or one of the worst years. And every farmer in the Puget Sound will find out very soon. Why would it be one of the worst years with all of the sun you ask? Well when the soil temperatures reach that magic 60 degree, the vines get begin to wake up from there long winter sleep. The sap begins to move again (that’s why you might be noticing buckets parked at the bottom of Birch trees this time of year. People are collecting the sap to make syrup). The sap is moving up through the cambium layer towards the new buds to “Push” them open and provided new life. This layer is also known as the “vascular cambium layer”. Now there becomes a point when the buds begin to “push” open, and they wont stop. Its like they jump on a freight train and even if the temperature begins to fall, they keep moving forward. If they open up too much, too soon, then we are in real danger. Im sure you have all seen a lovely sunny spring morning and everything is covered in a lovely looking frost. Well that frost is what we grape growers are most frightened about. As the plants begin to push open, they become very sensitive to frost and can be killed. In a matter of hours, your entire growing season could be over. However we do have a few tools in our tool box to combat the late frost. We can light a series of small fires in drums though out the vineyard, spray the vines with water and allow that to freeze. (Inside the ice covered vine, the temperature will actually be warmer then if left exposed.) Or build massive fans that will move the heavy frosty air out of the vineyard. These are all very costly and are not very sustainable ways to manage for frost in the eye’s of an organic farmer. The process of growing something is a process of working with mother nature, and she gives us almost everything that we need. We just need to see it, and use it. All day the soil is being baked in the sun. Its like a heat blanket. You’ve probably noticed this effect yourself. Ever noticed that a cloudy night is warmer then a clear sky night. That’s because during the night, the earth releases its heat from the day, and if there are clouds above, then the heat gets trapped leaving us with a warm night. So what we do, is we utilize that heat that is released during the night and to increase it efficacy, we turn the soil under the vines to expose it. Exposed soil catches more heat during the day, and releases more heat during the night. Enough heat that a frost won't form. We do this by using a very specialized bit of equipment called a spin weeder, or vine plow that carefully turns the soil leaving it weed free (which means no round-up) and it really kicks the thermostat up in the vineyard.
Now on the flip side of all of this freight train of doom and gloom, is that if we don’t get a late frost, then we are in for a real treat of a season as we just gained 5 weeks in our growing season! which can come in handy when we are waiting for the fruit to ripen just right before the rains come in October.
So. As the sap begins to move, and the buds begin to get fragile. We need to get vines pruned, and tied down so we can be hands off as much as possible during this very delicate stage of the growing season. And one of those projects is transplanting and re-building the trellising at our Best Rd tasting room. We are making the rows wider so our tractor equipment can get in there, and replacing the trellising post with new beautiful wooden posts instead of the metal T-post that were there before. This will leave our little vineyard of Melon De Bourgogne easier to work on, and look much better while you enjoy a glass of wine. Now we haven’t taken a harvest off these guys yet, but we hope to do so this year. We are only the second vineyard in the Puget Sound that is growing this grape, so theres a lot to learn about them.
So do a dance, cross your toes, and send good warm frost free thoughts our way.