Viticultural Record2017 Farming Practices
2017 The drought that gripped California from 2012 to 2016 was declared officially over by Governor Jerry Brown on April 7, 2017, following record winter rainfall that continued into early March. Ample moisture and cool conditions delayed the soil’s warming with the arrival of spring, and resulted in the onset budbreak at Vine Hill Ranch occurring 14 days later than the previous year.
Temperatures during the winter months were unusually warm, leading to a frost-free period at budbreak. The warm temperatures, combined with abundant soil moisture, led to exceptional early shoot growth, requiring extensive thinning to ensure adequate air and light into the canopy. Warm weather through the May bloom period allowed the vineyard to set a uniform crop with even berry sizes and typically sized clusters.
Early June delivered an intensely cold, low-pressure system that deposited significant hail on the Napa Valley. While such events can result in significant damage to flowering clusters and canopies, Vine Hill Ranch did not sustain any significant damage. Interestingly, the following week delivered the first of a long series of significant heat events that would continue through the balance of a season recognized for its volatile, warm growing conditions.
Canopy growth, fueled by warm conditions and generous soil moisture, remained strong after berry set, with shoots and leaves completely filling in the vineyard trellis systems. Our efforts to meticulously manage canopy growth enabled the crop to mature while minimizing the effects of heat waves that came later. That late-season heat limited the berry size and hastened the fruit’s maturation process.
Veraison at Vine Hill Ranch occurred roughly six days later than the previous year. Mild temperatures in August, with cool mornings and consistently warm afternoons, allowed the crop to ripen at an even pace and develop an ideal complexity.
Harvest at Vine Hill Ranch was completed on September 19, 2017, before the onset of wildfires that spread across Napa County in early October. Changing wind conditions fueled the widespread fires, and we owe heartfelt thanks to the heroic firefighters who came from across the United States, working to protect our neighbors and Vine Hill Ranch from fires that threatened our northern and western boundaries.
In the field, our redeveloped portion of benchland Block 3D delivered its first crop in 2017. Younger plantings on our hillside blocks 1 and 6A also gifted us with exemplary fruit, while the redeveloped Block 6L continued to move up the stake in its second leaf.