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2012 East Coast Weather & Vintage Thread


Jeff White
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I'll start another and try to keep up with it this year.

2012 started balmy but our first artic blast is now upon us. Howling cold winds all night and continuing this morning. A 20 foot, 10 inch diameter sycamore limb came down over night and was blocking part of the road as I drove in earlier.

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Great day cane pruning yesterday. We finished our young Merlot and started on some young Cabernet Franc vines. Knees do take a beating as the fruiting wire is only 18 inches off the ground. We leave the canes a little long right now and make one final cut when tying them down in March.

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Ice, sleet, snow, rain yesterday and some drizzle today. Temps down into the mid 20s. Warmer by Monday,up into the mid 50's with rain...wacky. Bottled our 2011 SB on Friday, 527 cases including 40 cases of 375's. Grassy, tropical, very crisp with moderate alcohol at 12.7%. These grapes came in before the September rains.

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Our mild winter continues, although it's 28F this early morning. But we've not seen any single digits this year and are running about 10 degrees warmer than usual for this time of the year. This makes one concerned, not about an early bud break which probably will happen if this trend continues, but more catastrophic would be a sudden deep freeze as the bud and plant vascular tissue is not as cold hardy as it was back in December. This of course is all "what ifs" and nothing has happened yet but thinking about the possibilites allows mind games to play, late at night, when you're weak and most vulnerable. I recently awoke to my first 2012 vineyard nightmare. I'm in the vineyard, it's January and we still have much to prune. But what's this? Green shoots are everywhere and in need of thinning and tucking already....PANIC!! Then the comfort of coming to my awake senses. All is well.

We are almost finished pruning our young vineyard, a little over 1.5 acres of Cabernet to go. Then it's on to the old vineyard, 6 acres of open lyre. In the cellar we're cold stabilizing 3 wines to be bottled in March and about to begin blending trials of our 2011 reds. Just got building plans in the hands of a few prospective contractors. We're expanding the building this year, adding two 20 by 30 foot rooms, one below grade for fermenting and barrel aging reds and one above grade for tax paid case storage.

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Snow! It's actually snowing! Started last night and is continuing this early morning. Very light, still not covering the grass and also not sticking to road surfaces. But we'll take it. Supposed to be around 28F tonight. Just back from Charlottsville, attending the Winter Technical Meeting of the Virginia Vineyards Association. Lot's of good information this year. One thing reported by our State Viticulturalist was that cold hardiness tests were conducted on sample buds and they were good down to below zero. So all this warm winter weather we've been having has not started the thawing of our vines. Knock on hardy wood. highfive.gif

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Pruning is complete...yippee! Tying has begun with most vines getting one final snip to adjust the length of the cane. The weather continues to be mild and dry and it's looking more and more like an earlyish start to 2012. Early means April 1st, normal means April 15th and late means April 30th. We'll be ready.

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Our winery mockingbird has returned, singing from the top of the cupola yesterday morning. 70's this week, near 80 today. Upper 40's at night. Buds are all still hard and tight, though. Only Cabernet Sauvignon still to tie.

It's beginning to look a lot like springtime! flirtysmile.gif

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March 15, 2012...currently 81F. At least it's not humid...but that's coming soon. We're down to an acre of Cab still to tie. Pruning cuts are dripping. Next 7 days looks twenty degrees above normal. Still, buds are tight. I'm guessing April 1st for Merlot/Cabernet Franc.

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Bud break is imminent. Lots of swelling buds in our young plantings of merlot and cabernet franc. I even saw tiny leaves opening at end of cane bud positions. I also noticed some flea beetle damage, but not enough to act. With this heat and the weekends upcoming rains these varieties should be out by early next week, if not sooner. Time to start working on my farmer's tan.

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Everything is out now, with the exception of Cabernet Sauvignon, but even the Cab has fat soft buds on the verge of opening. It's cold out this morning, currently 37 and the forecast is for 32 tomorrow morning. Last night, between our two vineyards we burned a huge pile of prunings and other cut up trees from around the farm. Not sure if it helped but it was fun. Me, my crew, pizza, rose wine, some Guinness and a bright moon. We're lighting an even larger pile tonight once the winds calm.

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Another cold night/morning in store for us...for the next 3 mornings. Low 30's. Winds will be up too, negating any thermal inversion that usually protects my high mountain site. Bottom line is, this weather is normal, what we've experienced all winter was not and we normally do not have leaves exposed this early in the year. Just finished mowing between and under the rows in the lowest part of the vineyard. Hope it helps.

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Got down to 33F in the lower vineyard this morning. But tonights the night. Freeze warning for our area, with a low forecasted at 32F and we are usually a few degrees colder than the forecast. Hopefully the winds will die down this evening making it safe to light a huge prunings pile just outside the lowest part of the vineyard. Thinking that by morning this fire will not be punching a hot hole in the sky but adding just enough protecting warmth above the vines. Have to be extremely careful as fires are burning all up and down the east coast in these dry conditions.

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We dodged the frost of last week. Coldest morning marked at 32F. About 2 more weeks to worry. Shoot thinning starts today in CF and Merlot. Will leave 3 or 4 shoots per cane, or hopefully by harvest, 3 to 4 pounds per vine, around 2 tons an acre. Spray season starts next week post thinning.

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It's been a while...

The last snow was only above 2600 feet. Below, all was green with leaves and above, white tipped mountain tops, weird looking. We've made 2 trips through all the varieties except CS shoot thinning. Currently making our first pass through the CS. All looks good. Weather is becoming more normal, some rainy days and some sunny days,70's/80's during the day and 50's/60's at night. Shoots are anywhere from 2 inches - CS, to 10 inches - everything else. Once the soils warm up a bit more everything will explode with growth.

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Bloom started here on May 16. 4th and 5th leaf Cabernet Franc are now in full bloom, about 2 weeks ahead of normal. '96 planting of Cabernet Franc is about 50%. Merlot also around 50%. Applied critical Botrytis bloom spray over the weekend...now 3 days of rain. Strange and cool year so far. My hottest spray day was way back in March. Serenaded by a whip-poor-will early yesterday morning.

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4th and 5th leaf Cabernet Sauvignon are in full bloom, again, about 2 weeks early. 18th leaf Sauvignon Blanc is at 30% and 17th leaf Cabernet Sauvignon is still at pre-bloom. Unfortunately we're having a rainy time of it...3 inches so far this week.

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I know...it's been a while. Pretty nice stretch of weather coming: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.ph ... &map.y=109

Sunny, warm to hot during the day and cool nights with low humidity. This is similar to 2009, a wonderful year to work in the vineyard and make wine in Virginia. Fruit set went well and is behind us now. Hedging has begun and we are still tucking, tying, weeding, spraying and mowing. Throw in leaf pulling in a week or so and it's called June. "The" month in Virginia viticulture to be on top of things.

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