Catch up on the vineyard and winery news of the month with Lillie Manescala!
IN THE FIELD
Happy February Club Members!
Remember that awkwardly-obsessed-with-water August monthly I sent out last year? Well it looks like all of my rain dancing has finally paid off! Saddlerock Ranch is now flush with water, filling both of our lakes and then some. It’s nothing new for many of you Californians that the drought has severely affected the health our planet. With the help of mother-nature, our water supply has quite literally quadrupled. This time last year the state was 3% out of the drought and is now sitting pretty at 42%! So exciting right? Well before you get carried away taking showers longer than 5 minutes again (I know you’ve all been timing yourselves), let’s go over what this abundance of agua means for Semler vine production.
Photo credit: Holly Allen
Unfortunately, I have to play devil’s advocate here. First, THIS IS GREAT NEWS. More water means more vine growth, delayed pruning, more crop at harvest and less plant stress. However, a big thing to consider is duration.
Photo credit: @malibuwinehikeswithkurt
Quick tangent- more rain with cooler temperatures=more snow on the mountains. Snow melts=more water….eventually.
Duration: considering the higher snowfall levels, it means that once it melts, there will be more groundwater saturation. This takes time, several months actually, before some areas will receive this large drink. So, the large yield of water you currently have on tap will eventually run out. Think about when you receive your Friday paycheck. You’re all of a sudden so wealthy and you want to make it rainnnnnn. Then, on Monday you look at your bank account and it’s yikes bikes! Same situation with water consumption, (we aren’t out of the drought yet so keep conserving!) For now, we are happy about entering our 2017 growing season with full lakes. Clear eyes, full lakes, can’t lose.
IN THE VINEYARD
Happy New Year Wine Clubbers! We all here at MFW hope you had a lovely new year filled with our Sparkling Brut!
Our vineyard crew has started the process of pruning. To recap - our vines are in their dormancy stage (napping) so that they can have a smooth transition into flowering. Pruning happens every year beginning as early as December and as late as March. Pruning is key as this will set the tone for the rest of the growing year. If you prune incorrectly it’s possible to cut off life to the vine and your crop yields will be lower than expected.
Things to consider when pruning a grapevine are going to be based upon the grape varietal, how it was trained and weather conditions.
Grape Varietal/Training - some vines produce more yields than others based on the way their vines were first trained. What is she talking about you ask? Training is the system in which your vine grows and attaches to the wire. Two main training systems are Cane and Spur. Both require manually cutting back all of the vines prior growth to make room for the new growing season.
Cane pruning is common in cooler climates with less frost vulnerability where the trunk of the vine is responsible for growth. In Spur pruned vines, the stub on the arm of the vine is cut down to a certain number of nodes that best fit your winemaking program. The number of nodes will almost always equate to your number of grape clusters per spur. This is incredibly helpful in determining crop yields.
Weather Conditions - Vines are dormant and can withstand the cold climate however, rainfall and temperature have to be consistent in order to prune. If pruning is happening when temperatures drop below 5 degrees you open your vines up to frost damage and potential freezing. Obviously this does not apply to us here in Malibu but you want to make sure you’ve had consistent cooler temperatures for roughly 2 weeks before you prune. Check and check! In regards to rainfall, you don’t want it to be too damp as the vineyards get incredibly slippery and muddy that leave your crew overexerting their efforts.
I could go on for hours about the different training systems and the best protocol for pruning your grapevines. Viticulture is very complex yet simple once you find your groove.
Pruning season has started and will last 6 weeks or until all of our 69 acres have gotten their winter haircut!