Watch out for mildew: June notes from the vineyard

Rick Aldine – North Coast Grape Supply Manager

Happy Father’s Day! What a challenging Spring our Growers have experienced. Heavy rainfall, unusually cool bloomtime temperatures, rain and heavy hail on June 11. The lingering effect of these Springtime challenges will continue into the summer… 2017 has not been an easy growing year. Our drought-busting rainfall this winter gave our growers very wet soils March thru May, making it difficult for vineyardists to get on their ground to spray, mow, till, leaf canopies, etc. Wet soils and scarce labor forced Growers to delay canopy leafing and hedging (the last thing Growers wanted to do was create more lateral shoot growth and more canopy handwork in a low labor situation). As a result of all of this, we’re seeing unusually heavy Powdery Mildew outbreaks in all AvAs.

On a positive note, no significant frost events this Spring. We’re currently experiencing our first heat spell of the season and it’s a doozy… a solid week of 100+ temps. Our hope is that this heat will stymie canopy vigor and lateral shoot growth… and perhaps shorten the growing the season (we’re a bit worried that the cooler Spring weather may have extended the growing season on the North Coast deeper into October putting later ripening varietals at risk of wet weather during harvest).

Grape and Bulk market buying went through its usual bloomtime lull while Buyers waited to see how Bloom and Set would affect the overall 2017 grape supply. Buying is picking up now that most AvAs are through Set and we can reasonably estimate the crop so far as normal, not big. Bulk pricing remains high on Cab Sauv of B grade and better quality as well as reds in sexy sub-AvA designations. Grape demand remains high for Cab and Sauv Blanc and red grapes for Rose’, especially Grenache. Chard is moving, Merlot is static, Syrah and Zin are slow. Grape Buyers… give our list a look. We have excellent purchase opportunities in all 5 North Coast counties – Napa & Sonoma Cab Sauv; Carneros, Russian River and Sonoma Coast Chard & P.Noir; Lake County Sauv Blanc; Dry Creek Zin.

Give me a call to get out and look at our 2017 grape opportunities OR come by our Napa office to taste through our bulk wine offerings. You can reach me at (707) 252-4800 office, (707) 287-6073 cell, rick@agajanian.com. Our Napa office is located across from The Meritage Resort, 2785 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, Napa.

Dan Garcia, Northern Interior Grape Manager

Mother Nature will not give us a break. When it looked like the rains would finally stop in this record year she sent between a tenth and a half inch depending on what part of the Interior you are located. With this heavy mildew year, it continues to fuel the problem. We are at 33.94″ and I guess I should say counting because she keeps hanging around like the old girlfriend that won’t go away. There was some hail damage reported in Lodi on the West side from Armstrong Road to the Eight Mile Road area. In Clarksburg there was no hail damage reported but we received up to 1/2of rain in some areas. Clarksburg Chardonnay is still on the radar, I just moved another 600 tons last week. Sauvignon Blanc is also hot if you can find it along with Pinot Noir. Cabernet Sauvignon in Lodi is still the king with most blocks already contracted. I also sold a 400 ton block of Chardonnay in Lodi. I had a feeling it would go quickly with most of the Clarksburg Chardonnay contracted.

Let me know if I can help you locate that fruit you need for your program. I can also help you sell your grapes or bulk wine. I can be reached on my cell at (916) 425-6656, or dan@agajanian.com

Michael Haddox-Central Coast Grape Manager

It looks like summer has finally arrived, with temperatures looking to break some records on the Central Coast and with most people not having air conditioning (except for Paso ) it looks like it’s going to be a long 7-10 days. I like the heat so BRING IT!! I was kicking some dirt this morning out in the Santa Rita Hills looking at Pinot Noir in particular. Even though it’s hard to pin down crop estimates this time of year, I think we might be a little below average in that area, but canopy health and overall quality potential seems to be looking really good at this stage. We have seen a lot of buyer activity for higher end fruit on the Central Coast and have picked up some extra blocks to satisfy that demand, just let me know and I can walk you through some great options.

Tip: There is still some great opportunity to pick up some Syrah for your rose programs, but I have noticed a great deal of really nice merlot at really attractive prices. Reach out and I can fill you in on where to find some killer merlot to extend your blends.

As always, I am available any time to discuss your grape or bulk needs for 2017 and beyond!!

Michael Haddox, Senior Winery Relations manager & Winemaker- Central Coast (805) 975-7001 cell. michael@agajanian.com

Tim Mendonca-Central & Southern Interior Grower Relations

Lets get ready for the heat!! When we thought we were out of the rainy season Mother Nature blessed the valley with a nice little storm that rolled through. There were reports of hail damage in the Napa area but here near Fresno we didn’t hear of any reports of hail damage. It was just strong winds and rains that blow through. There was minimal damage that we saw in our vineyards which is great. But with the mildew pressure that we have this year it did not help anything out. Now transitioning into the following weeks, we are going to see temperatures in the 100’s, summer is here. The high heat is great for keeping the mildew pressure low. If the canopy temperature reaches 95-97 for at least 4 hours it will start to kill the powdery mildew spores. With proper spray timing and high heat this could help out in controlling any mildew problems you may have.

Activity has increased a little now that the crop has set. It looks like it is going to be an average crop, nothing huge. Blenders along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and floral varieties are seeing the most attention right now. If you have any grapes or bulk wine for sale or are interested in any grapes and bulk wine feel free to give me a call at (559) 352-2452 or email: Tim@agajanian.com

Patrick Tachella-Director of Viticulture

Way back in February we had a pretty good idea that this spring was going to be a bit interesting. With so many rain events since bud break and a generally cool start to summer; vine growth has been rapid. The mildew reproduction has been as well. It’s been interesting to say the least. The typical northern regions and susceptible varieties are seeing a challenging year on the fungal front. But those growers aren’t the only ones. Near Kerman we are seeing powdery mildew in traditionally clean blocks of Rubired and Cabernet Sauvignon, Very interesting. Unfortunately, recent thunderstorms brought rain and isolated areas of damaging hail to the Central Valley, Foothill and North Coast vineyards. Mildew pressure will remain strong until we get sustained high heat, or vines reach vèraison. Beyond these challenges the season’s crop outlook has begun to solidify. Most early predictions are holding. Crop load is looking quite normal. The Central Coast reds are a bit light, as is Northern Interior Chardonnay. Although we are seeing isolated berry shatter and stuck caps & anthers in nearly all regions and across several varieties. It’s nothing like 2015 though. We are starting to see pre-lag stage indicators (such as berry veining) in Tulare and Fresno Countries. This season is moving along quickly. My hope is that everyone gets through this heat wave with ease and that it gets just hot enough to knock down the mildew. We have seen many fields around the state that have completed their leaf removal. This should really help get the heat deep into the canopy. The vines are extra vigorous, clusters are getting tight and pests are out there. Aggressive mildew and bunch closure sprays are going to keep the PCAs busy for a while. Until then, I wish you all the best.

If you cannot take grapes, we can custom crush and make wine to your style specifications. Please call your Grower Representative listed below, or our Premium Bulk Wine Sales Manager Jennifer Hibbard at our North Coast office (707) 252-4800. For Private Label, call Shelly van Rijn at (707) 252-4800.

Rick Aldine North Coast Winegrape Manager (707) 287-6073

Dan Garcia Northern Interior Winegrape Manager (916) 425-6656

Michael Haddox Central Coast Winegrape Manager (805) 975-7001

Tim Mendonca Southern Interior Grower Relations (559) 352-2452

Patrick Tachella Director of Viticulture (559) 840-5792

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