Unusually favorable weather this summer, following a cold, wet spring, has left Jim Verhey and a number of other Napa County grape growers feeling good about the wine-making prospects, if not the size, of this year’s crop.

“Everyone I talked with at the end of August was comfortable with the way the whites have come along, and are very optimistic about the reds,” says grower Verhey, CEO of Premiere Viticultural Services in Napa, Calif. “But, the consensus was that quantity is definitely down this year,” he told GrapeLine, an e-newsletter distributed by Western Farm Press and sponsored online by Chemtura AgroSolutions.

“We were very nervous early in the year from all the rain at bloom, and had an extremely difficult time getting control of the vines after bloom because of all the water in the soil. But, thanks to the excellent weather we’ve had since mid-June — daytime temperatures in the high 70s to mid-80s and nights cooling to the mid- to low 50s, and no heat spikes — we’ve been able to get the vines back in balance. They’re motoring right along; in fact, one of my friends who has a modest size but high-end winery, is very enthusiastic about the whites because of the summer weather. If it stays this way, the quality of our grapes will be very, very good again, like last year.”

Crop loads at the end of August reflect the wide variation in shatter this year, which ranged from moderate to significant, due to adverse weather during bloom, Verhey notes.

“If your vines went through bloom during the really cold rainstorms in late May and early June, you might have really been nailed.”

You can read more about what Verhey had to say about their 2011 grape crops by visiting back issues of GrapeLine at http://subscribe.westernfarmpress.com/subscribe.cfm?tc=NNWEB where you can also subscribe to future, exclusive in depth issues. Mailed twice monthly through September, the e-newsletter is sponsored by Chemtura AgroSolutions.

Madera County raisin grower battles botrytis

Madera County, Calif., grower Philip Hagopian told GrapeLine he had crews walking his Thompson seedless vineyards dusting with sulfur or clipping off bunches trying to head off botrytis ahead of harvest.

Hagopian’s flood-irrigated vineyards include 250 acres of Thompsons, which he grows for raisins, as well as small blocks of wine grapes — Black Muscat and Riesling — and Flame Seedless and Red Globe table grapes.

Earlier in the season, about a third of Hagopian’s Thompson acreage suffered heavy pressure from powdery mildew in parts of three of his four raisin grape blocks. Cracks or splits in the infected berries left the grapes vulnerable to entry of the botrytisorganisms.

Hagopian first noticed botrytis decay in his grapes at mid-August, particularly in areas along pipelines and at row ends where water accumulates.

“We’ve been checking the areas where we had problems with powdery mildew for any signs of rot,” he says. “We’re not finding too much, but where we do, we want to get it out.

“Mildew overwintered in some of our fields. That, coupled with weather conditions conducive to growth of mildew, made it really tough to control the disease in those areas,” he told GrapeLine.

You can read more about what Hapogian had to say about his 2011 crop by visiting back issues of GrapeLine at http://subscribe.westernfarmpress.com/subscribe.cfm?tc=NNWEB where you can also subscribe to future, exclusive in depth issues. Mailed twice monthly through September, the e-newsletter is sponsored by Chemtura AgroSolutions.