Butterdragon Hill is about 80% through veraison -- the process where the grapes turn from green to purple. (8/22/11)

Baconbrook is about 50% complete. (8/22/11)

Here are some pics of my walk at Butterdragon a few days ago.  Cluster size is below normal on all the Cabernet Sauvignon but clones 7 and 15 seem less affected than clone 337.  The only color I saw was in clone 15.  Our 3 rows of Merlot seem less affected by the spring shatter.  The Merlot had probably mostly completed flower by the time of spring rains.

  It appears that, like so many other Northern California vineyards this year, we’re going to have a smaller than usual crop.  Late rains and cooler temperatures that struck during flower caused shatter and reduced the number of clusters that are maturing and the amount of fruit set.  Clusters that are there seem to be looser and have smaller berries.  We expect Butterdragon to be down about 15% and Baconbrook by as much as 25%.

Note that this is not yet a reflection on the quality of the vintage, and in fact, as grape growers who sell to other wineries, it’s good for that market — but expect less wine from us for the 2011 vintage.

Several folks have asked how our vineyards have faired after the wet, cool spring.  Below is the Client Newsletter sent by Barbour Vineyards, the vineyard management team that farms Butterdragon Hill.  My personal experience was when I walked the vineyards last week, there seemed to be a lot less fruit than I recall from previous years.

Barbour Vineyards

Q2 2011

Client Newsletter

The growing season is in full swing.  Luckily, the weather warmed up and all clients, including those on the mountains, will be through bloom by the end of June.

We now have some insight into crop yields for 2011.  We’ve seen light to moderate shatter in most of the valley and the impact appears to be dependent on when the vineyard was going through bloom during the late-May/early-June rains.  The rain caused caps to stick rather than going through flowering, which prevented berries from forming.  So, the blocks that bloomed earliest have good set with less shatter.  The blocks that were in mid-bloom during the rain experienced the most impact.  With the weather now dry [ed: this newsletter was written before this week’s rainy day], vineyards currently going through bloom also have less shatter. More details below in the Growing Season Update article…..

Bottom line is we should expect yields lighter than usual this year in general.

2011 Growing Season Update

In addition to the news on potentially poor set mentioned in the article above, below are additional observations for the season:

Are We Behind?   It looks as though we are currently running two weeks behind normal which is slightly better than the 2010 season.  Should the normal temperatures continue, we could easily catch up.

Fruit Set Certain varieties such as Malbec and Petit Verdot are experiencing poor set.  Our observations indicate Petit Verdot has been perhaps hardest hit. Cabernet Sauvignon seems to be faring a little better, and we will have a more complete understanding of yields by mid-July.

Spray Schedules Because the onset of summer was delayed, we are anticipating an extension to the spray season.  The mild temperatures during May to mid-June, combined with high humidity increased the mildew danger.  A few weeks ago, we tightened our spray schedule for powdery mildew control.  There was a period of several weeks where we were unable to get into vineyards due to rain and some minor infections were noted in the foliage.  In those vineyards, treatment was successfully completed.  Although we are making every effort to keep costs down, please note an additional pass was/or may be required to ensure mildew is in control.

Vigorous Canopy Growth For the third year in a row, late rains left us with abundant foliar growth.  This will likely result in additional canopy manipulation to keep vines open for light penetration and air movement – crucial for fruit ripening and development as well as controlling fungal disease.

What’s Happening in Your Vineyard?

The following activities will be happening in your vineyard for the next several weeks:


Again, depending on weather, we may need to make more than one pass over the coming months to complete each one of those tasks.

A LOOK AHEAD…..The forecast is for average summer temperatures going forward.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed this becomes reality.


We’ve got some pretty good growth despite the cool, rainy spring.  Flower clusters are out but seem to be fewer than normal. Rain is forecast for much of this week which is not good for these delicate flower clusters and ultimately, crop size. Cross your fingers and hope for sun.

Here’s a video of our sister-in-law, the beekeeper, providing the secret ingredient for great pizza crust.  If I had her job, I would only be slightly less scared than if I were a rattlesnake herder.

Starting to see the first development of flowers…

website securityContact Us
3060 White Sulphur Springs Rd
St Helena, CA 94574
t: (707) 200-3510
  • RSS
  • Mailing List
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • NetworkedBlogs
  • YouTube