Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
A Question of Balance
As we prepare for harvest in the vineyard, we are trying to achieve balance in our vines. Vine balance occurs when a vine has reached the optimal leaf canopy size to ripen the fruit it carries. Each season contributes its own unique influence on vine balance. Vineyard design, which includes row orientation, type of trellis system, and spacing decisions, as well as soil types and climate, all influence the potential balance of the vine.
During the early part of the 2005 growing season, our vineyards received an unusual amount of rainfall. Because of this, we are adjusting the canopy by trimming to achieve optimal canopy size, thus balancing the crop with the canopy. There is little to be done when the crop is light, such as in 2004. With this year’s larger crop, the effort is intense to determine and maintain balanced vines in each block of each vineyard.
The beginning of the fruit maturation period happens when the young seeds in the berry become hard. After this hardening occurs, the vine turns its full attention to the process of ripening the seed in order to fulfill its reproductive mission. As the seed ripens it pulls the nutrition to the berry, which leads to the accumulation of sugars and flavors. So, at the time when hard-seed occurs, we gather sample clusters and weigh them to determine the crop size. We then count the number of clusters on the vines and estimates are made of the predicted yield from a vineyard block. This numeric approach is married with the close inspection of vineyard blocks to gauge the appropriate quantity of fruit which will maintain a balanced vine.
As we inspect all the blocks to see which clusters the vines favor, veraison is occurring in our vineyards, turning the berries from green to red to black. We look for uniformity from shoot to shoot, from vine to vine, and from block to block.We want to encourage the vines to fully ripen the fruit with a lower concentration of sugar. This only can occur in a balanced vineyard. And so, we continue walking the blocks, constantly adjusting these relationships to achieve the balance we think is best for high quality wines.
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