Both July and August have fluctuated between warm and hot, similar to July and August 2017. If the current temperatures continue, I believe August 2018 will be warmer than last year. This year’s temperatures were warmer than April, May and June 2017, and our heat units (2,204) through August 13 are higher than both 2017 and 2016 but less than in 2015.
What all this means is difficult to say. We are in veraison around the vineyard. The Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc reached full veraison on August 10 and the Syrah is just now in full veraison. All other varieties are getting close. These dates put the vineyard about five days ahead of 2017.
The warm weather is expected to continue, therefore I would guess Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc will be ready to harvest early September or earlier. In general, I believe we will be about a week earlier than in 2017.
We are now working on adjusting the crop loads. We have gone through most of the whites and are beginning the Merlot, then on to the Syrah. Cluster weights seem larger than in 2017, but still slightly lighter than normal. So, we will be leaving slightly higher cluster counts than normal.
With the warm weather this year I have reduced the amount of leaf removal that we normally do. In particular we did very little leaf removal in the Cabernet Sauvignon; we emoved a few laterals on the morning side of the vines coupled with an additional cordon suckering. I believe a lower level of leaf removal will improve the wine quality by reducing heat stress.
In general, I am very pleased with the look of the vineyard. The canopies are in good condition, veraison is uniform and we have no real problems to address. It’s been a fast, but good year.