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Vintage Update

by Christina Lopez | Published July 13, 2023

As I picked up harvest supplies yesterday, I realized it was time for a vintage update. The moment bud break hits, a lot of our focus turns towards the vineyard. Due to heavy winter rains and cool temperatures, we saw bud break in full swing the first week of April. For comparison, we typically start to see activity around St. Patty’s Day, so we were 2 weeks later than average this year. The vines did some catching up with flowering and fruit set at their normal times from mid-May to beginning of June. Up until recently it stayed relatively cool, so we still expect to see harvest kicking off towards late August. Viognier is always our first pick of the season but is very sensitive to heat spikes, with one currently at our heels, if the scorching weather sticks around things will undoubtedly change. If triple digits persist into the season, this will domino into our other varieties and compress our vintage like it did in 2022.

Our new 5-acre block is now trained on wire and thriving. We should get usable fruit off this block in a couple years and will start to see it really produce at the 5-year mark. For those local folk, if you drove by the winery this spring you might have noticed our towering cover crop which was the product of a very wet winter. The mustard was so tall in the new planting that you could hardly tell you were amongst a vineyard. We mowed everything down after our vineyard tour in May which left a nice mulch from the healthy cover crop. This mulch will help keep our soil cooler as we start to see rising temperatures. Aligning with our move to regenerative practices, this year we stopped all herbicides across the entire vineyard. To improve soil life there must be roots in the ground, including the area under vine. Mid row areas can easily be mowed, but the under-vine areas are tougher to reach mechanically so for the last couple weeks of June we were out manually addressing weeds. On hand and knee and armed with weed whackers, the crew did an excellent job cleaning up those hard-to-reach areas. Part of our strategy is to get the under-vine areas established with something beneficial to the soil while outcompeting weeds. We hand broadcasted subterranean clovers last fall in the new block and got excellent establishment in the areas that saw higher seed rates. Not only do these clovers fix nitrogen, as the name indicates they re-seed below ground every year. This effectively choked out most of the weed pressure and we’ll be applying the same regime to the entire vineyard post-harvest. When the sub clovers take over, the need to manually weed will decrease. This will take a few years and I’m sure the crew looks forward to that day. As you visit the tasting room, don’t be surprised when the vineyard looks a little different than in the past as it goes through this transition phase. It won’t be pretty at first, but it will get there.

As we ramp up for harvest, we’ve taken on two interns for a span of 4.5 weeks as part of a pilot program led by San Joaquin A+. The program aims to expose local high school kids to the ag industry (there are two other industry targets as well, education and healthcare) so they see it as a viable career. We’ve planned out the interns’ schedule to give them experience in all 3 facets of Acquiesce: vineyard, tasting room, and winery. In the vineyard they helped with weeds and did some suckering while learning vine anatomy, terminology, and growing cycles. In the winery they’ve started harvest prep by cleaning picking bins, tanks, floors, and the press. We even did a yeast experiment, reviewed the winemaking process, and I challenged them with winemaker problem solving exercises. You may have seen them in the tasting room helping pack wines, serve the pairings, and bussing/setting tables. This is their first experience not only in the wine business, but in the work force and they’re doing really well for 16 years old.

This is just a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes. A lot of hands and hard work go into making a bottle of wine, but that’s what reminds us to appreciate every sip.