It appears we've managed to overcome our frost issues with our Merkin South and East vineyards. Last year, we installed a frost fan to move the cold air before it has a chance to settle on the vines and cause "winter kill." As an experiment, we only placed one fan in Merkin East and did our best in Merkin South to experiment with mounding along rows, grow tubes around young vines, both, neither—take notes, graph the results, scratch our heads, mutter some observations. It's clear that the mounding works, but is not completely effective on its own. We need a fan on South as well, which is good news. The Mourvèdre and Norton on South are doing fabulous. The Vidal Blanc not so much. (But we may have received poor plant material to begin with. Another in an ocean of variables.) So the fan will only add to the site’s success and stability.
On East, the Sangiovese and the Cab survived without issue—almost zero loss. And the vines at the top of the block that have survived the last few winters are doing great. We should see a couple barrels out of them this year. Perhaps we’ll do a super-Tuscan-style Marzo blend, after my great-grandfather? We shall see.
The Malvasia Bianca and Tempranillo are happy in their new home on Merkin West, as are their older sisters, the Cabernet.
Another experiment we've tackled is bilateral training versus quadrilateral training for the vines. We've abandoned the chaotic shrub-meets-Sideshow-Bob-hairdo approach on Merkin West in favor of a trellis system. The fruit and leaf canopy will be far easier to manage. Now we just need to know which is more efficient: the bi or the quad? Our concern with the quadrilateral format centers on ripening. The trellis runs east-west, so we need to see if the grapes set on the north/back side of the lines ripen at the same rate as the grapes set on the south/front side. If the ripening is even, it may be possible to set a bit more fruit, provided the end quality doesn't suffer.
Perhaps a more seasoned vintner can help me with an observation we've made on our various sites. We've noticed that the vines flowered over the course of several weeks, not all at once—almost like they're being cautious not to put all their eggs in one basket. Of course there is "second growth," but this appears to be different. It’s if the vines are unsure where they are, and they're testing the water before committing to the full court press. As fate would have it, we had some severe winds and lost some of the flowers, but only those that were at that vulnerable stage. The ones that pushed just before and just after are fine. (Scratches head, furrows brow, makes a puzzled noise.) Anyone have any insights on this? Is this common in Paso or other parts of California?
Tyler Mcafee — Houston, TX — June 18, 2008 3:18pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — June 18, 2008 3:24pm ET
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