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Stories from the valley

A Finicky Winter…

Contributed by Eileen Javora Boeger

There is one thing that is constant each winter, the vineyards will always go dormant and take a stretch of time to sleep. What they wake up to is a different matter come spring and always an unknown. So far this year’s wet season has been lackluster and like all farming, we are on constant look out for rain or stormy conditions. This winter has been a bit fickle with weather, at times cold and at times mild with some precipitation mixed in here and there.

grape vines overed in snow in winter

We did have one snow day this winter. It was an amazing sight. This is not harmful to the dormant vines. In fact, like many fruits, they require a minimum amount of time below 45℉ (called “Chill Hours”) to be able to produce good yields the following year. It is typical to have at least one day of snow each season in the vineyards. We can get snow in the vineyards at our elevation as late as April. 

We’ve also had some mild days in the 60s too. That’s normal but without a real winter feel there is concern we may experience an early spring and the buds will arrive too soon, which increases the risk of frost damage if the weather should turn again. At least our nights have been cold, so for now, there’s no sign of that happening. Though it wouldn’t take much, higher sun angle and a week’s worth of warm weather and buds could easily push.

closeup of grape pruned grape vine

No matter what the weather, there is still plenty of work to do in the vineyards. Each vine needs to be hand-pruned to make room for next year’s growth. This is skilled, time-consuming work and it takes our small crew a couple months to prune approximately 100 acres of vines.

As for the cellar, it is a busy time time as well.  Although the young red wines are “dormant” too, needing to lie undisturbed in barrels for at least a year until they’re ready, the new white wines and last year’s reds are being bottled throughout the cold months. The rest of the barrels and tanks needs to be monitored daily. Yes, that includes a sip each day!