What is in this article?:
- Temecula Valley, Calif., wine grape growers are successfully harvesting a crop of promising wine quality amid prospects of improved grape prices.
- The region has rebounded from the devastation of Pierce’s disease in the late 1990s, and vineyards are thriving.
Vineyard consultant Ben Drake with Primitivo vines in Fosanoa Vineyards.
High quality, low yield
The 8.5-acre vineyard is a blend of older, cane- and head-pruned vines with quite a bit of California’s traditional two-wire trellis, intermixed with newer plantings tended with vertical shoot pruning, Hart said. With this year’s crop, “We’re getting great color in the reds and good acids and pH numbers, but most of the varieties seem to be coming in a little bit short on tonnage this year. It seems to be a classic combination of high quality and low yield. It’s one of those things that doesn’t always work, but it seems to have worked this year.”
During the Pierce’s disease crisis, Hart lost nearly 40 percent of his vineyard. One block of Barbera variety seemed much loved by the glassy-winged sharpshooter. The GWSS and Pierce’s disease now are now under control throughout the Temecula Valley, thanks in part to diligent monitoring and proactive vineyard management, said University of California, Riverside, Extension entomologist Nick Toscano, who manages the tracking and reporting program available at his website, www.bugdr.ucr.edu.
The good news for Hart is that the young replacement vines of a Barbera clone farmed for him by longtime grower/vineyard manager Ben Drake are producing “beautiful fruit” off the vines’ third crop, Hart said. “The Barbera that came in this year I thought was truly exceptional. I’ve never seen such intense color or such great flavor in Barbera.”
Drake sells to a wide variety of small and large growers/wineries across the region. Among those he manages are the vineyards for Europoa Village, one of the Temecula Valley’s newer wineries — the first plantings were in 2006 — that ultimately will include 40 acres with varietals from the Italian, Spanish and French traditions, including Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Barbera and Tempranillo.
Drake often is involved from startup in vineyard site grading and varietal selections. Among his many tools are iPhone applications like SunSeeker3D Augmented Reality Viewer that uses GPS and magnometer readings to find optimal planting locations, and Soilweb for iPhone from the California Soil Resource Lab that uploads USDA-NRCS digital soil survey data directly to your location. These, along with multiple Adcon weather stations throughout the vineyards to monitor temperature and soil moisture conditions help him establish the baseline when new vineyards are planted, and onward through the years to track and document the expensive water needs of vines and weather changes that impact growth. The instantaneous radio-transmitted information uploads to his phone or office computer, helping save big dollars in production costs.