Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hype-Worthy Happenings in the Vineyard

The arrival of Spring in the Napa Valley brings with it a quintessential transformation of gray and gloomy to green and full of life. It's the time of year when the atmosphere in the valley is as close to perfection as we ever see--the vines are topped with a lush canopy of leaves and each day rises a few degrees warmer.


2012 being my first harvest in the valley, the thing that strikes me the most in the midst of this lovely season is a feeling that even in these mild spring months, the vineyard is progressing in small ways towards the ultimate end--harvest. I try to stay aware of what's going on in the vineyard, to remain connected to its life cycle even in the less eventful or visually appealing months. But budbreak this year caught me by surprise. It dramatically altered my frame of mind with regard to the passing of time, and pulled me into the vineyard calendar: a year within a year that begins with budbreak and ends with harvest. I am now acutely attuned to the fact that everything happening outside the doors of the winery--the fog, the traffic on the highway, the birds chirping, the wind blowing, plays a role in this year's harvest. That may mean a tiny, even infinitesimal role, but there is still something to the idea that everything is connected.

The changing of the seasons also brought my attention to the purpose of identifying a wine's vintage. When we list this defining detail on the bottle, it serves to distinguish the wine from past and future years, but it also suggests that the wine exists as a product of the entire year of 2013--not just the few months leading up to harvest, which are historically far more celebrated. But the truth is, every day counts. Today for instance, the grapes are in the equivalent childhood of their lives! Following budbreak, we are now seeing flowering, which is when the future grape clusters are fertilized and pollinated. They are ultra-tiny and vulnerable and are being gradually nudged into full-fledged versions of themselves with the warm, but not yet scorching rays of the sun. So I dedicate this post to welcoming the development that is currently happening in the vineyard, to deem it equally as important as the exciting final days of ripening that receive so much hype. Flowering is the new harvest!

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