An update from Vineyard Manager Rich Williams on how the vineyard is progressing…
Our cracker start continues from October, though the last 10 days have been quite windy. Temperatures have stayed reasonably warm and left the vines without their usual green and yellow look that were symptomatic of the spring last year.
The vines have started flowering (19th November) in the House Block and Ski Slope Pinot Noir staying in sync with the timing of budburst. With that in mind it should not be long for the rest of the varieties to be away. The start is of a similar date last year though this year we were initially a week behind and now we have caught up again. I’m seeing larger canopies across the board with less wind damage in the usual spots. There are still some issues with small vine syndrome on some blocks which bear the brunt of the wind – north end Dress Circle, north end Lake Front, High Wire by the gate – but the percentage across the board will be small and I will be dropping some fruit in these positions to get the vines to kick into gear once more. So expect bigger yields due to a great growth spurt and less wind damage.
Straight up, I have never seen a start like this one. This year is very different and I have had to have a large team on hand over the last couple of weeks. This has enabled us to catch up to where I now feel we are up to date. The young House Block took up a bit of time initially with the experienced Fulltime crew. After shoot thinning out the Pinot Noir, I decided the priority lay in the young Riesling were the vines were sulking holding up to 4 bunches per shoot and this was holding the vines back from pushing nice even shoot growth. So we made the call to do some early season bunch thinning down to 1 and 2 bunches depending on size and topped it off with a couple of Calcium-Nitrate additions the vines were away again. I’m really happy with how the Pinot Noir is looking although there is also quite a lot of fruit on these vines that will need to be looked at very soon so that the same does not happen to them.
After the young stuff, we were then making steady progress on the Ski Slope thinning out the cane pruned Sav Blanc. So far I’m satisfied with the rate of growth on these vines and cropping level seems to be low, though more even and slightly up on last year. Pinot Noir in this block is also trucking along well, more even and better wire fill than 2009/10.
I’ve had a group of casual workers shoot thinning, starting with the Lake Front Block. This block of Pinot Noir is one of the stand-outs of the season so far. Very even full height open canopy with consistent cropping level. Already we have 2 tuck wires up with shoot tips at post height already and will probably look to raise the third wire next week. The Abel clone on cane is also looking good without the vigour that it once had. From there the guys thinned out the Dress Circle Pinot Gris then the High Wire block. Shoot growth is outstanding through here. A large crop of Pinot Gris will be on the cards, with the variety producing 2 and 3 bunches a shoot.
I had a group of Ni-van workers shoot thin the Top Block Pinot Noir in a couple of days which really took the pressure off and this week the full timers have finished off the shoot thinning in the Fruit Bowl Gewürztraminer which I’m ecstatic about. A lot more even throughout this block with what looks like a larger crop than last year. The drain through the middle seems to be paying off although the already larger vines in the gully just want to grow but still really open ensuring light penetrates the canopy interior. Lastly, the Riesling is still to shoot thin but not much removal needs to be done to open it up. It will be finished off early next week along with some more wire tucking and some less than exciting removal of suckering shoots from the base of the plants. On the whole shoot thinning is all but done and 2 wires up around the board.
So on track and looking great!