Ah, the joys of summer! Even with the difficult situation that is currently upon us, the warm weather makes everything a bit better. Have you ever wondered what is going on right now in the vineyards that are growing the grapes that will end up in your wine bottle?
There is never a quiet period when managing a vineyard. Every month brings a daunting list of tasks for completion. Here are some activities that are typically done in May and June, at least in Northern California.
May is normally the first month that is safe from the threat of frost, and the grapevines are bursting out with new vigor. All of this growth means that much of the new cane must be pruned away to allow each plant to focus its energy on fewer future clumps of delicious grapes. This pruning and branch training along the wires also makes sure that sunlight can bathe each and every vine. The spring buds are now maturing into tiny clumps of grapes, assuming that hard rains didn’t interfere with the fertilization process.
The vineyard also gets its first thorough cleaning, where any weeds between and within the vine rows are removed. Now is also the time for any necessary soil enhancements to be put down. The vines are treated as needed with sprays to deal with mildew and disease.
June is spent shaping the rapidly growing vines, keeping them along the wires and removing any leaves and branches that aren’t absolutely critical to delivering a good harvest. The vines are developing the leaf canopy that will nourish and sustain the burgeoning fruit clusters. Pruning decisions made now will quickly become irrevocable as time passes. At least the berries are larger now, making it easier to predict how their shadows will fall. Weeds are invading the vineyard at breakneck speed, so pulling out these nutrient thieves is a never ending job this time of year. This work in the vineyard is made more challenging because it is also time to bottle last fall’s white wines and the reds from previous vintages. This is necessary so that there will be time to clean and treat the emptied barrels so that they will be in prime condition for the coming autumn harvest and crush. Efforts are further distracted because of the typical wine festivals and other marketing events that make June so enjoyable for all of us wine lovers.
So let’s all raise a glass to the vineyard workers toiling ceaselessly so that we can enjoy the results of their efforts in the coming months and years. Cheers to you!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?