Vintage 2020 Update

Despite all the craziness in our human universe, Mother Nature moves forward in her annual cycle: spring rebirth, growth and renewal. Our vineyard is right on-track for the vintage, although it has started with a very frosty few months.

Bill Charles has been up, trying to keep the cold weather from affecting this year's harvest. After all, as a family business using only 100% estate-grown grapes, what we are able to harvest from the land decides our final production, and thus wine sales and income for our family for an entire year.

Vines after using sprinklers to protect from frost

This spring the frost fans, which mix typically warmer air found up high (hot air rises) with the colder air below, have worked for most nights, but on April 2nd the temperature dipped to 27.5 degrees F, and there was no inversion air, or warmer air, to mix.

One of our neighbors, who farms remotely from the land of SoNapa, doesn't have a vineyard manager on-site, and they used frost fans that come on automatically. Instead of mixing warmer air, they simply jetted the cold air amongst the vines all night. This, as you can imagine, is not ideal. Without an inversion layer to mix, the fans simply make the situation worse. The vineyard would have been better off without any frost protection (in fact, one vineyard locally couldn't get the fans to come on that night, and still fared better.)

The next morning (above): when frost protection measures work
The next morning: when frost protection measures do not work

How can we tell when it's appropriate to use the fans? Well, one of our local weather stations is located a few hundred feet higher than our vineyard, and we can check their readings to gauge the air temperature around the level of our fan (our vineyard will always read colder as the air settles further down onto the valley floor).

Humidity, temperature and wind all matter when it comes to frost protection. Notice the wet bulb dipping below freezing in the early morning hours -- not a good sign for frost or frost fans

On April 2nd, the reading from that local station's wet bulb was 31 at 5 a.m. Thirty-two or below means that you're not going to have much effectiveness from the fans - only sprinklers will help.

Because our Semillon is planted along the outside edge of our vineyard, the sprinklers do not cover the area completely. We were able to protect most of the buds along the inner areas of the vineyard, but the Semillon is expected to have lost 50% of the crop just that one night. Other edges of the vineyard will likely also suffer, but those are more minor (crop estimates will come soon, when we count and average the clusters and made an estimate for the other blocks).

Short, bushy shoots are a hallmark of frost stunted vines

The same vine, with the laterals, or short shoots, removed

Farming is hard, whether it's cabbages or grapes, and frost is something that growers have to contend with. Here in Anderson Valley, our climate and narrow valley make farming difficult some springs, especially in the Boonville area.


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