Dick and Vivian Pharis are co-owners of the McKenzie’s Road Vineyard in Waipara New Zealand and shareholders in Torlesse Wines. For everyone who thinks owning a vineyard is a romantic adventure take a moment and read through Dick’s note about what is happening in the vineyard right now.
Well, we (Vivian and a crew of 3 workers) have just finished crop thinning (throwing grapes on the ground) in the Gewurz, which has set profusely this year on every cane laid down. Hard work and most workers don’t understand why they are “wasting all those nice grapes”. Anyway, crop load is now (hopefully) in balance with photosynthetically useful canopy of leaves.
Same exercise was done ca. 2 weeks ago with our Pinot Noir. Our west block PN (Clone 10/5) is being set up for spur pruning this coming winter — implications are a lower crop load in 2010 [with luck, no fruit thinning needed], more upright canes next year (less 2nd set since vertical canes maintain a dominance over lateral buds. When the upright fruiting cane [or next year’s laydown fruiting cane] leans out of the vertical, that dominance over lateral buds diminishes. Once the “lean begins”, the lateral buds break out of their “arrested state” and start to grow, produce flowers and those flowers, in turn, produce 2nd set clusters of green immature fruit. 2nd set fruit competes somewhat with 1st set fruit for products of photosynthesis.
However, the main problem with 2nd set fruit is that early 2nd set that occurs in the fruiting zone “almost ripens” (and looks “beautiful” and is picked by naive pickers at ca. 18 Brix). Presence of 2nd set fruit clusters also precludes picking by machine because those big fat clusters of immature 2nd set fruit sometimes vibrate off and fall into the ripe fruit mix — 12-14 Brix, tart green berries are not a favoured flavour for Burgunday style wine.
Next chore is a opening the fruit zone a bit more in the chardonnay by light hand leaf plucking and lateral pulling/snipping (in the crotch of the vine).
Then, on to the Riesling for more fruit thinning on young plants which are obviously overcropped.
Finally, the Merlot requires a bit of hand leaf plucking and dropping of “wimpy fruiting canes” with 2 and 3 clusters but only 1 or 2 leaves!
This has been an unbelieveably good year in Waipara for fruit set on virtually all varieties.
While all this is going on, we’re running bird netting, 1st on the Pinot Noir, then the Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurz and the Chardonnay, et al, ad nauseum.
The birds know where the good fruit is and they love the care and attention the grapes recieve at Torlesse Wines in Waipara New Zealand.