By Doug Fabbioli
Is it me or are things moving faster than ever before? It seems like a few weeks after school is out for the summer, the “Back to School” promotions start at the stores and on the TV. As we are growing our vines through the year, I feel like we quickly move from one season to another without ever catching up. Farming berries, hops, pears and grapes at 6 locations keeps us busy throughout the year, with the heavy push being when things are warm and wet.
I think warm and wet is the best way to describe this season. We have had some pockets of dryness, but the majority of the summer has had its rainstorms come through to keep the grass green and the plants growing quite well. The challenge with the excess moisture in the vineyard this time of year is multifaceted. The vines will not grow more grapes when things are wet, but they will grow more leaves. The extra leaves will bring more energy into the plant but will also add to the shading of other leaves. All of the leaves are susceptible to diseases such as Downy Mildew when they do not get a chance to dry. Also the weeds and grass are growing like crazy, holding moisture and slowing down the air movement that would allow the vines to dry.
So, what do we do to keep this situation managed in a way that we can still get top quality fruit for our vintage? First, we are mowing, controlling the weeds, pulling leaves off the vines and hedging to keep the air flowing and the sunshine reaching the inner part of the canopy. Also we use an irradicant organic spray that will rinse off the spores of Downey Mildew. We will follow up with another spray to keep the diseases at bay insuring healthy leaves that will bring energy to the fruit for ripening. Some vines are more susceptible to certain diseases than others. And some vineyard locations will harbor the diseases more than others. The Sangiovese is quite susceptible and is planted in a lower, rather wet section. This is a bad combination. It sure is nice that I keep making mistakes so I have the opportunity to continue my learning.
Where do we go from here? Our issue is already under control. There are new leaves replacing the ones that were diseased. Some of the sick ones only have a blemish and are still working. None of the disease reached the fruit. We just need to continue our mowing, weed control and hedging routine through the vineyards until the rain stops and the green stops growing. We also continue to scout the vineyards on a regular basis so we can catch any diseases early before any infestation.
I guess this state of perpetual “busyness” is part of our industry as well as our culture – and it may even be part of the weather. I recognize that I bring some of this pace on myself, but maybe I can find a way to have a few less things on the list. My summer crew is leaving next week to return to school. I guess I should ponder the idea of a few less things while I go hedge trim the vines again.
…….Harvest is right around the corner!