There is a steep learning curve in ones development as vignerons and vigneronnes: so much uncertainty, so many questions, so much insecurity! But one thing we have learned in the last 6 years is that in the vineyard, May and June are months of certainty. We know exactly what to expect when we arrive: we will be in the rows attending the vines. The tasks involve training the shoots onto the trellis, thinning them out, and of course, watching and waiting for berry-sign as we eagerly anticipate bloom and then fruit set.
Though the late spring pace is more relentless than the winter pruning season, the scenery is vibrant; the sights and smells compensate for the somewhat urgent pace. And since the primary task is shaping the canopy, the gratification is instant! We learn the vines in this time: their growth habits, their mishaps and vulnerabilities, the effects of soil variation, the volunteer and intentional cover crops, and we get to see the results of our winter pruning decisions. Though we are in a race against the clock, there is definitely time to make new observations. We now know that the over winter onion-grass gives way to yarrow in early spring, which cedes in turn to clover blossoms and wildflowers come late spring. Also, this year our young team noticed for the first time that there is a subtle, fresh, citrus aroma coming from the Cabernet Sauvignon flowers in bloom.
Not everything is certain of course, the weather is still unpredictable, and with that comes some variation. There are days when heat and humidity forces us up before sunrise and inside by lunch time (on those days we head to see Matthieu @KFV and taste vintage 2018 Mount Alto Red -- more on that little beauty soon!). Vintages differences in quantity of rain and mean temperature can lead to variations in growth rate, and hence they determine if our pace in the rows is frantic or just fast-paced. And of course, untimely rain during bloom can reduce the number of grapes in the clusters. But still the vines grow, and every time we arrive at the vineyard we know what our focus will be, no need for a Gantt chart.
This spring has seen ample rain and vigorous growth, but clear dry days were the norm through bloom, and so the 2019 crop seems poised to be fairly sizable. The vines have required their fair share of tying and thinning, and the new block of Cabernet Sauvignon that we planted in 2018 has demanded attention to detail as we seek to master the art of establishing a strong trunk -- so too the new block of Petit Verdot that we put in this April. The work is hard on the body this time of year, but on the spirit it is so easy.
We hope you are well,
Mount Alto Vineyards
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