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Let’s talk bad news first. Given was the pandemic with new variants and greater contagion. Moving on to Andis Wines, let’s focus on grape farming and wine making. While 2021 started with normal rainfall, it soon became apparent very early in the growing season that we would see drought conditions, which adversely affected the grapes. First, flowering and fruit set was drawn out over several weeks compared to the normal time frame of about a week. Later in July and early August during the time we would see veraison occurring over a week or so, it too was drawn out to several weeks. Grapes and clusters that are normally somewhat uniform were not. Ripe berries were next to unripe berries, mature clusters were next to clusters that barely went through veraison. As a result, maturity monitoring and sampling was difficult, and a lot of extra time was spent in the vineyards. Moreover, there were a couple of significant heat waves. With the heat and lack of water, crop load was reduced with many vineyards showing a 50% reduction.
The heat and dry conditions had us starting harvest about a week to 10 days earlier than normal, with our first pick of our estate Sauvignon blanc on August 9th. Other varieties started to show early elevated sugar levels giving us major concern. Then there was more bad news. On August 14th, the Caldor fires started and within two days had exploded to over 60,000 acres in the Sierras and Foothills. While we were put on evacuation notice, our vineyards were fortunate to not be affected – no evacuation, and thankfully, no smoke taint. Unfortunately, many of our friends and growers were affected with fire and/or smoke damage to their grapes, and we were unable to harvest several vineyards. To help our 2021 harvest, we ended up buying fruit from several other regions including Clarksburg in the delta, Linden Hills east of Lodi, and the Murphy area. Once we were through the worst of the fire and the heat of late August and early September, temperatures cooled, and our harvest pace, thankfully, slowed down to normal.
So, with drought, fires, heat waves, and a smaller crop load, you are probably wondering where the good news is! Through all of that, we were rewarded with some very beautiful wines. The white wines are bright with great structure and depth. The reds are deep in color and aromatic, rich in character, have complexity and are well structured. Yes, despite the struggles of 2021, the results turned out with an abundance of good news! Cheers!
Janis Akuna - Founder
Mark Fowler - Winemaker
When visiting Andis Wines, do you notice the white boxes sitting on poles positioned throughout the vineyards? Part of our sustainability program involves using birds of prey to control the rodent population.
As you walk through the vineyards, you will notice small holes in the ground, typically caused by gophers and voles. Voles will eat roots and bark and can be harmful to grape vines, and controlling their populating is critical as a pair can produce 100 baby voles in a year.
As you view the Andis Estate Vineyard, you will see owl boxes, those white boxes perched on tall poles. Owls will find these boxes, create a nest, usually in winter and early spring, and have their young. All four boxes on the property have been used. A family of owls can hunt as much as 3,000 moles a year. By May, the baby owls are gone, and the boxes remain empty until the following year. Eating so many voles, gophers, and even rabbits create quite a mess with bones stacking up, so we must clean the boxes out after harvest in preparation for the next season.
Janis Akuna, Vintner
Grapevine flowering arrives in late spring, two months or so after bud break. Grapevine flowers are not the most dramatic or beautiful, but they do have a wonderful fragrance. Grape flowers need average daily temperatures between 59-68 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is during this stage of a grape’s lifecycle that pollination and fertilization occur. For fertilization to occur, grape flowers do not need bees for pollination. Grapevines have what is called a perfect flower, meaning they are self-pollinating flowers.
There is a window when the flowrs are in full bloom. It is at this point that they are extremely vulnerable. Any adverse climatic condition can mean losing the potential crop. Rain, wind or cold tempratures can result in shatter. The term shatter means the cluster grows without the idea tight shape, resulting in grape berries differing in size or even missing all together. While this variation does not affect the quality of the grapes, it definitely affect their quantity.
Fruit set follows bloom immediately. Fruit set is defined as the time when fertilized flowers develop into a grape. Once the fruit set is done, we start to get a good idea of our crop for the season. Right now, we are looking good.
It must be Spring! Just look at the bright yellow fields full of mustard blooms in the vineyard. While the weather may still seem winter-like, Mother Nature is telling us otherwise.
The Andis Vineyards have never looked so beautiful with the ground cover throughout. As mentioned in my previous blog, ground cover or cover crops can be beneficial in replacing nutrients. But what about mustard plants? While mustard plants do not return vine nutrients back to the soil, they do provide biofumigation, which suppresses various soil pathogens.
Typically mustard plants are used in vineyards to suppress nematodes, a microscopic worm that infects vine roots. Nematode infection will ultimately lead to low grape production and severe vine damage. Mustard plants produce a biofumigant called glucosinolate that deters damaging nematodes.
Later in Spring, the cover crops are turned giving beneficial mulch to the soils.
So come visit us at Andis Wines and enjoy the beautiful view of our yellow vineyards while you can!
Watch a short video of our wine maker, Mark Fowler discuss cover crops in the vineyard - COVER CROP VIDEO