Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What happens when it rains....

You often hear winemakers lamenting the weather during flowering and complaining about a poor fruit set.  What does that mean?

The tiny flowers of grape vines must be pollinated to create grapes, just like any other fruit.  In the case of grapes, bees certainly assist, but if all goes well, they can pollinate with the wind as long as the flowers stay dry so the pollen can blow freely from one flower to the next.  When the weather gets rainy and the flowers are wet, the pollen won't blow around because it's all soggy.  The bees are not out there working the flowers much in the rain either.  So basically, nothing gets pollinated.

The picture below shows some clusters of Marquette all photographed on the same day.  (Click the pic for a larger view).  On the left, a nice healthy cluster of small grapes that had sunshine during flowering.  In the middle a cluster created by a vine that flowered a couple days later, when it was rainy.  You can see how very few flowers in the cluster got pollinated so the cluster has only a small number of grapes, plus a few tiny grapes that probably will not mature.  On the far right, an extreme example of a cluster that really didn't pollinate well at all.  Fortunately, I only have a few vines that flowered late and ended up with clusters like this.  Who knows why they flowered late, but I'm grateful for the ones that flowered when the sun was out.  This was a rough spring for grapes...very rainy in spite of early warm weather and a mild winter.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why we pray for sun during flowering!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Here it is the middle of June and my Marquette vines are seriously kicking butt this year.  We had some rain during flowering, which is never good, but I would say that only 1/3 of the vines show clusters significantly affected by the rain.  The result are clusters with vastly different sized grapes on them.  The unaffected clusters all have similarly-sized (and generally larger) grapes.  But the big news is lots of clusters on lots of vines!

There might be more clusters than the vines can ripen.  We'll have to see about that as the summer goes on.  I'm mostly pretty pleased with the growth so far and I am hoping I can get 100 pounds to make a decent batch of wine.

In other news, I drove down to M&M wine today and picked up my Chilean pinot noir, which is a month late compared with last year.  They had a very late harvest and mine was on the last ship.  It actually looked darned good.  I'll get some measurements in the morning on the must once it has had a chance to warm this evening.  I destemmed and crushed it this afternoon, and threw in some Lallzyme to aid with extraction.  I'm going to experiment this time with fewer punchdowns and a cooler ferment to attempt to preserve aromatics and fruit.  Previously, I have been using the Burgundian technique of a single extreme temperature spike to aid in extraction and I really think I'm losing aromatics when I do that.  I'm hoping to replace that action with enzymatically-assisted extraction instead.

My 2011 fall "Bordeaux" (which I'm calling Meritage to be politically correct) is in my barrel and tasting pretty good.  It has a Syrah-like spice/pepper twang to it that is really cool.  I will likely bottle it in the fall when this Chilean pinot noir is ready to be barreled.  If you are really nice, you might get a bottle for Christmas.