Friday, August 19, 2011

Looking for Véraison

For those of you not in the wine industry, Véraison is not a sexy French chick; it is when the grapes start to ripen. The black grapes take on color and the white grapes turn translucent. This usually happens the second week of August in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. So far, we have a little véraison in Merlot, Gewürztraminer, and Black Manukas (an early seedless table grape). I have even checked out the big boys’ vineyards where they are cropped back to two tons per acre to make that big, high alcohol, Parker-style wine and they don’t have véraison either. Late harvest Cabernet, anyone?

As you probably already know, it has been a very cold summer in the Pacific Northwest. How cold was it you ask? We count our growing season by Growing Degree Days or GDD. Let’s look at this summer. We have accumulated 1591 GDD between April 1 and August 19. Most people aren’t old timers in the Washington wine industry like me, but I remember the summer of 1993 – known as the summer that never came. That summer by August 19 we had accumulated 1695 GDD. We are about 100 GDD behind the coldest summer in my 31 year career in the Washington wine industry. By the way, there were no spectacular wines from 1993. The newcomers considered 2010 a cool year and we had accumulated 1880 GDD by now. In a normal year we should have about 2000 GDD by August 19. I would guess we are about 3 weeks behind. It looks like Al Gore packed up his global warming and took it back to Tennessee. Climate change, anyone?

Prosser Flats, unlike the Rattlesnake Hills, only has 1356 GDD on August 19. Red Mountain, on the other hand, has 1716 – better, but still no cigar.

We need at least 2300 GDD to harvest Bordeaux varieties, but we would prefer at least 2600 GDD for optimum quality. We are presently getting around 20 GDD per day.The next five days are forecast to be above average and that is good news. A long warm fall can save our butts.

One the bright side, unlike some AVAs in the state, we do have grapes!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More Federal Regulation Stupidity

We have in the past used pyrotechnic devices to protect the vineyards from marauding birds. But, the Federal Government, in all of its wisdom, has classified them as high explosives and we need a bunker as pictured here to store them. Always before, a box of 50 was stored in the pickup where they are used from. See some birds, launch a screamer and they would leave.

I also have to get a federal explosives license, the same one used for dynamite. This involves being finger printed, photographed, and interviewed by an ATF agent.
If I see some birds in the vineyard, I have to go to the bunker and log out a screamer shell, drive back to the vineyard and fire it if the birds are still there. If not, I have to drive back to the bunker and log it back in.
Funny thing, around the Fourth of July, I can buy bigger explosives from the Indians down on the reservation. Yep, M-80’s, no problemo. Or, consider this; I can buy a 5-pound can of black powder from a gun store without a license.
These little ‘bird bangers’ are a pistol launched firecracker or racket cartridge. They contain less than ½ ounce of black powder.
Obviously, I’m not going to build a bunker to store some firecrackers. This year the old shot gun comes out. Next year, I’ll buy a bunch of bottle rockets from the Indians. They can be launched from a PVC tube and should work just fine.
If you are looking for stupidity, look no further than your federal government.