Heat Spikes Hinder Bloom at Tinaquaic Vineyard


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Bill Wathen takes us on another walk up to Tinaquaic Vineyard to see how things are progressing after a severe heat spike during bloom. Dick Doré joins us, talking about the economics surrounding dry farming.

BILL WATHEN
Here we are at berry sizing now, and the, the effect that that heat wave had on the bloom here, because we had three days of 105° here right at full bloom, and so the bloom didn’t like the heat at all. So we have a lot of shatter, but it’s a combination of that hot streak we had and the lack of rainfall here, this year and last year. So we’re seeing this kind of double whammy of clusters, inflorescences being fried off. And you can, you know, you can actually hear how dry the ground is. So here’s what I’m talking about here. See? That thing’s nothing.

WIL FERNANDEZ
So that didn’t, it didn’t pollinate? Or it didn’t… Where did it…?

BILL WATHEN
It just fried.

WIL FERNANDEZ
It just fried during?

BILL WATHEN
During bloom.

WIL FERNANDEZ
During bloom.

BILL WATHEN
Yeah.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Okay, yeah.

BILL WATHEN
So, and here’s where we are in a regular cluster, so that should look like this. That’s normal. But you know, we usually don’t see chute tip stacking in June either. You know, we’re talking June 10th, and I’m already seeing stacked chute tips, and that’s not a good sign.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Because what they’re…?

BILL WATHEN
They’re starting to shut down.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Oh they’re, okay. They’re saying, they’re not going further, they’re going…

BILL WATHEN
Yeah.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Yeah.

BILL WATHEN
So, you know. And then they’re going to lignify early, which means the canes will start turning brown.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Yeah?

BILL WATHEN
Yeah. Hardening off. Yeah, here’s another one here. See? Those are unfertilized berries dropping off.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Yeah.

BILL WATHEN
So you know, the vines, they, they didn’t like that heat wave at all. Timing was not good. I figure we’re going to pull probably 10 tons, 10-11 tons off this.

WIL FERNANDEZ
The whole?

BILL WATHEN
Off here. Off the 10 acres. Yeah.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Yeah. And which is in a, in a, in a irrigated vineyard, you’d pull?

BILL WATHEN
30 to 40.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Oh, so yeah. Pretty, pretty slim. Yeah.

BILL WATHEN
And normal here is, you know, two, between two and three in an ample rainfall year. So when we were up here last time, you remember we, we had cut our canes all the way back to short horns? From long horns to short horns. Rule of thumb here that I went over with the guys this morning is, you’re looking at this canopy here. If a chute is head-high, it, we’ll leave the two clusters on it. If it’s only to the wire here, we’ll leave one cluster. And if it’s below this wire here, we’ll take everything off.

WIL FERNANDEZ
That’s a protective for…

BILL WATHEN
Yeah. That’s what we’re, that’s what we’re doing now, because it’s not going to ripen all that.

WIL FERNANDEZ
There’s not enough green matter to…

BILL WATHEN
Right.

WIL FERNANDEZ
To, to provide energy for that?

BILL WATHEN
Yeah. You know, you need a, you need a good 24 to 30 inch chute to ripen a couple of clusters on there. So if it’s only a six inch chute, it’s not going to do anything.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Yeah.

BILL WATHEN
But then you’ve got the scorching too, from that heat wave.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Have you seen this before? Have you seen this up here?

BILL WATHEN
I have not seen it. You know the, 2006 we had six inches of rain, and I didn’t see it then. But 2005 and 2004, we had ample rainfall. So this is a combination of the two years.

WIL FERNANDEZ
You seem pretty, you’re not, you’re cool with it. You’re like, “Ah, I’m rolling with it. What can I do?”

BILL WATHEN
Well we’re doing what we can.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Yeah.

BILL WATHEN
You can come in, Dick.

DICK DORÉ
I’m hiding behind the fence here.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Do you want to come take a walk with us?

DICK DORÉ
Sure.

WIL FERNANDEZ
So I think I asked you last time, but just to expand on it, why the dry farming?

BILL WATHEN
Because there is no water here. We, we almost killed ourself trying to irrigate this for two years. The vines just kind of said, “You know what? We’re doing okay without this shitty water.” But it’s never been this bad.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Yeah. Where it’s hot and dry?

BILL WATHEN
And two years in a row.

DICK DORÉ
You’ve got to realize, I mean I’m sure you already know it, but no matter what the crop is, it still costs us the same to farm it. So you know, if we get a ton to the acre, we’re paying what, $5,000 a ton. If we’re getting half a ton, which maybe we’ll get, we’re paying $10,000 a ton. So it makes for a pretty heavy expensive bottle of wine. Luckily, so far it’s averaged out. We’ll have a good year, and then we’ll have a bad year and a good year. We’ll take the cost down a little less.

BILL WATHEN
Last year, you know, despite the rainfall last year, we had good rainfall in 2012. And we had a good crop in ’12 and ’13. Yeah.

DICK DORÉ
So we’ll get anywhere from 200 to 800 cases, depending on the year, and that’s a big difference. Right?

WIL FERNANDEZ
Yeah.

DICK DORÉ
So it’s hard. You know? It makes it a real dear and special vineyard.

WIL FERNANDEZ
And you’re not quadrupling your prices.

DICK DORÉ
We wish we could. You know? So what we hope is we, you know, are able to make it in the good years, you know, will make up for the bad years.