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Iron Horse Vineyards

Joy Sterling
February 28, 2015 | Joy Sterling

Could we really have harvest in July?????

Spring, why are you so early? Gorgeous, clear, blue skies, sweet smelling plum blossoms filling the air, masses of daffodils, happy songbirds, asparagus and artichokes in the markets … spring is here and has been for quite a while. It has been a guilty pleasure; we need the rain, but it is hard to complain when two-thirds of the country is freezing.

We had our first smattering of bud break in the vineyards on February 7. That’s three weeks earlier than last year, which was two weeks earlier than the year before. 

Some scientists call this “season creep”, when spring comes earlier and earlier. The term is like “mission creep” when military action inexorably escalates into war. Or, “bracket creep”, which our wholesale distributors use to describe gradual wine price increases.

Watch the roses. They are the sentinels at the end of the rows of the vines. It’s concerning to see them pushing out leaves in February.

We simply have to accept that the phenology clock has started and we are going to have to keep up with Mother Nature.

Early bud break means our highly trained vineyard team is working like crazy to get the pruning done. It is much harder work when the vines start pushing because you have to be all the more careful not to knock off the buds.

Another danger of early bud break is a very long frost season. We are subject to frost as late as June 1 here in Green Valley.

Right now it is nice and cool, but much depends on the temperatures going forward. We could conceivably be picking for sparkling wine in July and for still wine in August.

Our extraordinarily premature and warm temperatures may be providing us with a rehearsal for future “normal” conditions. When is spring, anyway? Our calendar is just a construct. In the traditional lunar calendar, Chinese New Year is a spring festival.

As farmers, we need to adapt and each of us has to do what we can to lessen our collective negative impact on our atmosphere to slow and hopefully halt our drift toward an excessively erratic world.

As for vintage 2015, we’re focusing on the vines (instead of looking at the date on the calendar) and giving them what they need on their schedule, not ours. Whenever it falls, spring is a time for optimism. And, there is no reason to assume that the unknown will turn out poorly, which is yet another good reason to drink bubbly - the drink of optimists.



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