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Stories from the valley

The Pace Quickens – Veraison is at Hand!

Contributed by Tim Johnson

Like the first snow of the year, veraison is a much-anticipated event here at the vineyard. The bunches of barbera, zinfandel and petite sirah are started to show color last week a stage in grape maturation known as veraison. The bunches are a riot of green, red and pink and they start progression to ripening. It’s an exciting time of year that signals a quickening in the pace here at the ranch.

The first thing that changes is how we manage the crop. Irrigation strategies now focus on ensuring that the bunches ripen at an even pace and the sugar and acid levels progress. Too much water and maturity is slowed. Too little and the bunches are small. 

person homding bunch of grapes still on the vine

We also keep close look out for mildew, looking at the weather report for the daily highs. When it’s warm enough and the sugars start to rise in the grapes, mildew won’t grow. Using the UC Davis mildew model, we know just when to stop mildew treatments. 

Next, we start getting the equipment in shape for harvest. Oil changes, greasing zerk fittings and topping off fluids are all happy chores in the shop. Since most of our harvests are at night, we are also upgrading our lighting on the tractors to make sure the crews have great light for their work. 

While it is always hard to predict exactly, harvest will start in early September, based on the date of veraison. Of course, temperatures for the next month can shorten or lengthen the interval as can the crop size (big crops ripen more slowly). No matter, we are excited and we will be ready!