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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Edited

Harvest season….it’s the hustle and bustle, the night time glow of the lights in the vineyards and the bins full of fruit.

Although winemaking happens all year long, the harvesting of the grapes is one of the most crucial parts of the winemaking process.  To ensure quality wine, one of the most important decisions a winemaker must make is when to pick the grapes. Determining when to harvest requires a bit of science; the grapes’ acidity and sweetness should be in perfect balance. Of course, Mother Nature also plays a vital role in the ripening of grapes; a mid-summer rain can slow the ripening process and leave the vines susceptible to fungus.

In Temecula Valley, because of our warm weather, our harvest crews mostly pick the fruit at night or in the cool hours of the very early morning.  Thus, images of winemakers growing beards and sleeping during the day start appearing on our Facebook feed.

While there’s a lot more to harvest season than just harvesting the grapes, this signals the beginning of what truly is the most wonderful time of the year!  Be sure to follow us on Facebook for a glimpse into harvest happenings.

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Behind the Vine: Harvest Predictions

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

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During a recent conversation with one of our winemakers we had to laugh when he said “there are only three things certain in life: death, taxes and Harvest!”  That’s true…Harvest IS looming.  For months, we’ve been hearing predictions, and even some friendly wagers among our winemakers, on just when we should expect for harvest season to start.

Generally, wine harvest season takes place for about 2 months because wine grapes ripen at different times. We normally see harvest August through October.  But, in recent years, harvest has come early for most varietals due to mild winter and spring seasons and dry, hot summer months.

So, are we on track for another early Harvest?  The season definitely started with an early bud break, but we did have a longer, cooler spring than expected, so things did slow down a bit. And, following tradition the past few summers, we’ve experienced some monsoonal-type thunderstorms in the afternoons bringing much needed rain.  So what does all this mean for the start of harvest?  It’s really anyone’s guess.

But, one thing’s for sure….”Squeezin’ Season” as we lovingly refer to it around here, is just around the corner.  It’s a perfect time to visit wine country; not only are the vineyards beautiful with all that ripening fruit, but there’s a lot of activity going on in the vineyards and in the winery cellars.  And, if you’re lucky, you may get to experience part of what wine grape harvesting is all about!

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Temecula Valley Vineyards See Early Budbreak

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Despite the abnormally wet December and SNOW (!) in January, winter just didn’t last long enough in Temecula Valley’s wine country to keep spring at bay.

“We thought last year was early”, said Steve Andrews, Oak Mountain Winery’s owner and winemaker, “but we’re already seeing some “pushing” on our hillside vineyards”.  And “pushing” leads to budbreak, which is exactly what JD Harkey, of Drake Enterprises, a local farm management company, reported today.  JD shared the photo above, showing actual bud- break on a head-pruned Zinfandel vine he saw just this morning.

“It’s the earliest budbreak I’ve ever seen”, said Harkey.  “It’s going to be an interesting harvest!”

While delaying pruning as long as possible – sometimes into January and early February – often results in later budbreak, this year is proving challenging for local vineyard managers.  An early budbreak can be devastating to a vineyard if a late spring frost comes along, particularly if the buds have begun to flower, which is the pre-cursor to fruit set.

We were lucky last year, which was also a record breaker for early bud break here in Temecula.  We were thankful for a nice, long and temperate spring season that allowed the fruit to develop fully and evenly throughout the valley.  And while we all know that Mother Nature does what she wills, we’re hoping she slows things down a bit.  We want more winter!

 

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Being Water-Wise

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

With the drought situation that the state of California is facing, visitors often ask how the lack of rainfall affects our vineyards.

Well, other than the earliest harvest that anyone can remember, the effect on the wine grapevines in the Temecula Valley has been pretty minimal. Most of our wineries reported little to no change in crop size, primarily due to some perfectly-timed early season rain that helped with fruit set in the spring.

As a perennial crop, wine grapevines are a highly efficient, relatively low, water use crop.  And as long standing, good stewards of the land, Temecula Valley’s winegrape growers have focused on water conservation for decades.

We actively encourage the use of sustainable practices that notably conserve water; in particular is the use of drip irrigation systems in all of our vineyards. A valley-wide system of weather stations, complete with soil moisture probes which use sensor technology to determine the level of soil wetness, are located in various vineyards throughout wine country. Our winemakers and vineyard managers have daily access to this data, which allows them to make informed decisions for irrigation.  Temecula Valley vineyards are primarily watered at night and we practice deficit irrigation, which encourages deep rooting.  We also manage the cover crops that grow between the rows of grapevines to mitigate any competition with the grapevines for water.

It’s also important to note that drought cycles are typical in California and that agriculture somehow, continually adapts. Grapevines can withstand drought conditions for a number of years before they feel any ill effects.

Being water wise in our everyday lives – be it in our homes or in our communities – should be the ‘norm’ for each of us. Water is a truly precious commodity that we all need to protect.

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Vine Talk: Verasion

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

 

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Leoness Cellars Pinot Grigio; July 3, 2014

Vine Talk:  Verasion

“I’ve never seen anything like it!”, says Mike Rennie, owner of Leoness Cellars and a long-time grower and vineyard manager here in the valley.  “Harvest is going to be the earliest I’ve ever seen!  We’re already seeing verasion in all of our white grape varietals – and in some of our red varietals. The sugar level in our Pinot Grigio this morning was 18%.  It’ll probably reach the 22% we look for and be ready for harvesting by mid to late July.  It’s just incredible!”

In vineyard speak, verasion is a term used to describe the changing of color in a grape cluster.  All grapes are green up this point, but as the ripening process evolves, the clusters will begin the process of turning into those recognizable hues of golds, pinks, reds and purples. The grapes at this stage are sour and immature, but during the next few weeks as the fruit matures, astringent malic acids turn into soft tartaric acids and the sugar levels begin to rise rapidly.

There’s lot of action in the vineyard during this time.  The leaf canopies are constantly being pruned to allow just the right amount of sunlight and air to circulate though the vines.  Clusters that are not ripening evenly will be dropped to allow those that are to uniformly mature.  Unlike table grapes, small berry clusters are what we’re looking for as they have a better skin to fruit ratio that ensures enhanced concentrations of flavor and structure.  And that’s a very important aspect for making quality wines!  We’ll be praying for warm and dry weather – at least through the harvest season – to allow for the long, slow ripening process that our winemakers love.

What actually triggers verasion remains a mystery, but we can be sure that Mother Nature holds all the cards!

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