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Stories from the valley

How Grapevines beat the heat

Contributed by Tim Johnson

It seems like the heat this summer has been exquisite! Unrelenting days yielding little in the way of a nighttime relief seem to stack one after the other like badly burned cookies. The only hope is start your day at 5:00 AM and find chilled glass of sauvignon blanc by the afternoon.

Humans can find relief, but what about our vineyard? It takes a lot of work to make sure the irrigation system is under control. We turn on the blocks and then cruise the drip lines to check for plugged emitters and where a gopher or vole has chewed the line.

In hot weather, it’s critical to keep an eye on the moisture depletion in the soil. Here the local irrigation district assists by weekly reading neutron probes in a number of blocks in the vineyard. They send a report that recommends when to start irrigating and how long to run the drip system.

Keeping an eye on the vines themselves is also critical. Ann’s trained eye can pick up quickly when the vines are stresses. The canopy stats to droop and the laves at the base of the vine will start to yellow. A vine that looks like this needs water.

It’s also important to keep the developing bunches shaded from the sun. Like us workers in the vineyard they can get badly sunburned. The individual berries then dry out and the flavors turn a bit toward raisins.

So, not too dissimilar from the people who work among the vines we work to keep the vineyard hydrated and the grapes protected from sunburn. Fortunately for us, we get to end the day with a crisp white wine.