Heat spikes and harvest timing....do it now or wait it out?

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NorCal

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I'm not sure what a normal grape growing season is like anymore, this year in the Sierra Foothills in Nor Cal seems to be similar to last year; heat spikes with threat of smoke.

We have had two heat spikes (3-5 days >100 degrees) and a third happening this week. Sugar accumulation at this point is running 3 weeks earlier than last year. At some temperature above 100 degrees, the plants just shut down and sugar accumulation stalls and you run into the threat of dehydration.

Choices:
1. pick now based on brix readings (24-25 brix), knowing that the grapes look great, the canopy has held up, not a lot of pest damage, but knowing that the grapes may not have achieved full phenolic ripeness. This is a safe choice to get good looking fruit and the path grape growers like winemakers to choose. Yet, will this make the best wine possible?

2. give the grapes more hang time. Increase water to combat dehydration and canopy deteriation. Manage any fruit sunburn, pest damage, hope the winds will be blowing smoke in the right direction. Wait until there is high confidence of full ripeness and deal with the higher brix / lower acidity by watering back the must and tartaric additions.

I'm inclined to do #2. Wine is 83% water, 14% alcohol and 3% everything else. I think that 3% is determined by these kinds of decisions and for the taste profile of wine I like to make I want as much flavor as I can get from the fruit, which I think develops later in the grapes maturation. The reason I say that is that when I taste the berries themselves, I get more flavors when they are late in the season vs. earlier in the season. I think this translates into the wine. There is also a point where it goes too far and you start getting raisen and prune notes in the wine, which I'm not a fan of.

I'm going to do a more in depth analysis of my little vineyard to see where we are at and I'll post my findings later this weekend.
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VinesnBines

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Will you have enough to split the crop and do both? That would give you a better chance of success.
 

NorCal

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How do you keep the birds off the grapes?
We just moved into the property weeks ago. I figured this year will be what it’s going to be. I’m very surprised that I haven’t seen a single deer and very few birds in the vineyard. Not sure why there isn’t more of a problem. Maybe they are waiting for higher brix.
 

NorCal

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I would say it is dependent on you flexibility to harvest. If flexible enough let them hang until to see them going south. Otherwise, that's a tough one.
I have a local discussion going with a vineyard owner/home winemaker in a similar situation. He’s at 24/25 brix and is harvesting this weekend. Part of his decision is driven by the timing/logistics of not being to harvest the next few weeks if things do go south.
 

ovjock

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FWIW, I had an email chat today with a vineyard in Fiddletown. They said they have never picked (Barbera) before Sept 1st.
 

ibglowin

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I would go with option 2 since you have water and can keep the vines and berries hydrated. Let them hang as long as possible.

BTW, beautiful sunset photo!
 

Boatboy24

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My inclination would be to let them hang, but dang, it's a tough call. You could gamble and win or lose. Pick now and you're guaranteed a decent crop. Wait and it could be glorious, or it may go to sh*t. I kinda like @VinesnBines approach.

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Joe B.

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My Barbera is just about done turning and the Zin just finished they are ahead of normal but no where near ready and I've been dealing with this heat like you. What are you varieties? Rootstock?
 

NorCal

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My Barbera is just about done turning and the Zin just finished they are ahead of normal but no where near ready and I've been dealing with this heat like you. What are you varieties? Rootstock?

Newcastle CA, rootstock unknown. Zin, Cab, Syrah.
 

NorCal

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Is this heaven?
No filters used. I can see having land is work, but rewarding as well. I bought this box blade off of Craigslist for a few hundred bucks. I took all the bent up 1/2“ thick support arms (reason it was so cheap) to a local blacksmith, who straighten them for $20. Some paint to match the Kubota and it’s now ready for service.
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Khristyjeff

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California is a beautiful state. I'm actually excited for you in your new venture. Really neat. Farming any crop to me can be very rewarding. Although I'm more in the decorative side now with landscaping, I still help my dad raising corn and soybeans.
 

Joe B.

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I'm in Tuolumne county about 2000 foot elevation. If you decide to wait you may want to use some shade cloth on southern or westerly exposed clusters. They will fry first. I clip small pieces to the bird netting over the cluster only they will dehydrate. I plan on giving mine plenty of water and let them hang then water back the must. I bet it's your Syrah that is giving you those Brix numbers. Good luck
 

NorCal

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My plan for the weekend is to assess the grapes row by row and by variety. Brix, pH, estimate cluster count and weight, animal damage, cluster consistency as well as overall assessment of ripeness. Can anyone think of anything else?
 

bjoll001

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I'm not sure what a normal grape growing season is like anymore, this year in the Sierra Foothills in Nor Cal seems to be similar to last year; heat spikes with threat of smoke.

We have had two heat spikes (3-5 days >100 degrees) and a third happening this week. Sugar accumulation at this point is running 3 weeks earlier than last year. At some temperature above 100 degrees, the plants just shut down and sugar accumulation stalls and you run into the threat of dehydration.

Choices:
1. pick now based on brix readings (24-25 brix), knowing that the grapes look great, the canopy has held up, not a lot of pest damage, but knowing that the grapes may not have achieved full phenolic ripeness. This is a safe choice to get good looking fruit and the path grape growers like winemakers to choose. Yet, will this make the best wine possible?

2. give the grapes more hang time. Increase water to combat dehydration and canopy deteriation. Manage any fruit sunburn, pest damage, hope the winds will be blowing smoke in the right direction. Wait until there is high confidence of full ripeness and deal with the higher brix / lower acidity by watering back the must and tartaric additions.

I'm inclined to do #2. Wine is 83% water, 14% alcohol and 3% everything else. I think that 3% is determined by these kinds of decisions and for the taste profile of wine I like to make I want as much flavor as I can get from the fruit, which I think develops later in the grapes maturation. The reason I say that is that when I taste the berries themselves, I get more flavors when they are late in the season vs. earlier in the season. I think this translates into the wine. There is also a point where it goes too far and you start getting raisen and prune notes in the wine, which I'm not a fan of.

I'm going to do a more in depth analysis of my little vineyard to see where we are at and I'll post my findings later this weekend.
View attachment 77439
Depends what you want in the finished wine. If you prefer over ripe, high alcohol, fuller body but possibly flabby wine that will need acid adjustment, let ha itng. If you prefer a wine with more finesse, go by balanced Brix and acid levels in the grapes as long as verasion has happened. May get more balanced wine with less need for adjustment but not as big and bold. Longer hang times has been a CA thing for a while to make those big, fruity over ripe wines with higher alcohol that people love but there are plenty of incredible wines that are made with less hang time and have great balance and complexity. The hardest wine I have made to date due to needed acid adjustments was from grapes out of Paso Robles where they wanted long hang time to get higher Brix but the pH was 4 along with low TA and the adjustments with tartaric acid were a nightmare to get it to stable pH giving the wine an over acidified taste that has taken years to calm down with aging. This reduced the quality of the wine and I wish they would have picked earlier with more stable acid levels.

Also, tastes the grapes yourself to get a sense of sweetness, acidity and phenolic content in the skin. This may help a lot.
 
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