WINEMAKER JOHN WILSON’S FIRST VINEYARD UPDATE
The first signs of veraison are appearing in the Oakville vineyard. This is roughly 1-3 weeks later than what we have experienced in recent years but what it signals to us is that the vines are completing their growth phase and beginning to direct their attention to fruit maturation. Not only does veraison mean that grapes change colors from green to red or white; green shoots stop growing outward and also “lignify” or develop bark. The already present acids begin to dissipate and sugars and flavors accumulate.
In 2017 we expect a low to moderate crop as compared with 2016. Flowering was extended and occurred during mid-May, overlapping cool and breezy weather. These marginal conditions prevented some flowers from setting into grapes.
Once flowering was complete, we followed behind removing interior and morning side leaf cover from the canopy. There are several reasons why we pulled leaves in Oakville; the vineyard is very sun kissed. It is counterintuitive, but to minimize sunburn later in the season, we exposed the fledgling grapes to direct sun. This way grapes develop a protective waxy coating. Additionally, our exposed, rocky and windswept terroir gives fairly tannic wines. Increased sun exposure will speed up tannin maturation on the vine relative to sugar accumulation, promoting softer tannins without overripe flavors.
Our approach to Chardonnay in Los Carneros is slightly different. While we did remove some leaves from the interior of the canopy, we did this simply to increase ventilation. The Los Carneros terroir is notably foggy, cool and conducive to mildew and botrytis. Increased air flow in the fruit zone reduces pressure from these issues. In Chardonnay we will minimize exposure to direct sunlight in order to showcase the mineral, citrus and floral qualities of the Los Carneros region.