As we emerge from the spring bud break period here in Paso Robles, we now look ahead to another miracle of nature in the vineyard: flowering.
Flowering is when the baby clusters bloom and self-pollinate, which “sets” the crop for the coming vintage. At our estate Margarita Vineyard, flowering will likely begin around the third week of May with varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
So far, the spring of 2021 has been relatively mild at Margarita Vineyard. We have seen very few frost events, and the afternoon temperatures have been warm but not hot. “But we’re not crowing yet,” says Ancient Peaks co-owner and viticulturist Doug Filipponi. “There’s still a long way to go, because we can still get frost well into May.”
The hope is that these steady conditions will continue through May, because they are optimal for flowering. Extreme weather events during flowering—such as high winds or heat waves—can disrupt the flowering process and stunt the coming crop. Winds can blow the flowers away, while heat can cause their caps to stick. Either scenario can cause “shatter”—clusters without a full load of berries.
“There is really no ‘usual’ when it comes to bud break or flowering,” Doug says. “Every year is different, and flowering unfolds in stages, depending on the grape variety and block location. Some years you might see a little shatter with one variety, but not the others. It’s all about the timing and the weather.”
Adapt & Adjust
Doug and his team will continue to keep a close eye on early morning temperatures as well. At the first sign of freezing weather, they will fire up our mobile and permanent wind machines, which circulate warmer air down into the vineyard.
“There are no sure things when it comes to viticulture, but we try to remove as many variables as possible,” Doug says. “That’s the difference between nature and agriculture—we farm sustainably while making adjustments for Mother Nature as best we can.”