The first of the 2009 Pinot Noir at Cargasacchi vineyard could be harvested at the end of this week or at the beginning of next. Perhaps Loring, Bonaccorsi or Hartley-Ostini/Hitching Post? The days have been relatively cool but even yesterday, which was forecasted to be warmer, with dry, inland air blowing offshore, started with a dense, marine fog inversion layer.
Over the next few days we should see less marine influence and daytime temperatures in the low 80s F. (26° to 28° C.) However, at 10 a.m. yesterday, it was still foggy in the Sta. Rita Hills.
Earlier as I walked through the vines, making sure the nets over the fruit were protecting it from birds, my mind was not on the beautiful cool fog because today, and every day between veraison (berry coloring) and harvest, I am cursing King Henry IV and William Shakespeare.
The primary reason we net the vines is that ripening purple and black fruit brings hungry birds, especially the European starling. The starling is a voracious, grape-eating winged appetite, a bird of vineyard nightmares. If you’ve seen the sun over a vineyard blotted out by flocks of hungry starlings numbered in the thousands and felt their dark shadow, or watched them gobble berries whole, you will understand my feelings toward this invasive species.
A line in Henry IV, a single mention of that bird’s name once in all of the Bard’s works, was the basis for unleashing this winged scourge unto the New World. In 1596, William Shakespeare wrote the play Henry IV, and penned the fateful line, “Nay I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but ‘Mortimer,’ and give it to him to keep his anger still in motion.”
A harmless line from Shakespeare at the time, but turn the pages a few centuries to New York, the home of Eugene Schieffelin, a Shakespeare fanatic. No ordinary fanatic, Schieffelin felt compelled to introduce every Old World bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s works to the New World. In March of 1890 Schieffelin released 60 starlings imported from England into New York’s Central Park.
After building their first nests under the eaves of the American Museum of Natural History, these cackling predators, marauders of Pinot Noir, spread to the compass points from New York across North America. Starlings now number in the hundreds of millions.
Thus, unfortunately today, across the country, starlings are more familiar to most people than Shakespeare, burdening agriculture and creating nightmares for wine growers.
William C Strickler — DC Suburbs — September 24, 2009 1:02pm ET
Peter Cargasacchi — Sta. Rita Hills — September 25, 2009 10:04am ET
William C Strickler — DC Suburbs — September 28, 2009 10:17am ET
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