Only hand labor is used at harvest due to grape brittleness and close proximity to the ground.

Finding good, reliable farm labor for harvest is difficult, Erickson says.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the family tried a mechanized harvester with disastrous results.

“The machine almost destroyed the field. It tore up the vines and berms.”

Vineyard spacing for Muscat is 11-by-6 feet with 661 vines per acre. Many newer Muscat plantings in California are planted at 10-by-5 feet spacing.

Erickson’s Muscats are grown from rootings — not grafts.

Soils on the Erickson farm are mostly heavy clay which the Muscat plant prefers. Muscats respond favorably to high nitrogen levels. Plants receive up to 125 units of N through composted materials plus foliar applied and injected N.

The most serious disease problem is powdery mildew. This is largely the fallout of a thicker plant canopy and reducing wind flow and higher humidity. Shorter-than-usual intervals of fungicide and sulfur applications are common.

Worms can also threaten a Muscat crop.

According to the UC IPM website, “first through the early fourth instar larvae feed on the lower leaf surface leaving only veins and upper cuticle which gives a whitish paper-like appearance. Late fourth and all fifth-stage larvae skeletonize the leaves and leave only larger veins.

Eventually the entire leaf turns brown.

Abundant larvae numbers can defoliate vines by July. With severe defoliation, the larvae will feed on grape clusters resulting in bunch rot. Defoliation can also result in sunburned fruit and quality loss.”

“If skeletonizers are in your area they will go after Muscats,” Erickson said. “We haven’t had an outbreak in years but they will attack the Muscats hard.”

Erickson has no plans to increase his Muscat acreage. He believes California may be overplanted in the grape.

“Yet, we could have another White Zin situation. We all thought White Zin’s popularity was a fad and wouldn’t continue. White Zin has done very well for a long time.”

Time will tell.

(For more on Moscata, see: Moscato wine trend shows tremendous growth)

cblake@farmpress.com