The earliest finish ever!
Journal of winery happenings from Belle Pente's winemaker Brian O'Donnell
The 2015 growing season is well on it's way!
One of the main intentions with this winemaker's diary is to give you an up-to-the-minute commentary on each vintage as it unfolds. In the past, I've scribbled notes in an old composite notebook, and more recently on my iPad. I have done this primarily to support my fading memory. However, since everyone I encounter in my day to day meanderings inquires about the state of such matters, it occurs to me that this record of the seasonal cycle may be of interest to a broader audience. So here you go ...
This first entry will attempt to compress the first six months of the year into a few paragraphs to get us caught up.
Although much has been made about the pathetic snowpack in the Cascades and Sierras, precipitation through the winter was more or less normal. But temperatures were unseasonably mild, so it came as rain instead of snow at the higher elevations, and was basically status quo here in the valley. We began the season with adequate water stored in the soil and underlying sandstone formations, and since we don't rely on melting snow for water, we're not anticipating any drought-related issues.
January was warm and damp ...
February was a bit of a roller coast, with the first week warm and wet, second week warm and dry, third week dry but a bit cooler, and really cooling off the last week of February with temps ranging from 30 at night to 50 during the day. But the warm temperatures through the first several weeks of 2015 greatly accelerated the growing season. By Valentine's Day, daffodils were starting to peek out and the first flowers could be seen on the wild plum trees ... both were in full splendor by months end.
The first two weeks of March were warm and dry, with tulips appearing. In the vineyard, the buds began to swell and the sap was running while we were pruning. Heavy rain and wind over the week-end of the 14th and 15th slowing things down a bit, but the first signs of bud break were seen around the 20th, and everything was "out" by the end of the month, spurred by warm days from the 26th to 28th.
The first two weeks of April saw a return to more seasonal weather, a 60/40 pattern with sporadic rain, some very heavy at times, and isolated hail storms. Temps in the high 30s at night, but no frost issues; very slow but steady growth through this period. A warm streak with temps approaching 80 from the 16th to 20th really got plants going. At this point we were a solid 2 weeks, and perhaps a bit more, ahead of "normal".
Early May brought fairly normal spring conditions, and then all hell broke loose around the equinox with severe thunderstorms and localized marble-sized hail on the afternoons/evenings of the 18th and the 21st. Although our vines were spared any noticeable damage, the house and office both took direct lightening hits wreaking random havoc on some electronics devices from hot water heaters & garage door openers to routers and stereo amplifiers!
Warm weather returned over the last weekend in May, followed by a cool first week of June when the first flowers started to appear in the vineyard. A very warm weekend on June 6-7 really got things going. We had pretty much full bloom in Chardonnay (always the first) and 30-50% in Pinot Noir by Saturday the 6th. Moderately warm temps thru mid June provided vigorous growth and rapid fruit development. We had pea sized berries by the end of the month, easily 2-3 weeks ahead of normal.
Things turned hot and dusty after the solstice. A string of 90+ days started on June 26th, with temps close to 100 on the 28th, and from the 1st thru the 3rd of July. The "either too hot or too cold" pattern was beginning to feel a lot to 2009. Warm days and nights continued thru the 4th, but by the 5th things started cooling down in the evenings with marine influence returning on the 6th and more seasonal daytime highs commencing on the 10th. We even got a bit of rain on the evenings of the 12th and 13th!
But sitting here in mid-July, we are a probably 3 weeks ahead of normal and predicting a Labor Day harvest.