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Stories from the valley

Grape Blossoms need a tiny little vase

Contributed by Tim Johnson

It’s odd when you stop and think about it. Wine grape bunches are large and fill the hand when ripe. How then is it that the blossoms that start the whole process are so very small?

Vineyard under puffy cloudsThis is the time of year when the grapes are in bloom. Drive by or even walk up to a grape vine and you would be hard pressed to even identify what is blooming. If you have a great sense of smell, you can almost detect a faint sweet aroma but it is very faint.

When looking for a grape blossom you need to go straight to the small bunches on the canes. These mini-bunches are in fact the flowering part of the plant. Each of the individual round structures you see are a flower that will open and if pollinated successfully turn into an individual grape.

hand holding tiny grape blossums

Insects like bees and wind play a small role in pollination of grapes with most pollination occurring within each flower itself. Cross-pollination is possible with several very popular varieties suspected of being crosses including Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Syrah.

This time of year we are also carefully managing water. Other than the newly planted vines with small vines and roots, we have yet to turn on the drip system. There are two reasons. First, we have had enough rain over winter and in the spring storms to keep the soil moist. Second, we want to water stress the vines to get them to stop growing. Only then will we irrigate them when the soil moisture probes tell us the soil is dry down to four feet.

Last year, our first irrigation was June 12 and we expect it about the time same this year if not a bit later, due to the spring rains. Importantly, we use this same system when we are in the fourth year of a drought or when we have normal rains.