This past month has been a condensed version of the growing season so far. Mostly cool weather, followed by a few short hot spells. In the vineyard we have accomplished “leafing” or removing of leaves. This has been particularly important to get done with the favorable cooler weather. Removing the leaves around the fruiting zone opens the canopy around the grapes and helps the sunshine hit the fruit. This will help with the grape ripening and helps prevents problems with any potential mildew or molds. It also helps better expose the crop that was previously hidden behind the leaves! Now in the vineyard, we are beginning to see the start of veraison. Veraison, (VER-AY-SJHUN), is a French term for when the grapes start softening and gaining sugar, losing acids (or, becoming ripe)! Both red and white grapes go through this transition, but the color change is much more dramatic in reds such as our Pinot Noir. Pinot will slowly change from green to red. This transition happens over the course of a few weeks. Once completed we can project out harvest being 40-45 days away. I have been busy visiting vineyards, taking note of the overall size and health of the 2022 crop. So far it appears that the crop will be slightly smaller than last year, but we have high hopes for overall quality.
Veraison in the Pinot Noir blocks of our Estate Vineyard
With harvest quickly approaching, it is imperative we get a keen sense of the crop size. We do this by going through a process called cluster counting. It is a process that is relatively simple in nature but difficult to get accurate results. At the beginning of the growing season, we prune the vines to have a certain number of canes or shoots that will ideally each carry two grape clusters each.
Thirty-eight Chardonnay clusters in our Estate Vineyard
The number of clusters per shoot can vary from one to two or even three clusters per shoot! When we are pruning, we set up the vines to have three canes that would each hold sixteen grape clusters. This means that if we had two grape clusters per shoot each vine would carry forty-eight clusters. These numbers are all based on a “perfect” scenario. In reality, the number of clusters that end up on each vine can vary quite a bit. Thus, what we do to get an accurate picture is visit each vineyard site and count the grape clusters on random vines throughout the different vineyard blocks. For a smaller block I count the clusters on twelve vines. Which will vary between thirty-two up to fifty clusters. I’ll average the number of clusters and then apply that number to the total number of vines per block. Now with this information, we know the average number of clusters per vine, and we can then apply the average weight of the grape clusters per vine and get a relatively good estimate of the total tonnage.
Obtaining preliminary cluster weights for Pinot Noir
A ripe Pinot Noir cluster will weigh from eighty-five grams to one hundred grams. That means that a vine with forty-eight clusters that weighed one-hundred grams each will have ten and a half pounds of grapes!
As we get closer to harvest this year, the excitement in Sonoma County is growing. There is a lot of activity in both the vineyards and the wineries getting ready to bring in our 2022 grape crop!
On behalf of the entire team here at Ron Rubin Winery, we wish you all continued good health!