The 2017 Season in Review
The fall is the time of change for grape growers in the Paso Robles Area. Grapes are harvested. Grape vines with vigorous canopies only a month ago are now losing leaves and going to sleep. It is time to invoice your wineries and hope they pay quickly, so you can pay your bills. Hopefully, in a few weeks you can relax and maybe even take a vacation.
You know that in a few short months you will be right back at it, worrying about frost, Powdery Mildew sprays, do I need a new purchase agreement, should I buy crop insurance, when do I start irrigation’s and many more things that make grape growing challenging and exciting.
But, before we rush ahead, let’s review the 2017 season. One of the biggest events of the 2016 (fall) and 2017 (winter and spring) was that we FINALLY got an average amount of rain in the Paso area and some areas, especially on the Westside, more than usual. This amount of rain was beneficial in many ways. It leached accumulated salts out of the root zone, and this lead to decent canopy growth for the first time in years. This caused other problems later in the season, but more about that later.
The rainfall did cause a few issues, namely later spring growth of cover crops and/or weeds in between the rows. This growth interfered with frost protection practices, i.e mowing, but I heard of very few instances of frost damage in 2017. Another issue associated with the “normal” amount of rain, was the ability to spray pre-emergent herbicides under the vines last winter. This lead to some weed control issues, but nothing really bad.
May, June and July all seemed pretty average, which is a good thing. The one thing grapes love is consistence. The can deal with warm weather and they can deal with cool weather, but not rapid changes between them both. There were a few times in May and June where we went from warm to cool to warm in just a few days, but in general these weren’t bad. July was consistently hot, but that is July.
Then came August and early September. The middle part of August was nice, maybe even cool by August standards, with many days having high temperatures in the 80’s. Then came the last week of August and the first few days of September. WOW! Some of my vineyards had temperatures which exceeded 110 for close to 10 days. Grapes are in general a hardy plant, but few plants (other than Cacti) are that hardy. It appears that yields were affected primarily on the eastside of Paso, with many blocks yielding less than 2 tons per acre.
My first harvest of the year is always a block of Sauvignon Blanc, that usually gets harvested in late August or early September. This year harvest was September 6th and I got almost 7 tons per acre. It is usually a high yielding block, but this was a record.
I was excited, that maybe it would be a good year for all blocks, but turns out that blocks right next to this one were some of the poorest I have had. Close, but not as bad as 2015.
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