It's Budbreak Somewhere Right Now
Happy spring (hopefully), winemakers. The warm weather is taking its time coming to New England, but I've seen a lot of budbreak photos popping up in social media from the West Coast (very early budbreak in parts of the West, actually); and I've heard rumors of a few snowdrops coming up here in Vermont — unsubstantiated at the moment (it snowed yesterday), but I'm willing to believe it.
(Budbreak at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles This is a great blog - definitely read and follow Jason Haas!)
Speaking of the West Coast, things are still extremely dry. California is entering its fourth season of drought, and it doesn't look to be changing anytime soon, unfortunately. This is a big concern, of course, to anyone who grows crops in California, including grape growers. In the latest issue of WineMaker, Wes Hagen — WM's longtime "Backyard Vines" columnist — wrote an excellent piece about managing a vineyard in a time of drought ("Beyond the Shadow of a Drought"). In his story, Wes discusses how to rethink irrigation in your backyard vineyard, which means learning to understand your vines' needs and using water in a more calculated way. The good news, he says, is that grapevines are extremely efficient in their use of water. "Worldwide, it takes only a few gallons (liters) of water to produce a bottle of wine, while it takes more than 400 gallons (~1,500 L) of water to produce a pound of beef. Grape growers have an intrinsic advantage to exploit." This is a bit of a silver lining for wine drinkers.
(A drought-affected vineyard in Napa Valley in 2013. Photo/copyright John Weiss http:www.flickr.com/photos/jweiss3/)
Chik Brenneman, WineMaker's "Varietal Focus" columnist and the Winery Manager and Winemaker for the University of California-Davis, is also affected by drought in the teaching vineyards. "Our vineyards are suffering somewhat after three years of drought," he said in a recent article for Capital Public Radio. Be sure to check out Wes' story for tips on choosing a drought-resistant roostock, when to apply water with a drip irrigation system (spoiler alert: at night), and how to recognize signs of water stress in your grapevines.
For more general information on what's happing in California with the drought, visit the state's website dedicated to drought information: http://ca.gov/drought/
Switching gears a little bit, Wes also wrote a great article in the same issue of WM as the drought story about making rosé wines. Despite the long shadow cast in this country by cheap White Zinfandel, there have been lots of wine experts arguing in favor of dry rosé over the years. Not that rosé’s unserious reputation is unearned. Before White Zin there was Mateus. Remember that iconic photo of Jimi Hendrix slugging Mateus from the bottle sometime in the 1960s? Elton John also “got juiced” on Mateus in his 1973 song “Social Disease.” (Read more about the resurgence of the Mateus brand at http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2012/09/hanging-loose-with-mateus-rose). Rosé’s reputation in the New World has made a huge comeback in the last ten years, however, and it seems like it's finally starting to stick in the US. Not that it should be a hard sell — pink wine is delicious, and if you don't think so, you're missing out.
(Jimi Hendrix drinking Mataus like a, well, like a rock star.)
In his story, Wes asked a couple of his California winemaking colleagues about their process for making dry rosé, including Karen Steinwachs (Buttonwood Vineyards & Winery in Solvang, CA); Kathleen Inman (Inman Family Wines in Santa Rosa, CA); Larry Schaffer (Tercero Wines in Los Olivos, CA); and Clark Smith (WineSmith, Santa Rosa, CA). He gleaned some very interesting perspectives about making rosé, including choosing grape varietals, when to harvest, yeast strains, and aging advice.
(Wes Hagen’s rosé during pressing.)
Wes also copped to enjoying a glass of good old White Zin from time to time, himself — apparently it's a great accompaniment to spicy tuna rolls at his favorite local sushi joint. And here I thought White Zin was just something to mix with ice and seltzer at my parents' house on holidays — I guess gotta try it with sushi!
(A glass of White Zin on the rocks on my parents' back porch a couple of years ago.)
Plus, rosé never really lost its rock star status. Kate Hudson loves it so much she started her own winery with ex-fianceé, Muse frontman/rock star Matt Bellamy. I don't know her personally, but "Almost Famous" is in my top 10 favorite movies for life, so Penny Lane has my support. "We spend most of our summer in Europe with the kids, and rosé is pretty much what we drink. So we started with rosés, and that’s still my favorite," she told The Wine Enthusiast recently.
ALSO -- Looking forward to seeing everyone's entries at the WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition next week, by the way. The very best of luck to everyone who entered!!