It’s the time of year when grape growers wait with baited breath. They are waiting to see what Mother Nature throws at them. But more specifically, they are waiting to see what weather Mother Nature throws at their vineyards and the grapes growing there.
Mike Gould—vineyard owner, manager, laborer, custodian, and jack-of-all-trades—at Old Folsom Vineyard is nervously optimistic. No wine growers want to get cocky and believe how wonderful their vines are looking, especially no growers in regions like the Black Hills. It only takes one destructive weather event to change a nearly-perfect vintage to a nearly-nothing vintage. However, so far, Mother Nature has been mostly kind.
Gould spends time nearly every day in his vineyard watching the vines grow and doing what he can to foster such growth. This year, early spring weather began to clear into a warm season. Bud break developed and the vines started to flower. The process is just like it sounds, flowers form on the vines. The flowers are then pollinated and tiny berries form, called fruit set. Inside, small seeds are protected by the outer berry. Of course, sun is needed for continued growth of the grapes so they can go through the next process, called veraison, when the grapes begin to change color; this is also when sugar levels increase and acid levels decrease. However, the biggest issue Gould’s grapes are facing now is heat…too much of it.
There is actually too much of a good thing when it comes to sunshine. After the temperatures hit 90 degrees, the grapes can begin to shut down. It is too hot for any of the processes to continue to make the grapes grow. The Black Hills forecast showing 90-plus degrees for over seven days straight, including multiple days hitting 100 degrees, doesn’t help the grapes grow, but instead, slows the wonderful development that had made Gould so hopeful.
Keep in mind, this heat isn’t destructive to the grapes, and it won’t hurt a vintage year like extra-large hail or too-strong winds, but it is just enough to remind Gould Mother Nature is ultimately in charge, no matter what he does to encourage the progress of his beautiful berries.
But for now, Mike Gould will smile confidently as he maintains his grapes, knowing that a wonderful vintage is taking shape, a vintage that has the potential to make more amazing wines from his local fruit for Firehouse Wine Cellars.