This time of year, I talk about two things very often. If you have been following our monthly emails for a while I suspect you could guess them. Firstly, the powdery mildew pressure is high – this may be an understatement for some growers in the northern regions of the state. Multiple spring rain events have just fed the fire. It’s a perfect storm for a frustrating spring. Early leaf removal and tight spray intervals are especially key to gaining control in these situations where the mildew has gotten the upper hand. Many Chardonnay blocks are already heavily infested with mildew. This will likely affect spot market buying activity later in the year. The second thing I talk about, or rather get asked about a lot is the size of this year’s crop. In the Fresno/Madera area the Cab Sauv cluster counts are trending low. We have heard Thompsons are particularly light. We have seen white blenders trending in the same direction, slightly light. In the northern interior things appear pretty darn average. The exceptions would be Chardonnay and Merlot. Chardonnay cluster counts are quite low and merlot is shattering in many blocks. Otherwise it looks pretty darn “normal”. The North Coast is trending fairly normal except cluster size is questionably small in some Lake County Sauv Blanc vineyards. A few Calistoga Cab blocks are showing particularly small second clusters and moderately small shoulders on primaries. As the season progresses I suspect cluster weights will become above normal and balance out the smaller cluster sizes. In the interior, bloom and set have come and gone with much success. The North Coast Cab is in full bloom, transitioning to fruit set in warm sites. It’s looking good. Much of the Central Coast is following along like other areas… pretty darn average. The weird recent weather is definitely affecting fruit set though. In the coming weeks, we will know how much. All we can do for now is be grateful for the rain we received this winter, keep fingers crossed things stay dry over the next month, and spray, spray, spray to keep the mildew at bay.
-Patrick Tachella, Director of Viticulture