Duckhorn Portfolio Wine Blog
Posts written by Neil Bernardi, Vice President of Winemaking and many special guest bloggers. This collection of insights on winemaking, farming, entertaining and more is a great way to learn about the excitement of winery life and tips for enjoying the wines we produce.
The weather at bloom is very important for the vines and for final wine quality. While we still have a ways to go, the weather so far has been great. 75 degrees is ideal for flowering, and we have been right around that temperature on most days so far.
We’re starting to hear reports of budbreak in some of the earliest varieties and areas in the North Coast. The warm weather we’ve experienced through February has definitely helped to push this along. Budbreak is extremely exciting as it signals the transition from the dormant season to the growing season. Once there is green plant tissue in the field, all sorts of activities begin to take place. The Farming Team will begin cultivation, which removes the cover crop and preserves soil moisture for the grape vines. We will also begin shoot thinning soon, during which we remove any extra shoots that will not bear fruit. Very soon we will also be able to get a look at how many clusters are on each shoot and thus get an idea of the overall crop size. There is a long way to go from here to harvest, but from this point on, every day counts!
We’re currently experiencing the first really pleasant weather of the year – all the more pleasant knowing that we have received above-average rainfall, and are likely to receive more in the near future. These breaks in the weather let us get important work in the field done, which as I mentioned in a previous post, is primarily pruning this time of the year. This morning I had the distinct pleasure of being a judge in the 15th annual Napa Valley Grapegrowers Pruning Contest, held at a vineyard in Yountville just down the street from our Paraduxx Winery. It is only fitting that we have a contest which rewards the best pruners in the valley as this is such an important cultural activity, and one that many of our Farmworkers take pride in.
To prune quickly is one thing, and to prune well another – to prune well and at a fast pace is the ultimate, and takes many years of practice. Especially here in the North Coast, where quality is king, the experience and skills of our Farmworkers is an integral part of the winemaking process. We have the luxury of a very experienced Estate Vineyard Team that works on the Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa, many of whom have been with us for at least eight to ten years. In this time, they’ve gained a valuable understanding of our vineyards and individual blocks and know exactly how to sculpt the plant. Pruning is an art, and the Farmworkers in the North Coast are very talented artists.
Here's a video clip demonstrating the pruning process:
After a very successful 2015 vintage, we are ready to focus on the next challenge: the 2016 growing season. While the winery still has lots of barrel work and blending to do, in the vineyard, it’s time to start growing the grapes that will be make up the next vintage. There is roughly three months before the vines themselves start growing new tissue, but there is lots of work to get done before that happens. The primary activity at this time, and arguably the most important cultural activity of the year, is pruning. This is the process through which we select which parts of the vine to remove, and which to keep so that they may grow and ripen the crop. This selection is critical – done well, it can improve quality and make everything easier through the year. If done poorly, it may require us to return to fix mistakes and can potentially reduce the ultimate quality of the wine. Luckily, we have an excellent, seasoned vineyard team that has been pruning our vineyards for years. They know exactly which cuts to make, and they know pruning for what it is – an art form. Sculpting the vine, removing the old wood, and making cuts that will influence how the vine grows for the next three years is a heady exercise, one which the team completes gracefully and with ease. Personally, the most enjoyable time out of the whole year to walk through a block is just after it has been pruned. It is possible to see the promise of the upcoming vintage in the fresh cuts, and that is a very exciting feeling.
Happy New Year! The long-awaited El Niño has made an appearance, to the relief of most people that live West of the Rockies. One of the many glorious things about El Niño years is how Mother Nature deliveries the moisture to California. Rather than large, and potentially damaging superstorms, California generally receives a fairly steady stream of small storms. These storms deliver relatively tiny amounts of rain, but they become significant when taken in aggregate. One inch of rain here, two inches there, another inch there, and before you know it, the soil profile and the ponds are full! This week is a really good example of this phenomenon. We will see steady rainfall throughout this week, and that’s great news for all involved. To date, we have received almost 15” of rain up in Anderson Valley and more than 8” in Napa Valley. We have a long way to go to dig us out of the drought of the last four years, but what a great start to 2016!