2013 Year in the Rear.
It appears that we might get some rain finally! I am guessing that 2013 will go down in the history books as the driest year on record. We have had 3 inches since January. In a “normal” year would expect more like 15 inches.
With little to no rain in January or February, we started to cultivate the vineyard in mid-March as the ground became dry. April was windy, warm and dry. Buds started to appear by the first week and by the end of the month, everything was out several inches.
This was in spite of the delay tactics we employed, what old timers call “long pruning.” Long pruning is a technique to delay early bud break as a means of frost protection. We don’t usually have much frost but I use it as a hedge against climate change. My hope is that if I can delay bud-break then I can lengthen the growing season as the grapes are more likely to be hanging during the shorter and cooler days in October.
The process is as it sounds, we simply leave more buds on the plant than we actually want at the first pruning on March 12th, leaving a longer spur. As the ground is warming the freshly cut plant bleeds sap which is what delays bud break. We returned on March 27th, just as the buds are starting to push to remove more buds, each time inflicting a small wound and hopefully delaying the bud-break.
Things moved very quickly and by May 1st we were basically done with our spring work load well over a month earlier than a typical year. We began to speculate that might begin harvest in late August. However, as fall approached, the weather became more seasonable, and things slowed down. September and October were downright gorgeous, with a few light and early dollops of rain, but mostly dry and seasonable weather. Harvest began on September 13th, exactly two weeks earlier than 2012.
The quality of our harvest seems to be fantastic, but ask me in a year. The acids in the grapes were a little unbalanced with high malates (due to the short growing season I suppose) and low tartarics. Given the dry year and the dry-farming, the yields were quite respectable. We probably dropped more fruit than we would have if there had been more moisture in the ground, but it was the right thing to do and we still ended up with just under 3 tons to the acre.
It is now mid-November and it appears we may get a little light rain but the forecast is still very quiet. I am very anxious to get some moisture in the ground so the cover crops can germinate and lift my mood away from the threat of a looming drought.