Enjoy the fifth story from Brittany Komm, Senior Viticulturist for Precept Wine.

…the grapes are doing their own thing.

The days are getting shorter, the crews are starting later, the nights are getting cooler, and the black widows have moved into my office (if you follow me on Instagram, you see my yearly battle with these nasty spiders). This must mean it’s August and harvest is a couple of weeks out…Psych! We could only wish. While all the telltale signs of fall and harvest are hanging in the air, the grapes are doing their own thing. Typically, we start harvesting mid-August for our sparkling programs (I remember when we were one of just a handful of growers that grew wine grapes for sparkling), with either Pinot Noir from our Canyon Vineyard Ranch or Chardonnay from Willow Crest Estate Vineyard in the heart of the Yakima Valley AVA. By August 1, the Pinot Noir was less than 5 percent through veraison while the Chardonnay hadn’t even started to soften yet.

Our mechanics were hard at work, welding as needed and maintaining grape trailers and gondolas. Each trailer was also inspected to check the integrity of the tires, and to make sure all lights were functioning. All three of the #sexybeasts (what we jokingly call our Pellenc harvesters) were getting forensically checked out. So much work goes on behind the scenes to make sure harvest runs smoothly. As much as we like to talk about the vineyards, our mechanics cannot be overlooked! They keep all our tractors, trucks, sprayers, and other implements up and running. These men and women are a very critical part of the vineyard team. Without them, we may not be able to supply the clean grapes we strive to grow and provide!

Meanwhile in the vineyards, the crews were fully immersed in dropping fruit. Many of our blocks were carrying more than 8 tons per acre. For white varieties–depending upon program and location–we typically target 6 tons per acre. For red varieties, we are looking for 4 tons per acre for higher-end programs and 6 tons per acre for production programs. These target tons are specific to our Yakima Valley and Horse Heaven Hills vineyards. For the Walla Walla Valley Vineyard, farmed exclusively for high end wines, we aim for under 4 tons per acre.

Yield estimates continued; Emily, Arturo, Trini, Eddie and I run around behind the crew, counting blocks after they have gone through and dropped fruit. I am conducting whole vine estimates, as yield estimates seem to be a very hot topic this year. I have collected more data this year than I have in the last 5 years combined!

Mildew flares are challenging growers statewide in their vineyards; we see it as well. More and more area growers are openly discussing this issue this year. Winemakers might even reject blocks of fruit due to mildew for this vintage. I can personally tell you the mildew this year is a concern, one that’s worn my nails down (from my biting!) and has my field woman scratching her head. After one month of mitigation, I may finally have a handle on it. I cannot stress enough to fellow growers: Use water-sensitive paper and check your sprayers outputs! All it takes is just one errant fan to cause a huge a problem. Trust me.

I finally saw veraison at our Skyfall vineyard on August 1 in Dolcetto, what a way to kick of Washington Wine month! Walla Walla followed on August 19 with Chardonnay. Most of these sightings were almost three weeks behind the 2021 vintage. We also pulled our first set of maturity samples for both our sparkling programs and early still wine programs; these confirmed what veraison data was telling us.

So as August wraps up, I am enjoying my first ever Labor Day weekend off. Blocks are still hanging and basking in the August sunlight as they ripen at their own pace. I have a strong feeling that once we start picking (second week of September, presumed time frame at this time) that we won’t stop. My prediction is: Everything will ripen at once and it will be nothing but pure (organized) harvest chaos! It’s what we all live for each year!

By the time this is published, some growers will already be picking; I wish everyone a happy, safe, and bountiful harvest!

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