Spring after a Promising Harvest
This is the year that I will attempt to make wine from this experiment in urban vining. This post, long overdue, is about the promise of last year's harvest being heralded by an early bud break in my vines.
The raw yield from the four vines was almost two full five gallon buckets. One thing I had read, and now experienced firsthand, about zinfandel vines...they ripen inconsistently. So the warnings about zinfandel being a difficult varietal to harvest were not exaggerations. It is not just different timings between clusters but within each cluster itself. On one of the vines many of the grapes split, likely due to one session where they were over watered. A handful of bunches also had a bit of powdery mildew as a result of the tightly packed bunches. Overall though it wasn't too bad a haul for three vines after sorting out the bad, almost one and a half 5 gallon buckets worth of grapes. Not a huge haul but with two more vines to add to that should be enough to get some bottles out of.
With the inconsistent ripening, it seems like the best route in the future, would be to harvest over several weeks picking off individual grapes as they ripen. Problem is, not having the experience to know what that grape may look, feel and taste like, I will have to experiment by picking what appears to be ripened grapes, then test for brix and pH to gauge how close I am to the ideal I should be looking for.
What is that ideal brix and pH for zinfandel? Seems there are a lot of opinions about that. Some suggest that because zinfandel ripens unevenly, it often picks up additional brix in the tank. Based on what I have read thus far, I will likely aim for around 24 brix and 3.4 pH but there is still much reading to do. Sadly it will likely be several years of testing, feeling, tasting and taking extensive notes at harvest time, before I hone my ability to harvest effectively.
I have no illusions or expectations about producing exceptional wine anytime soon. I am simply hoping that my urban vining experience will provide me with years of practice to learn and experience for myself the challenges of winemaking. So far, with the exceptionally warm winter here in southern California, the vines seem anxious to get underway too. The second picture above was taken at the end of February and the buds were already bursting with new growth as you can see.
Given my historical lack of a green thumb, I was unsure I could keep the vines alive for the 4-5 years to get them to mature and grow as they required. Now they are thriving and thus far, I seem to be successfully keeping the ubiquitous glassy winged sharp shooter and Pierce's disease at bay here in So Cal. We will see how the vines do this year.
It has been an amazing transformation of our yard and the little twigs that started out as root stock have matured into proper VSP trained vines. As I prepare for my usual spring treatment of Stylet Oil, Neem oil and Surround WP; I welcome each new shoot with eager anticipation, watching them burst forth with promise for the year to come and potentially my first batch of wine from my own urban vines.