With harvest just around the corner we thought we’d take you through a pictorial of the 2021 growing season so far. Though we have yet to bring our grapes in, our weather has been lovely in Napa Valley and we’re looking forward to another outstanding vintage.
February:Vines are Dormant
These neatly pruned vines in John Komes’ vineyard were dormant back in February, patiently waiting to wake up for the 2021 growing season.
Budbreak, when buds swell and the vines put out their first leaves, occurred right on time, rippling through our vineyards in March.
May: Fruit Set
Just a few weeks later in May, flower clusters destined to become grapes began to appear, a growth stage known as fruit set. Photosynthesis and vine growth sped up dramatically.
Late May: Canopy Management
Within a couple of weeks, the vines had full canopies which we managed by hand throughout the season to ensure the grapes had just the right amount of dappled sunlight.
June: Berry Clusters
The first berries to form in June were green and hard to the touch. The clusters looked very healthy though, and we began to get a sense of how big the vineyard crop is going to be (hint: small).
In late July the fruit started to go through veraison, the period when the grapes soften and develop color. Just a few weeks from now we’ll be in harvest, and at Flora Springs we can’t wait!
In Napa Valley this time of year, you’re likely to see vineyard crews scattered amongst the vines. “What are they doing,” you ask? They are Shoot Thinning and Leaf Pulling.
Shoot thinning and leaf pulling are part of overall vineyard canopy management, as seen here in Sauvignon Blanc vines at our Soliloquy Vineyard. Learn how our Soliloquy Vineyard is entirely unique to Flora Springs and distinct from more common Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in Napa Valley.
Shoot thinning is a process in which any unnecessary shoots are removed—typically those in the lower regions of the vine. Removing select shoots allows the vines’ energy to be directed towards the primary shoots, which will ultimately bear fruit.
Leaf thinning is conducted for a variety of reasons, particularly in wet years like this one when the canopy tends to be vigorous. Too much vigor can lead to vegetative characteristics—which we don’t want! Removing the leaves curtails this issue. Leaf thinning also opens up the canopy, allowing increased air flow and quicker drying in the event of morning dew or rain, and to prevent mildew in humid conditions. This opening of the canopy also increases light penetration—which is needed for photosynthesis. Sunlight exposure improves grape quality, protects the berry, and also elevates the phenols and polyphenols that are responsible for the color, taste, and flavor of the wine.
While this work is being done, the crews are also positioning the shoots. The shoots may be 24”–36” at this point. If we are working in a vineyard that has a vertical trellis system, there will be a series of horizontal wires running from one end of the row to the other. As the vine grows, the shoots will be tucked into the wire trellis to allow for what is commonly referred to as VSP, or vertical shoot positioning. This allows further opening of the canopy. There are other types of trellises, but VSP is the primary system implemented in most Flora Springs vineyard blocks.
After the initial thinning pass, each block will be monitored in the weeks to come to determine when/if additional passes are to be made.
We have officially picked all of our Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc for the year. We started the Pinot Grigio on August 15th, and finished the Sauvignon Blanc on August 31st.
We then started harvesting the Lavender Hill Chardonnay in Carneros on September 6th. The very next day, we received Merlot from the Estate. This is the earliest date on record for reds.
The last week was pretty crazy…Phoenix-like temperatures in the 115 degree range! On top of that, the valley was blanketed with smoke from a fire burning in Butte County. Fortunately, both have subsided and we are back to average harvest temperatures once again…at least for the time being.
We will be bringing in additional Merlot, as well as Petit Verdot from Oakville, on Monday and Tuesday. Then we will finish up with the last of the white grapes on Wednesday.
The harvest has been pretty fast and furious thus far – keeping things exciting. We were very proactive with our irrigation regimen before and during the heatwave, so the fruit is still in excellent condition. We are extremely pleased with the quality thus far, and expect to make some fantastic wines!