As the photographer’s take I am always amazed as I travel through Sonoma’s Wine Country at it’s ever changing appearance. That little green bud that emerged at the end of the stem just a little over a month ago has made some amazing progress. It seems like just the other day I was taking photos of bud-break. Now after a month or so of growth, not only do we see leaves but, a vine has developed and flowering has begun with small flower clusters appearing on the very tips of the young shoots, that resemble little buttons. They however are our tight bunches of tiny flowers. At this time each flower has the ability to form a single grape berry.
During this window of time there is always the concern of a frost, so Sonoma County growers take steps to protect the tender young shoots. As you drive around the valley you can see large fans in the vineyards used to circulate the cold air; sprinkling the vines with water will also be used at times to coat them in a blanket of protective ice (ice coating perform an insulation); and use of heaters to warm the air temperature in the vineyard.
There is always so much that goes on in a vineyard behind the scenes. As a result, the period of flowering can stretch over two-months, depending upon the particular microclimate of the vineyard location. As I often mention Sonoma’s Wine Country has not only many different types of soil, but also many microclimates. This is why unlike many wine growing regions we are able to grow so many different grape varietals so well.
Now that the initial clusters have appeared, the flower clusters start to grow in size with individual flowers becoming observable. It want be long until the now-pollinated flowers drop their petite petals, and a tiny, green sphere will begin to emerge at the end of the stem. Then our more familiar looking little grapes grow. Now we can really see bunches begin to take their familiar shape. Frost, however is still a concern, and Sonoma County Winegrowers are keeping a watchful eye on the weather.The work behind the scenes continues. At a certain point, the vigorous shoot growth that has occurred during the spring must be managed to ensure optimal grape production and ripening. A complex process of canopy management is taking place. Canopy management is a term that refers to a variety of decisions and actions having to do with leaf removal, shoot thinning and shoot positioning etc. The goal is to achieve the perfect balance of shade, sunlight and air circulation around each grape bunch, which will promote optimal ripening. Things that most of us never think of, are such an important part.Throughout the area vineyard workers can often be seen making pass after pass through a single row of vines each year. To most, all this vineyard work goes unnoticed. Yet even in pouring rain as I drive through the wine country they are always busy caring for the next future glass of wine.
The vineyard is a beautiful and wondrous place to be around.