August 23rd, 2021
This has been an interesting year to observe the vineyards and see how clever the grape vines are at adapting to the weather and how good our growers are at helping the vines do this.
As you know, it’s been a really, really hot summer. Fortunately, grapes like heat. And also fortunate, our vines in the Snake River Valley are drip irrigated. The reason this matters is that the growers have been able to keep the vines healthy with small amounts of extra water to counteract the heat.
Now for the cleverness of the vines! They are very good at adapting to different weather conditions. When the temperatures get over about 95 F the vines stop photosynthesizing in order to conserve water. Once the temperature cools down, they start back up with photosynthesis. When the vines know it’s hot and that they will have to conserve water, they respond by making the crop smaller so they don’t need as much water and photosynthesis to bring their berries (and seeds) to fruition. They do that by setting very small berry sizes. So back in June it looked like we had a fairly abundant crop of grapes coming on and we anticipated we might need to thin down the crop. Now with the smaller than normal berry size, it looks like most of our contracted blocks will come in right about the target tonnage but without the need to thin off extra crop.
What this means for the wine is that we should have very concentrated flavors in red and whites and lots of color and tannin in reds. I’m looking forward to seeing what these wines taste like.
September and October play a big role in how the vintage ends up, so we still have some time before we know for sure that a great vintage is in the bag. However, we are set up for a good year and I’m quite optimistic we will produce lovely wines in spite of how annoyingly hot the year has been for us humans.
In regards to smoke, the diffuse smoke in the atmosphere reduces the amount of UV that reaches the grapes and therefore slows the ripening slightly. However, the type of smoke we have seen in the Snake River Valley this summer is not close enough or thick enough to cause “smoke taint” in the wines. The fires need to be very close, nearly on top of the vineyards to cause the smoke taint phenomena. So I’m not really worried about the effect the smoke has had on wine quality.
I expect we will start to harvest some of our early ripening white varieties around the first week of September, about 1 week earlier than a more average summer. So get ready for the sweet smell of fermentation to return to our winery soon!
-Melanie Krause, Winemaker