Thinning at Crimson Clover

Friday I took the day off from the day job. We had traveled up to Sonoma the day before and I thought there might be more touring around on Friday but there wasn’t. We thought about going hiking but decided to help Jaye out at Crimson Clover instead. We had sent her out to thin the vineyard and it was going much slower than we counted on.

Stefania and I arrived about 9 am. We started by raising the wires on the first nine rows. We stopped on the 10th though and started helping Jaye thin. The growthwas much shorter starting in row 7 or so and we figured out that the crew had made a pruning error this winter.

Many of the spurs were removed and this was what was slowing Jaye down. Instead of removing one or two extra shoots from each spur she was having to pick one shoot out of dozens to reestablish the spur.

It is a set back for the vineyard. We’ll lose somewhere between 1000-2000 pounds of potential fruit this year. That would mean a ‘good’ yield will be about 3000 pounds. We counted on about 5000 this year. It’s bad but not tragic, the vineyard will recover.

I took the picture below of Jaye and Stefania working while I took a water break. We were able to finish thinning by 3 PM or so. We’ll go back in a couple of week and raise the rest of the wires as the shoots get longer. We’ll be busy thinning in all the vineyards over the next few weeks. It’s something we like to finish before flowering starts. We don’t want to do any work on the vines while they flower to avoid shatter.

It is also much harder to thin after flowering because the base of the shoot becomes hard. After flowering you need to use clippers to remove extra shoots. Right now we can just snap the shoots off with out hands.

Tucking and Thinning at Chaine d’Or

Saturday Millie had been tucking and thinning at Chaine d’Or when we went and pulled her away to inspect the new Brauns vineyard.

Yields will be very low again due to shatter and poor fertility of the nodes.  Fertility is determined the year before (2010).  The nodes where new growth will come from need lots of sunshine before flowering to be fertile and last year there was little sun in the vineyard in May and June.  So, fog in 2010 effects yield in 2011.

Shatter can have many causes.  This year the two big issues where rain and cold during flowering.  Grapes self pollinate .  In the late Spring and early summer small flowers open up on the clusters.  The flower then drops pollen on to the base and the grape is pollinated and will form into maturity.  The weather needs to be warm and calm.  Cold weather will keep the pollen from releasing.  Stormy weather will disrupt the dropping of the pollen.  We had cold weather and rain during flowering.  Above you can see what happens.  The cluster ends up with just a few grapes on the cluster.  It looks like the cluster has been ‘shattered’ and the grapes have fallen off.

What we really needed to get done though was tucking and thinning.  Tucking is making sure that the growth is up and into the wire system.  This insures the plants get the right amount of sun and that we can get mildew spray on the vines.  You actually tuck the shoots up into the wires.  Thinning is removing any excess growth so that there is good airflow (which prevents mildew) and sun access for the shoots that remain.

It was clear on Saturday that there was more work than Millie and I could finish on our own on Sunday.  The regular crew would still be working in Saratoga so we did something we have not done in a few years.  We sent out an email to friends asking for emergency help.  Amber, Dave and Wes came out to help Millie, Stefania and I on a warm Sunday.

Here’s what a row looks like before we start, note the fog hanging over the ridge line a mile away:

And after thinning:

Nice and cleaned up.  We worked until 2PM, and Dave’s new work out routine made him the star tucker and thinner of the day.  In all we finished 12 of the 22 rows.  They were the longest ones though and Millie and I were able to finish the other 10 the next day.