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Viticulture Association of the Santa Cruz Mountains

  Harvest I

Map with permission of VinMaps



Labor Day brought in the grapes this year. After yet another weather phenomenon, this time 3 days of 100+ degrees F temperatures, the grapes rushed to finish. 

Pinot Noir started off the picking this year, well ahead of the Chardonnay.  Early numbers looked good. This was definitely a year to monitor the water in the vineyard. Interestingly, two vineyards that I am aware of that are completely non-irrigated came through the heat with little damage. For the irrigated vineyards the only defense was to turn that water on. Many grapes have come in with superb numbers, excellent seed maturity, and happy winemakers. Some growers had issues with dehydration, high Brix, and immature

flavors. In some cases, these problems can be addressed with proper water management late in the season. Look to next year for a meeting focusing on this vital topic. As much work as it is to get the grapes in, it sure feels good to be looking at the end of September with this much of the harvest behind us.

Of course there are still many varieties left to go, and overall quality is looking absolutely suburb. Bon appetit!

Besides a fabulous harvest, Santa Cruz Mountain winegrape growers have a lot to be proud of this season. The first ever display by the Viticulture Association of  the Santa Cruz Mountains went up this year at the Santa Cruz County Fair.  Special thanks to Mary Lindsay, Judy and Jim Schultze, Barbara and Peter Woodruff, and Ted Remde for their time and creativity in actually creating and putting up the display and taking it down again.

Thank you also to the volunteers who staffed the booth off and on throughout the Fair. I heard many positive comments from fairgoers, many of whom have little understanding of our appellation. If you have any suggestions or want to be part of the exhibit planning next year, please let us know. We also got a beautiful, permanent vineyard photo display board that we can use in many public events to let people know about our unique and marvelous appellation. Special thanks to Patty Hinz Imagery for her devotion and attention to detail in producing these stunning pieces.

Another major accomplishment is the establishment of the VASCM winegrape Exchange Ė a simple and effective way to advertise your grapes or your need for grapes to the people who want to know. Thanks to Mary Lindsay and Ed Muns for their innovation on this one!  Be sure and check out our new website as well, at www.vascm.org. Maybe the Viticulture Association has arrived in the new millennium after all.

We have also enjoyed bi-monthly meetings all year that are designed to relate to the season and the work at hand. Our next meeting will focus on post-harvest vine nutrition. The speaker will be Pete Christensen, retired UC researcher, educator and well known and respected expert in this field.  Please come prepared with your vine nutrition and field sampling questions.  Ted Remde arranged for this very special presentation and we are grateful for his efforts.

Speaking of post harvest, remember our work is not quite finished.  Picking those pesky grapes is just a part of the miraculous cycle of the vine and itís fruit formation. Donít miss this important opportunity to replenish depleted nutrients in the vine and supply much needed water before the vines go dormant. Just as some people need a good snack before a long sleep, so the vines need to get their fill before settling down for a long, well deserved winterís nap. During the weeks following harvest the roots of the vine are poised to uptake nutrients and assimilate them into storage in preparation for next spring. This is an incredible opportunity to feed your vines and ensure a healthy start next year. Donít miss it. Review your spring petiole samples or soil samples to determine what your vines need. Most vines need the major supplements, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, as well as a dose of micronutrients to get them off to a good start next year. Of course you donít want to overdo the Nitrogen, or any of the nutrients, but in most cases it is vital to replenish reserves depleted during this yearís fruit production.

Also consider putting in a fall cover crop.  Cover crops will hold the soil, improve organic matter, and help control erosion.  Certain seeds, like bell beans, fava beans, or the fancier peas, vetch, and annual clovers, all produce nitrogen in the soil as well as provide other benefits like good homes for beneficial microorganisms. In some cases, growers can meet or nearly meet their nitrogen needs solely through the use of these cover crops. It is important to get your cover crops in before the big rains start or it gets too cold. This will help control potential damage from the later, heavier rains as well as allow for germination. Many cover crops require the warm fall soils in order to come up.  If you are late (say late November or December) in getting seed in you can still benefit from a cold germinating seed like barley. Barley will not produce nitrogen, but it will hold the soil and add organic matter. Bell beans may still come up at this late date, just not as well, and they wonít grow as big. There are a million opinions regarding cover crops, but on one thing we can all agree. Cover crops are good for the soil and good for the vines. Plant them.

By the way, if you are enjoying and benefiting from the regular meetings, newsletter, web exchange, etc., please be sure to renew your dues. Some members are way behind and taking a free ride. Staff time is 100% volunteer but there are still expenses like this newsletter that need to be paid. Please support your organization as you reap the benefits of membership. If youíve let your dues fall behind please update at the next meeting. Thank you!

So, after youíve fed and watered your vines, and covered their soil with a nice warm cover crop blanket, and paid your local Viticulture Association annual dues, it is indeed, time to take a break.  Thatís the great part of being a grower.  Now is the time to try some of that wine that comes from all this work. Be sure and have the winery you work with provide you with some samples so that you can try the fruits of your labor as well as work together toward an even finer product next year.

Enjoy and congratulations on a fabulous season!  Salud!

- Prudy Foxx
President, Viticulture Association of the Santa Cruz Mountains

(Vine Talk column, October 2004)

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