Jonathan Nagy Explains Vertical Shoot Positioning


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Winemaker Jonathan Nagy explains vertical shoot positioning (VSP) and other techniques employed by the vineyard team at Byron to take advantage of the unique climate of the Santa Maria Valley.

JONATHAN NAGY
Yeah, I think it’s good when the winemaker is actually pouring the wine and interacting with people, because ultimately you want to connect to people through the wine, but part of that connection is also listening to where people are at. It’s a two-way street.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Yeah.

JONATHAN NAGY
Where I think if you don’t have a two-way street, sometimes you can get a little bit separated and ultimately you’re really wanting to connect with people.

So, this is a vertically shoot positioned. So the shoots are positioned vertical. It’s classic VSP. We’ve pulled the morning side, so we get exposure in the morning and then in the afternoon the sunlight tends to be a little more intense. But the thing is here in Santa Maria, right around 1:00 P.M., the wind picks up, so it really cools things down and so really your prime time for getting sunlight and sunshine and heat is right around 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.

WIL FERNANDEZ
That’s pretty much like clockwork, right?

JONATHAN NAGY
Yeah, the fog here in Nielson burns off around 9-9:30 A.M. and then you get those hours of good heat and then at 1:00 P.M., the wind picks up.

WIL FERNANDEZ
It’s kind of a balance, because you don’t want to get too much sun…you need airflow plus some leaf cover…?

JONATHAN NAGY
Well, the thing about grapes is if you open up the canopy early and get some good sun exposure and let the grapes acclimate, they’ll form quercetin. That is almost like a sun block and so, by opening it up early, they get adapted and so you prevent sunburn, in a sense.

What you don’t want to do is open it up and get an extreme heat, like say a couple days of 100 degrees.

WIL FERNANDEZ
Right, like going to the beach and you haven’t had your shirt off in awhile.

JONATHAN NAGY
Exactly.
I would say for the most part here in Santa Maria Valley, I’d say Santa Barbara County in general, we have, what I always call, wine growers, and so a lot of the people who are, you know, the vineyard managers, the vineyard team, understands that ultimately they’re trying to produce wine and so there are some things that you would do maybe if you’re just a grower that you wouldn’t do as a wine grower, because ultimately, you’re trying to make ultra premium wines. And doing things like, you know, opening up the canopy and then later on we’ll do a green drop, so any of the clusters that are behind at about 95 percent veraison, so about 95 percent of the clusters are completely colored up. There’s a cluster that’s partially colored up. We’ll actually drop by a cluster, that way you get a more uniform fruit and thus get better quality of wines.