Walking the vineyard on July 13, 2015 the vines themselves appear to be in perfect balance.
Perhaps the most important word in fine wine, most wine drinkers don’t realize that balance – seamless deliciousness – must come from the vineyard. A balanced vineyard creates a balanced wine.
How can a vineyard be in balance?
The grape clusters are small and loose, hanging with space between them. The canopy extends towards the sky reaching fairly uniformed heights just above the top wire. Small leaves rustle in the wind, still green but not verdant.
Looking more closely, the laterals each grow just a foot or two outwards. Shoots are well along in lignification, turning yellow with dehydration as every drop of moisture now resides in the leaves and fruit.
Every one of these observations points to a mature dry-farmed vineyard that has endured many a drought year before. Even with favorable weather conditions this spring, the vineyard behaved very conservatively, setting only a few compact clusters per vine. Harvest will be small and naturally concentrated, 2015 wines will be rich but should float through the palate.
Vines in a natural state of balance produce wines worthy of contemplation – wines to reflect over.
Return to the Wild
Just as I take pride in the wild appearance of the winter weeds growing throughout the vineyard, I find beauty in the vineyard’s fully-grown glory.
A wonderful, albeit secondary benefit of a balanced vineyard is the chance to leave the growth in a more natural state. Because we don’t pump copious amounts of irrigation, the vines don’t grow so big we need to mechanically control excessive growth.
Yes, Cuadrilla, does vertically position shoots by hand, but trimming and hedging are not necessary. If we did irrigate, energized lateral growth would span across entire vine rows creating an untamed jungle impossible to walk down. Large leaves would block the sun from fruiting zones and we would need to thin them so as to remove the threat of fungus finding its way into the big, diluted clusters.
Instead, the small laterals lazily reach out arms into the rows, swaying in the wind, reminding me that manicured vineyards do not make better wines than wild vineyards.
On our comprehensive July 13 walk of the vineyard, Sashi never ask Ruben to green harvest. This might be the definition of a vineyard in balance. The vines gave us the ideal quantity to make the highest quality wine possible.
Come mid-September, we will begin harvesting fruit under yellowing leaves as the vines prepare for winter dormancy. The vines will have given every ounce of energy into ripening their small fruit load, not a drop wasted.