By Doug Fabbioli
What’s with the weather?
We have all experienced a rainy stretch in the past. It’s been cloudy, cool and very damp. Overall we have not received deluges of rain. Other areas like Texas and Florida have had flooding conditions and severe weather conditions. As for our situation, what does this mean for the wine vintage of 2016?
It has been a slow start. Our vineyards have dodged the frost situations from earlier in the season. Some of the vineyards in the Charlottesville area have not been as lucky. The rains of May are not the end of the vintage. The key is to keep the plants healthy through this time. Once the sun comes out and the temperatures rise, the vines are ready to grow and deliver their crop. Timing is critical for our success. We look for gaps in the weather to apply the fungicides that are critical to growing our vines in these conditions. Some of the hillside vineyards can be more challenging because the ground can be steep and slippery as we drive the heavy tractor and loaded sprayer down the rows. Also, we need to keep the weeds down and the rows mowed to keep the airflow in the vineyard. The air will allow the vines to dry quicker after a rain and keep the disease pressure low. Also, in the gaps between the rain, the crews have been getting out and shoot thinning the vines, planting new vines and training the vines that were planted last year. If we can keep the leaves and clusters free of disease, we can survive the year.
Warm and dry are generally the best conditions to grow quality wine grapes. Every successful grower in this region realizes that there will be losses, challenges and added expenses. This is the dance we do with Mother Nature in order to deliver what we can. So 2016 is not anything new or terrible. It’s just a little more challenging at this point and we will make it through this vintage as well.
It has been a very successful year for our region’s rural enterprises. Strawberries, livestock, farm stands, hops farms, craft breweries and many other ventures all add up to an economic flow that has evolved the culture here in Western Loudoun as well as the surrounding rural regions. Respect for the local products as well as the foodie movement have given these businesses a chance to sell in smaller volumes at a higher value. They are also able to offer an experience of meeting the farmer or producer, education of the industry and business, as well as a level of collaboration between businesses to increase the customer experience. It is a win-win for all and I am very proud to say I had a hand in this effort. Enjoy the evolution of agriculture and encourage a young person to be a farmer. It’s possible to make a living and a life on the land!