The fifth story from Miriah Falce, Enologist at Cairdeas Winery in the Lake Chelan AVA.
Well, it sure feels like we went from 80’s to 108 real quick! So much growth has happened in the vineyard this month and in the winery we reached the point of, “harvest is coming soon it’s time to prep!” I celebrated my 28th/first birthday in Lake Chelan, as well as my first anniversary at Cairdeas! It really was a time of recognizing how much growth and accomplishment has happened and truly how much can happen in just 365 days!
At the very beginning of the month, we had reached full bloom and fruit set occurred in all of our estate varietals. Successful pollination resulted in the very first tiny berries.
There are 3 stages to berry growth:
Stage I is a period of rapid growth and begins at fruit set. The berries (as pictured above) are firm and green, and grow quickly through cell division, while also accumulating organic acids like tartaric and malic. Malic acid and malolactic fermentation is a lesson for upcoming months after harvest!
Stage II is lag phase, where we currently are! You can see in the photos below how quickly the berries have grown just this month, from tiny new berries to pea sized to now approximately half their harvest size. During lag, berry growth slows/pauses and acids and tannins are reaching their highest level. Although the berries are not increasing in size, the seeds are quickly growing. When I snapped a couple berries in half, the seeds were taking up most of the inner space.
Stage III begins with verasion, when the berries change color and soften, and is another period of rapid growth. Acids have accumulated to their highest levels so now it’s time for color, glucose/fructose, and flavor compounds to increase. We are anxiously awaiting this period as it’s an indicator that grapes are finishing their ripening cycle and harvest is just around the corner.
During July we also scrambled to beat the heat and finish leaf stripping. Leaf stripping is done in our white varietals on the morning sun side to give them sun, but also to acclimate the fruit. By acclimating the fruit early and before the big heat, they are able to withstand scorching temps better and lower their risk of heat stress, sunburn and subsequent problems. Because that side gets shaded by the canopy around noon, we don’t strip the other side that sees much longer sun. It also helps during harvest to have the fruiting zone clear and accessible. In the photo below you can see on the left that we have just begun to leaf strip compared to the vine next to it.
I must admit… my favorite part of this month has been being able to paddleboard before work, go for afternoon swims, and boating with friends because it’s so hot in the vineyards!
Lastly, as I’ve mentioned in the past few articles, we’ve been tracking growing degree days and have been on par with the cooler year of 2011. We’ve finally surpassed that with July 29, 2022 being 1346 GDD; 2021 at 2012 GDD; and 2011 at 1066 GDD. However, there’s discussion that growing degree days shouldn’t accumulate after 95 degrees since after that the plants go into survival mode and shut down ripening in order to focus on preservation. Keep in mind that the micro climate inside the canopy is also much more humid and warmer than the area outside because the plants are transpiring. That is why the heat dome last year (3 weeks of 118 degree days) that occurred during the Stage I period of rapid growth was so detrimental. Grapes weren’t able to ripen at their key time and the plant was just trying to survive. This time, the heat happened much later and for a shorter period of time so we didn’t see quite the same dramatic effect, maybe just a slight delay in ripening for a few days. The GDD calculator does continue to count those days even though they might be above a ripening threshold. If you’ve followed previous months where I have included the GDD graph, you can see on the current one where the temperature shift occurred.
We haven’t had too much going on this month. We’ve done some bottling prep which will occur in early August, and since we just chilled our white wine for a few weeks (cold stabilizing) it was time to warm them back up and rack the clean wine off any remaining sediment. We got all of our harvest supplies ordered and received so when the time comes we’re ready to roll.
While I finished my university degree I worked at a VA hospital on various chemistry, hematology, microbiology, and blood bank benches in the lab and have quality control and testing standards strictly engrained in my head which has carried through my work today.
Before coming to Cairdeas I ran the wine lab at a 1.3 million gallon facility- for my wine laboratory career, I’ve always done majority of tests manually by hand or with a small spectrophotometer for enzymatic testing like malic acid and glucose/fructose. Cairdeas decided to take the plunge and upgrade to an automatic analyzer called the Spica, for those in the industry it’s like a new Y15, that runs enzymatic and colorimetric analysis for literally everything possible. Based on my lab history, I’ll be running the analyzer and am also opening a lab for the Lake Chelan valley which I’m super excited about. This allows me to focus and spend more time on the winemaking, which is my ultimate goal, while upgrading the efficiency of our numbers. While winemaking is very much an art form, there are certain parameters for certain analytes that are extremely important and I’m excited to be able to help us and others.
Speaking of focusing on winemaking, last harvest I got to begin my own dream project (am I a winemaker??) which has been absolutely amazing. It included three unique varietals that I got to crush, create a protocol for, and work through harvest into barrels of my choice where they have been aging since (I’ve mentioned learning to taste different barrels and oak profiles and learning personal preferences). While you’re not typically supposed to open barrels much, I haven’t been able to help myself and I go in every so often to see how they’re doing. This is my first time with these varietals and I think it’s important to also gauge how they taste throughout the process. They’ve come a long way and I’m so proud of them. I’m super excited to be adding an incredibly uncommon white to the lineup this upcoming vintage and keep honing my dreams and skills. Stay tuned next year… 😉
That’s a wrap on July! Writing it all out I guess I was busier than I thought!
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