Tasks in the vineyard vary considerably from one season to the next. Spring is a two month frenzy, summer is longer and more evenly paced, and fall is a mad dash to the finish. As we find ourselves in mid-May, we are thankful to be putting a wrap on spring with the vineyard looking healthy going into summer. Despite a late spring snowstorm and some recent days of rain, the pruning, mowing and first round of in-ground fertility are complete. As I look out on a gloomy, rainy day, I remind myself that as a farmer, rain is pretty much always a good thing. I think Luke Bryan mentions that in a country song.
Vineyards are not always thought of as farms. Maybe that's because in some geographic areas...ours included...they are just not very common. But even though vineyards are rarely referred to as grape farms, that is truly what they are. And while it might sound romantic to call "a person who cultivates grapes for a living" a vigneron (vin'-yer-on), that person is a farmer. And as a farmer, he (or she) is at the mercy of Mother Nature 24/7. The day of the week does not matter when it comes to weed control, and the hour of the day does not matter when it comes time to spray. Mother Nature sets the schedule and expects you to punch in on time. If you don't, she is a brutal mistress. But if I had to choose between being a grape farmer and any of my previous careers, of which there were several, I'd take farming hands down, every time. I am more fit than I was in my twenties, and I sleep like a well fed baby. Fresh air and sunshine does a body good, and so does hard, physical labor. So when Monday rolls around, I no longer get the blues because its just another day on the farm.
As we move into early summer in the vineyard, we turn our attention to bud break, and we anxiously watch the weather. At this point in their development, grape buds are very tender, and a low temperature of 30 degrees for just a few hours can devastate the entire season's crop. With the full moon at the very end of May, we are crossing our fingers that the coldest mornings are behind us. With forecasted highs in the 70's and 80's on the near horizon, it won't be long before buds become flowers. And flowers become grapes. And grapes become wine. Ain't Mother Nature grand?
Join us again next week as we head inside the winery to put the finishing touches on two white wines releasing soon. We'll talk about how they are similar, how they are different, and in the wine lab, whether art or science ultimately wins the day.