The 4.5 acres of Chardonnay vines in the Jones Family Vineyard at Windsor, Calif., were just beginning to leaf out the first of week of April. That was seven to 10 days after bud break, about the usual time, says Ron Jones.
This follows an unusually wet March, when the vineyard received at least 12 inches of rain. For much of the winter, the weather had been drier than normal. Despite the current favorable soil moisture levels, and assuming normal spring and summer weather, he’ll probably be turning on the pump and running his drip irrigation system on a twice-weekly basis beginning in July or August
Typically, freezing temperatures aren’t much of a threat to his vines following bud break, although he did lose some grapes to a mid-April frost in 2009.
Except for pruning in February and some spraying to control weeds underneath the vines, things have been quiet in the vineyard.
Three Sonoma County appellations — Chalk Hill, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast — overlap the vineyard, Jones notes. He bought it in 2003 when the vines were about five years old. Since then, he’s seen his crops improve as the vines get older.
“One thing I’ve learned is the importance of focusing on producing quality grapes rather than just cranking out quantity,” he says. “One way is by pruning. For example, as it gets later in the season it can pay to drop some of the fruit if it’s not coming along nicely, or if there’s too many grapes for the vines to ripen properly.”
Last year, he finished harvesting around Sept.15. “We had a smaller crop than normal, but what was there was very good quality,” he says.
Jones has also learned how challenging it can be, at times, to find a buyer for his crop.
He produced his 2010 crop without a contract. Last year, when he picked his grapes, he had a signed multi-year contract with a winery to buy them.
“It’s nice to have that comfort and not be worrying about selling them,” Jones says.