We finally have some bloom (or flowering) happening in the vineyards.  I was out on the 1st at Hyde Vineyards (Sauvignon Blanc) and at Dead Fred Vineyard (Cabernet), and in those two vineyards, they were pretty close, I saw about 1% to 2% bloom.  What that means is that one or two clusters out of every hundred you look at, you see some flowering in the clusters. 

Partly flowered

I took some pictures showing flowering and non-flowering clusters. 

not flowered
On the 2nd I went to Frediani Family Vineyards in Calistoga.  Jim Frediani took me around on his new mule.  Up there the Cab Franc and Merlot are just about completely finished with bloom.  It’s a warmer area and a different set of varietals, but mostly a warmer area and an earlier season up there compared to the Carneros or Coombsville where Hyde and Dead Fred are. 

Flowered - Frediani Vyd
Jim had already got a lot of the suckering done.  Suckering is removing any green shoots that are not coming out of a bud position, or if there are two shoots coming out of a bud position.  It’s basically green shoots that you don’t want because they just over crowd, shade and don’t provide anything for the vine.  We like to get those off of there, so the vine can direct all its growth to the shoots and the fruit that we do want.  Also, so we don’t over crop, because some of those doubles (shoots) have crop on them.  A good time to remove them is right before bloom.  You don’t want to do it right when bloom is happening because the clusters that are flowering, if you disturb them with your hand or arm when you are reaching in the vines, can be damaged.  Then the flowering doesn’t take place and the berries that would have been berries if you hadn’t disturbed that cluster turn out not to be berries.  It’s difficult sometimes with the timing of bloom, and you have to move crews around.  I have some pictures of suckering in a vineyard that has just been done.  You can see the green growth on the ground that is just starting to wilt.

It’s a pretty exciting time.  It looks like in most cases we will have a nice bloom with no disturbing weather.   Where bloom was just about finished (Franc and Merlot at Frediani) it looked very even.  In other words all the clusters, as many as a 12 to 20 clusters within a vine, are all even in terms of how much they have flowered.
Flowering sets the tone for ripening of clusters within a vine.  If the weather is a little back and forth (sunny, warm, then cold and windy), some clusters will start to flower and others won’t.  Some clusters will finish flowering and others on the same vine won’t even have started flowering.  That sort of “I’m ahead” and “I’m behind” carries on right through the rest of maturation of those clusters.  When it comes time for color change (veraison) those clusters that flowered first will change colors first.  Later on in the year when we get close to ripening, those that flowered first and turned color first will be the clusters that taste really good and have the numbers in terms of sugar and PH.  Those clusters that are behind in flowering and color change are also behind in flavors and in numbers.  It is a very good omen and a great start to the season to see the even flowering because it means you will have even maturation.
Three weeks from tomorrow we will be bottling our 2004 red wines.  This will include the Cabernet and the Chesler Red Wine and a single vineyard bottling that we used to call Blue Oak, but we are now calling it Dead Fred Vineyard.  The name Dead Fred is pretty interesting.  Everyone has been looking at me a little strange when I say it.  The owners of the vineyard, David and Lisa, had a cat that they had for a long time.  They lived with Fred in the Bay Area for a while and moved up to Napa for the past 5 or 6 years now.  Fred past away and came to rest in the wonderful blue oaks that are overlooking that vineyard.   That’s where the name comes from and we are excited about the wine.  I like the quality of the grapes from this vineyard and it has the possibility to produce more single vineyard Cabernet wines.  This first release is only about 100 cases.

Mia's Vineyard Ride