Bloom and pollination: High anxiety on our mountain-top vineyards
The tough spring weather, cold, wet and foggy, has taken its toll on our crop this season. Regardless, we have to make sure that the berry clusters that make it through the challenging Spring have the best chance of turning into the complex, full-flavored grapes that are at the heart of our Pinot Noirs.
The green house for the vines that we use to protect the tender clusters from harsh weather helps with pollination. Grapevines are self-pollinating, so don’t need bees or wind to spread the pollen around. But even when pollination takes place, cold, rain and wind can stop the transformation of the little flowers into actual berries.
Another technique to improve fruit set – when flowers turn to berries – is tipping. This involves strategically removing the new green tips at the end of each cane. By removing these carb sinks – new leaf growth – we redirect the plant’s energy into the berries.
Typically, a Pinot Noir grape cluster has 240 flowers that produce about 80 berries. When we tip the vines, we can increase the number of berries per cluster. This means that the berries are crowded and can’t grow large. We also know that smaller berries produce fewer seeds and more skin to juice ratio resulting in a better wine.
However, as mentioned, the very tough spring weather means our fruit set will be less than in previous years, so we are watching, again, very carefully to see if our techniques will result in improved quality. We already focus on high-quality, low-yield harvests, but this year’s crop has already faced its share of challenges!