Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Opening in the Rain

I think every vineyard in this part of the world was getting sprayed this weekend.  After what seemed like a week of wet weather, the skies cleared on Saturday, and for those of us who struggle with Mother Nature (the good and the bad), we go on it in a big way.  I sleep a whole lot better knowing there's a dose of protection out in the vineyard keeping our future glasses of wine healthy.

It's been a real juggling act this spring in our vineyards.  I decided to run a third vineyard near Stewartstown.  This is the source of some of the best Cabernet Franc we've had since 2001.  The Franc has ended up in our 2001 Bridge, 2002 Proprietor's Red, 2005 Cadenza, 2006 Bridge, and 2007's Cadenza and Bridge.  Driving up to it, it's obviously not the most ideal site for a vineyard.  It sits rather low near surrounding hills, and it stays shaded through some of the earliest mornings sunrises.  But it does create nice wines for us.  

Trying to balance that vineyard with James (that we are now managing for the third or fourth year) and our own home vineyard has been akin to mental gymnastics.  It's been tough staying in touch with all three places, and making sure tasks are done properly in timely manners.  Luckily I have had four guys (Matt, Steve, Eric, and Levi) who have kept up with all my instructions.  We're almost halfway through the major work for the summer, and things look pretty good out there.

Our reds (across the board) have set too many clusters.  After leaf-pulling in a couple weeks, we'll go through and drop the extra clusters.  The Merlot, Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon have all put on too many third clusters on their canes.  These will never ripen and will cause the other clusters to not ripen sufficiently.  It's never easy to go through a vineyard and drop fruit, but it has to happen to make the wines we want to make.  Every cluster is a couple glasses of wine, and we probably are carrying hundreds of extra ones this year. 

But, if this year keeps up the way it started, we need to lighten our load.  We need some sunshine.  And lots of heat.  Start doing your No Rain Dances.


  1. Carl... very interesting subject, I was listening to some of the GrapeRadio.com podcasts with respect to some of the Paso Robles Rhone rangers vineyards from California and Chateau Teyssier from St. Emilion. It's amazing how much fruit dropping they're doing... Some California vineyards are dropping 60% of the fruit per vine and Chateau Teyssier is only keeping 4 clusters per vine on their Cabernet Franc....!!!!! Have you ever tasted their Cabernet Franc heavy Le Dome? It seems like a task which takes a great deal of experience and subjectivity in a contradicatory way.. Thanks again for Sunday, Howard

  2. Howard,

    Yes, there is an economic threshold when it comes to dropping fruit. It also affects the vine as well, but I don't think that's as well understood. If you're making high-priced wines ($100+ per bottle) then dropping fruit is standard practice.

    Vine density also plays a role. If you have dense plantings, then you want to drop the pounds per vine down to something manageable. One to two clusters per shoot is normal for good wine production. This applies mostly to reds; whites can handle a bit more.

    At Allegro, we usually don't need to drop fruit on our whites, but our reds we'll take down to one to two clusters per cane depending on the health of the vine and the type of vintage we're having.



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