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Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's About Time

That's not a comment of exasperation, it's the recognition that, after all these months of pruning and spraying, leaf pulling and weeding, that we are finally here. Harvest time is literally right around the corner.

We seemed to quickly get to veraison (where the skins turn color from a pale green to a deep golden color and begin to soften) and then it seems like we have to fast dance for there is still the feeling that we are way behind in our chores. The leaves have to be pulled to allow sunlight in to the grapes, and also to provide some air flow for the breezes to dry the clusters. Now is the time when we closely watch the weather, along with any fungus that might creep in, and then lastly the sugar content of the grapes themselves. That's a picture of me out in the field, taking a refractometer reading that will give me the sugar content. What the little gadget does is read the light reflection through a small droplet sample of grape juice.......the more solids (sugars) the more bent the reflection is which is then shown on a scale.

It is a balancing act that normally comes together all at the same time. You are looking for a Brix of maybe 21 or 22 (percent of sugars in the grape flesh). But if there is an oncoming wet weather pattern, a compromise must be made to accept lower sugar levels. No sense jeopardizing the entire harvest for a point or two in sugar content. And then there is the fungus. It starts out as a single grape within a bunch that is slightly discolored. Come back the next day and there might be 6 times that many. One more day and you lose the entire bunch. It spreads rapidly. The other day I walked the vineyard and threw out 3 dozen bunches that were beyond hope. We now have a prediction of 4 straight days of rain next week (not counting the thunder storm we received last night that was not forecasted). Our Brix registered 21.4 yesterday morning.

I think it about time to start picking the Seyval Blanc.

We have Monday scheduled to start picking. With a crew of six we might get done with the picking by mid day. From there we start the processing.....destemming and crushing, performing a "free run" through our press, killing off any airborne yeast and initiating our own fermenting process. To do all this should take the entire day.

And then next week we do it all over again with our Cabernet Francs. Their Brix is about 19.6 right now. Another week would ordinarily make them ready to harvest, but the rain might bloat the grapes and water down the sugar content.  Do we pick anyway? Will these be affected by the fungus as bad as the whites?

I'll let you know.

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