Don’t let the stillness of the vineyards in the winter fool you. “Dormancy” may be a stagnant state, but it is one of the most essential times in the life of a vine. When it gets coldest between November and mid-March, the vines get the hint to lay low. If it warms up too soon or too much it will cue the vines to start budding before it is really time. Of course, if it gets too cold and frosts the vines for an extended period, that can be problematic and even cause vine death. But here in Clarksburg, the beautiful Delta climate, keeps the vines at a comfortable temperature. The rain is soaked into the ground and the vines drink it up!
Although the grapes are in stillness, the vineyard staff is working diligently to maintain the vines and prep them for the next growing season. Pruning is possibly the most critical task in the vineyard next to harvest as it determines how the vines will grow and can resolve potential problems in the vineyards before they happen. Pruning vines serves a similar purpose as pruning a flowerbed or garden – to selectively discard extraneous cordons, or “arms” of the vines. This allows the vine to focus its nutrients and energy into growing the best possible fruit.
Spring is full of activity! Cover crops start popping up between the rows and buds appear on the vines. Budding is the very first sign of life on the vines in the spring, and when the buds burst (known as “Bud Break”) the vines enter a rapid growing period where shoots of leaves and bursting buds literally shoot out from the vines and start to form the clusters that will soon be grapes.
Which wine grapes experience bud break first? Usually our white varietals are first to bud, including Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Muscat Canelli. Also, first vines to bud = first grapes ready for harvest!
The vineyards are in full swing in the Summer. It is a beautiful season full of ripening grapes, leaf canopies soaking up rays and shading grape clusters, and big late summer roses blooming at the end of rows. In early summer, we see the vines flower, or bloom. Those bursting springtime buds form tiny flowers that, over a few weeks time, self-pollinate and produce little, green berries (known as “fruit set”) that will soon turn into those highly anticipated grapes. Soon the grapes will begin to develop those delicious sugars and beautiful colors. This has a fancy name too: veraison. Then the rest of the summer is all about ripening to perfection!
Big, bold grapes in varying hues of rich burgundy and gold hang in perfect, delectable clusters. The most well-known season to wine enthusiasts is of course, harvest. You might not know that harvest does not necessarily start in the fall. Many grape varietals, especially white wine grapes, are ready for picking in late summer. This is definitely the most time-sensitive process of the vineyard since grapes are picked when their sugar levels are just right and they can vary daily, even hourly!
Harvest is a wild time for our vineyard crew. Here at Heringer Estates, we have 26 different grape varieties to harvest so to say it gets busy is a major understatement. This is an exciting time at the winery too since crush is underway and the mad rush to process the grapes as they come in freshly plucked from the vines is quite a sight!