Vineyard Manager Rich Williams gives a comprehensive update on progress of the season
Our amazing summer continues with plenty of hot and dry sunny weather. This has meant our flowering has flown through this year in a matter of about 10 days. With high temperatures during flowering there is plenty of girth in terms of berry size. The winds have slowly increased but have not given us too much trouble as we reach full canopy height. With very little rain lately, irrigation continues almost around the clock together with plenty of nutrient additions to keep the vines in full health.
Having a bigger than normal crew over the last couple of months has allowed us to get right up to date fast. So canopies that have reached full height have now been trimmed up. This will allow smaller shoots to catch up, put energy into fruiting abilities of the vine, and give us better control so that the vines are not blown around in the wind and sustain damage. The crew has also followed up with removal of basal leaves on the dark side and any lateral growth that will interfere with light penetration to the interior of the canopy. It will be important this year not to take off too much leaving the fruit to open and prone to sunburn but just enough to allow some light and air in around the fruiting zone. So far the Lake Front Pinot Noir, Fruit Bowl Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc have been leaf plucked with Pinot Gris next on the list. Following that there are only small pockets of blocks that should be looked at before we go on to any bunch removal and thinning work. Then bird nets go on of course to coincide with Veraison in just over a month’s time.
Fruit-set is coming together well and we are now at a stage of bunch closure, almost 4 weeks ahead on last year with an additional 100 GDD (455 so far). Pinot Noir bunch size seems to be pretty consistent to usual clonal characteristics but across the board there is a bit of variation from big to small. One of the most interesting Pinot Noir clones I have seen lately is the newly producing Clone 4 which looks like a long Merlot bunch; it started flowering early and had a wee touch of rain on the 20th of November therefore showing symptoms of collure. This means that some berries have dropped off because the stuck cap (calyptra) on the flower did not allow pollination leaving the bunch large and open.
The Pinot Gris has a very large crop with 2-3 big bunches per shoot holding large shoulders. Canopy heights are slightly smaller on the western side of the block but a significant improvement of last year. I’d like to open the Gris up a bit after the New Year and get a better idea of what is really here and perhaps do some bunch removal.
Sauvignon Blanc is looking really good again. A bit slow off the mark but looking healthy and tidy all trimmed up. It lacks the vegetative streak that Savvy normally has being on this steep sandy block and we are currently leaf plucking and lateral thinning through here. The crop seems about the same as last year but slightly bigger berry size will see us get over the 10 tonne mark. There is definitely no fruit thinning work to do so after we finish leaf plucking there won’t be much more to do on this variety.
Gewurtz is coming along great. I held off the trim as long as I could so as not to evoke the more vigorous middle section into excessive lateral growth. In the end the height of the tall shoots were reaching well over 4 metres and I was beginning to think we may need some taller posts to hold them in the wind. Now it is nicely trimmed up and has received an early leaf pluck and lateral thin. There may be another look at lateral growth in the middle section but the crop seems to look pretty well balanced, definitely not the 40g bunches we had last year. All in all, a lot more consistent canopy and bunch size.
Riesling continues to perform well. We don’t have to play much of a role in its development. Shoot growth is even and reasonably well open receiving an early trim. Bunch size hard to tell at this stage but still seems similar to last year if not slightly larger.
But overall the general outlook is positive with berry size large and even bunch conformation with a year similar to 2008 on the cards. Shoulders are also very even with main bunch and bunch number is not overly excessive. So, still all looking great and we are well up to date across the vineyard. So much in control that we are closing the gates over Christmas so that everyone can have a bit of time to relax.
So on behalf of everyone at the vineyard have a very Merry Christmas and happy and safe New Year and I’ll report back at Veraison. Take care and all the best for 2011!