Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 Growing Season Snap Shot - Cold Year

The year started off warm in April but checking bud survival rates found the Leon Millot at about 35-40% and the Ravat 34 at about 90-95%.  While the winter had not been very cold, the hard frost (-9) in early October 2009 did much damage to the buds that were not yet into dormancy.  The canes did ok on both the Leon Millot and the Ravat 34.

The vines started budding out the first week of May, however cold weather was in store for May (average 11 c) and the vines really didn't budge much more until the second or third week with bud break officially May 21/22.  Unfortunately this was followed with an unseasonal cold and frost to -3 and -2 on the nights of May 24/25th consecutively.  This killed off the few Leon Millot buds that we had and most of the Ravat 34 buds as well and virtually no crop this year on them.

June (average 15.4) was also cool and while flowering usually takes place the last week of June, it didn't start until the 7th of July.  Normal temperatures from then on would then place harvest for the Leon Millot at about September 30th and the Ravat at about October 5.

While temperatures improved in July (18.5 average) and August (19.0 average), the night time lows were lower than normal and averaged in the 7-9 degree range.  This dampened the growth in the nights and would serve to push back the expected maturation of the grapes later into October.  There was virtually no rain from July 7th until August 8th however, the vines did well.  Much need rain came in August and sporadic rain into September was all the vines required.  The rain from May 1st to September 30th was about 11-12 inches, with most of it at the front end of the season (8 inches in May and June). 

September was average (13.0 average) and we experienced moderate heat in the day and average day night temperatures for our site.  However, while the nights were again cooler than normal it did not set the matuaration back further than what was already expected.  We also received over 2 inches of rain this month.

The grapes were tested on the 24th of September and both the Ravat and Leon Millot were showing brix in the 14 range.  Target levels for Leon Millot is 20-22 brix and ravat is 18-20 brix.  These varieties accumulate their sugars quickly then level off and this means they needed at least another week to get to minimum sugar levels in the 17-18 brix range.  A few notes here about the Ravat 34, even at 14 brix, this variety was beginning to show varietal flavours.  Also, when nearly all varieties across the Okanagan suffered noteable damage to primary buds due to the early freeze in October 2009, the Ravat 34 came through with virtually no damage.  This alone is remarkable see photo on left;

As is turns out, the next three weeks were quite nice and there was another 30-35 degree days accumulated in October until the hard frost hit on October 15th.  This frost is about 2 weeks later than we normally expect (October 1st). From May first till the hard frost in October we accumulated about 870 degree days at 10c base, this is our coolest year yet.  All across the Okanagan and interior of BC the conditions were less than optimum for growing grapes in 2010.  Talking to one commercial grower they say they have not had such a poor year since the 1980's.  Another grower picked their Pinot Noir at 21 brix on Sept 25 last year and at 18 brix this year on October 15th.  While it is not nice for anyone in the business of vinticulture to experience a poor growing year, this year proved valuable for us to see how the varieties would make out in a below normal year.  Hope that this is as below normal as it get for our site.