Dateline:    July 12, 2017 

Hello Summertime and Hello Heat
After a wet winter of 70 inches of rain and a cool spring that lasted into early June,  Mother Nature decided to  announced the start of summer by rewarding  Sonoma County with 6 consecutive days of above100 degree days where temperatures in Dry Creek Valley reached 106F.  Between 6/25 & 7/12 we have had 9 days of triple digit heat and although grapes like heat and we are grateful for the suntan, enough is enough.  More heat is expected this coming weekend as high pressure returns to block marine fogs coupled with clear cloudless skies that allow unfiltered infra ray and ultra violet light to scorch the earth.  These summer fogs find their way into our costal valleys and become our natural air conditioning.  The fog breaks late in the morning to provide cool morning and moderate afternoon temperatures while cloud cover provides shade and reduce radiation. Plants go limp, animals suffer, and human beings wilt under 100 degree temperatures.  Working  outdoors after 1 pm is brutal, should be classified illegal and looking at the sky without a welding helmet is a recipe for blindness, The vineyards however have survived better than expected possibly due to the tremendous amount of rain received this year.  The grape clusters are young and fresh, green and hard which makes them durable and more resistant to heat damage and vine canopies transpire and pump more water from the soil to resist leaf scalding.  Continued high temperatures in the 100s however will cause stress to the vines and not be good to attain hang time and balanced chemistry of the fruit.  In contrast to the elevated temperatures in the vineyard , the winery stays cool due to heavy insulation and night air cooling.and the wines slumbering in the barrels are further insulated from high temperature by nearly one inch of wood staves. If the marine layer prevails on the coast, it is not uncommon to have a differential of 50 degrees between the high and low temperatures of the day when temperatures reach 100 + degrees in the afternoon and nighttime temps drop into the low 50s.  As one tourist proclaimed “ the coldest winter I ever spent  was in San Francisco in July!”   We are hoping our Pacific Coast fogs will kick into gear soon and  Mother Nature will be kind to provide moderate temperatures during the remaining growing season.

Looking Forward
A good grape cluster count seems evident again this year and what was earlier thought to be somewhat of a delayed/normal  harvest from last year now looks as if with this heat we are catching up fast.  When you start to see ads from vendors that say “harvest is just around  the corner” you know you’re getting close and growers & wineries are encouraged to buy now necessary harvest supplies, yeasts & nutrients  to receive pre-harvest discounts and insure supply.  Summertime the living is suppose to be easy.  In earlier days I would get impatient because the dog days of summer would drag, vineyards took their own sweet time to ripen and harvest never started until after Labor Day.  Harvest seems to now be earlier and earlier whether attributed to climate change or better vineyard management practices.    Last year grapes were being harvested in the North Coast on the 3rd week of July for champagne but as always, weather going forward will determine harvest dates. 

In Memory
On a sad note we lost 9 sheep to a mountain lion attack 3 weeks ago.  This loss was verified by CA Fish & Game as evident by footprints and the nature of the kill.  The sheep were pastured in the ravine above the East Cabernet Block where spring fed water and riparian vegetation provide sustenance.   Our ram, 5 ewes and 3 spring lambs survived as well as 3 goats that were pastured in a different location. This was a devastating loss for our workers and vineyard manager Andrew who have spent timeless hours caring for the sheep.   We had been concerned about coyote attack but never imagined mountain lions.  This was the first time in 7 years we have had this problem and going forward we are concerned about reoccurrence. 

Winery News
It is bottling season in the winery and the 2016 Chardonnay , 2015 Pinot Noir & Papa Nonno have been bottled.  Our delicious 015 Chard is currently available but only Futures Buyers have access to the 2015 Pinot & Papa.  The 2014 Zinfandel is near depletion with only 5 cases remaining.  2015 Zinfandel and Cabernet will be bottled in August.  All the 2016 wines are developing nicely in the barrels and will be bottled next year after 18-22 months in the barrel.  We stay busy as always with landscape maintenance around the winery, greeting customers who come to taste and keeping up with business.  Hope to see many of you this summer.

Cheers!  J. Forchini, Editor

Signage repair due to heat and southern exposure (left)

Rain water collection system has provided over 2000 gals to date for winery landscape irrigation ( right)