As we are in the middle of bud break, we are also watching the weather for several important reasons.
- Frost – If it freezes for long enough in our cozy section of Dry Creek Valley (locally known as the Banana Belt), shoots and clusters will wilt and die. We rely on passive frost protection which worked for 50 years until the Merlot was frozen in Spring 2008. Pretty good odds so we continue to rely on these methods.
- Cover crop management – Passive frost protection is based on the exposure of soil to the warming rays of the sun. But not just any soil – the best is dark, wet, firm, exposed soil that can absorb that heat and radiate it back at night. Keeping our cover crop mowed low is crucial. But we do need to keep the cover crop viable to help dry out the soil as the rains recede. We will eventually make mow vs disk decisions depending on rainfall in the next month and the need for competition within each individual block of grapes.
- Mildew pressure – We need to exit this weather pattern to cool, windy days to help remove humidity. Mildew spores are everywhere and just need the right combination of warmth and humidity to grow. We started the season with dormant sulfur sprays and will continue to fight this ever present threat this Spring with Stylet oil – a great product approved for use in organic vineyards.
It can sometimes seem like a juggling act with decisions needed for each varietal block but we have been through this many times before and, while we can’t control the weather, we feel confident we can deal with most issues, with frost excluded!