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Where are the grapes? Pre-harvest Blog

If you have spent your summer in California you are probably still wondering when summer is going to start.  Anyone living here this summer will attest to the fact that the weather has been very mild and at times not much like summer at all.    We have experienced the coldest summer since 1999, and as you are aware, weather patterns and average temperature play a huge roll in the ripening of grapes.  Recently, I sat down with our winemaker Tom Myers to get some insight into what effects a cool summer can have on harvest here at Castoro Cellars.

As Tom put it, “in order to drive photosynthesis in the vines and get sugar levels up in the fruit, the grapes need a certain amount of heat.  When we experience cooler summers it typically leads to later harvest seasons, which is what we are experiencing now.”  Even varieties that are known for being early are at about 15% sugar and need to get to 21.5%, which could mean roughly 3 to 4 more weeks until the start of harvest.   “Some of our later varietals are still going through verasion, which is typically finished in the first week of August.”  Verasion refers to a physiological shift in the grape when the grape begins to develop its appropriate color, softens and ripens.  Since we haven’t had the typical heat waves this summer we are definitely looking at a later harvest then usual and praying for an Indian Summer.

A late harvest can be problematic because it increases the likelihood of grapes being exposed to frost or rain before they ripen.  In the case of an early frost, the vines will lose their leaves and the fruit will stop producing sugar, which can be very detrimental if the grapes have not reached an adequate sugar level.  Early rains can also pose a problem because if too much moisture gets into the clusters it can lead to molding and dilution of the sugars.  In a “worst case scenario,” Tom told me we would have to drop some of the fruit to lessen the stress on the vines and increase the ripening process in the remaining clusters, but hopefully this will not be the case.  Anyone who farms or grows a garden knows very well that no matter how much you fight mother nature, in the end you have to make do with what she throws at you.  We understand that here at Castoro Cellars and we are very in tune to what is happening in our vineyards everyday.  If we know a frost is coming or perhaps some early rain, we know what we have to do and we will do it.  There is never a dull moment in the vineyards because they are changing constantly, especially in a year like this one. We never really know what kind of weather we are going to be up against in any vintage.

Fortunately, Tom informed me that cooler years tend to yield a really high quality crop and if we are able to reach full maturity in all of our vines we could experience one of our best harvests to date with a hand full of brand new varietals.   As nervous as we may be, we are all very excited for harvest here at Castoro Cellars and if all goes well it could be one to remember!

Til next time