Vineyard Update with
Winemaker Lisa Valtenbergs
With one of the wettest winters on record for Sonoma County, we received a total of 80.3 inches of rain on Stonestreet Estate Vineyards during the winter and spring months. It was an exciting time in Alexander Valley with road closures, winery closures, school closures and lots of work to prevent landslides on the mountain vineyards. The excitement and talk of the ‘end of the drought’ was rampant.
When growing grapes however, we can’t be fooled into thinking an abundance of winter rain means you’re in the clear, especially when growing grapes on steep, rocky slopes. In the Spring month’s we actually witnessed fewer millimeters than we did during the Spring in 2016. This meant that even though the vineyards looked strong and healthy from the winter rains, we still needed to pay attention and plan for irrigation.
The biggest benefit from the heavy winter rains was the boost in plant available Nitrogen. With the previous dryer vintages, the Nitrogen becomes crystalized in the soils and the heavy rains were able to dissolve this so the plant could utilize it resulting in faster growth rates and more flowers per vine which ultimately results in higher yields. With the expected higher yields, we were also expecting a later harvest and demand for late season irrigations.
Along with the increase in precipitation in 2017, we also saw an increase of heat waves throughout the summer months. Many thought that the higher temperatures would speed up ripening but when the temperature is above 92 F, the stomates in the leaves close and the vines shut down to protect themselves, hence a delayed ripening.
With so many variables from mother nature in the 2017 growing season we were anxiously awaiting veraison (ripening) to start in early August. We were anticipating a slightly later start to harvesting, beginning with Sauvignon Blanc in early September followed closely behind by Chardonnay and then Bordeaux reds throughout the month of October.
Growing grapes on a mountain always keeps us on our toes, meticulously watching and monitoring, aiming to harvest at the most optimal time to craft wines of distinction.