This is the big fruit-dropping pass at the beginning of veraison. You can see there’s some fruit on the ground, but you never want to pay attention to that, because you’ll start freaking out! You want to pay attention to the architecture of the vine and what’s left. In our trellis system, we run two canes horizontally, so some fruit can be hiding in the middle of the vine. What we want is for each cluster to have its own zip code. If you have clusters next to each other, it’s a recipe for mold and mildew. You need airflow and a little sunlight. What I generally want is to be able to kneel down and look through the vine and see one cluster in its own space when I look all the way through.
Beyond preventing mold and mildew, we’re also thinning the fruit to control crop load and even ripening. In this block we’re going to be looking for 28-30 clusters per vine. It’s impractical to count them all—we’re going more by look and feel. I’ve done 8 demo vines here to support my instructions to the crew.
All in all, we’re not doing major adjustments at this point—just reducing the crop 20-30 percent. We’re shooting for 3 tones per acre in this vineyard. It’s a healthy vineyard, the vines are pretty vigorous, and the roots go down deep. This year we set a good crop and we don’t have a lot of shatter, so the vines are capable of handling a decent-size crop.
There’s a conventional wisdom that says: the lower the crop, the better the wine. That’s somewhat true, but moreover you want a balanced crop. For example, if you had a super devigorated vineyard and your canopy only grew to the second wire; you’re in a cold spot on the coast; you don’t get a lot of sunlight; or you set a poor crop—there are some vineyards that really only want to do two 2 tons per acre. Kanzler Vineyard, when left to its own devices, will probably ripen 4 tons per acre. And we’ve pushed it that hard in the past, because you want a balanced vine. If you just say, “I want 2.5 tons per acre, no matter what, because that’s the rule,” and you try to do that on a block like this one at Kanzler, I think you’d ripen too quickly. And the plant would start throwing more vegetative material, and sending out laterals (a shoot off of a shoot). In that case, aiming for a low yield can actually hurt fruit quality.
Balance in the vine, knowing the site well, and of course flavor, are more important quality measures than yield alone.
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