October 13th ... In 2018, we picked our Cabernet on Howell Mountain and our Chardonnay in Southern Napa on the SAME day. It was a busy day, both in the vineyard, and at the winery.
Beginning our harvest at 4:00 A.M., the Chardonnay arrived at the winery mid-morning and was ushered directly to the press, and into a waiting chilled tank. After settling overnight, the clear juice was racked off of the settled solids and readied for fermentation.
Later in the afternoon, our Cabernet was brought off the Mountain, destemmed and put in a chilled tank to rest for three days before being inoculated for fermentation.
We are ecstatic about the progress of both wines. They are clean and bright, and showing the varietal and terroir characteristics that are the hallmark of our wines; acidity, tropical and citrus fruit characters in our cold climate Chardonnay; and the deep, dark fruit characters of our Mountain Cabernet.
With the 2017 growing season behind us and the vines resting up for another year, the wines continue to develop in the cellar. Looking back at our dry January and February, we are thankful for the rain that came our way in March.
Now in the last week of March, we are having 85 degree days and cool mornings. Today we did our final pruning cuts for the season, going from pre-pruned sixteen inch canes to two bud spurs. The purpose of the two stage pruning is three fold.
First, it allows us to remove most of last year's growth and pull the brush out of the trellis wires while the buds are dormant in the Winter. It also helps us spread our labor commitments over the long Winter to Spring time period.
Secondly, it provides protection from fungal trunk disease infections, as fungus spores, released by rainfall, enter the plant through fresh pruning wounds. By delaying the final pruning cuts until late Spring, the chance for rainfall is less, and any earlier infection at the cane cuts is now pruned off as we prune back to only two buds per spur.
Lastly, by waiting until the buds just start to push, we buy a few days of frost protection. The buds at the ends of the short, pre-pruned canes will be the first to push, and then they are pruned off, leaving the base buds to push a few days later. Those few days are simply a few days less exposure of the new growing shoots to frost damage.
As buds go from dormancy to newly growing shoots they become susceptible to damage from freezing temperatures. Our 'frost' season exposure normally runs through about the middle of May each year, so the next six weeks are a critical time for this year's crop. A hard freeze of the new growth will almost certainly kill the shoots back and damage the potential grape clusters waiting to emerge.
Thus begins the 2018 Vintage of Wicker Vineyards Cabernet!
Vines, pre-pruned in the Winter, waiting for the final pruning cuts to be made in the Spring
Pruned back to two buds on each spur, many will push 'double' shoots from each bud position. These second shoots will be removed on our first suckering pass.
Water, sprinkled on the vines during freezing temperatures encapsulates the new growing shoots in ice, ironically insulating the tender growth from temperatures lower than 32 degrees.