This is the time of the year that the cycle of bloom and set begins in Northern California’s vineyards. The last couple of years the weather during that period has been pretty up and down, creating a lot of worry for growers and winemakers. What’s needed for the best results — each flower cluster producing a full cluster of grapes — is calm, even weather, with temperatures in maybe the low-mid 80s. If the weather gets eccentric in any direction — cold, hot, windy, rainy, the result can be a reduction in the number of clusters that set, and the number of grapes that actually form in each cluster. Certain varieties are more susceptible to problems during this period; for me, it’s been Grenache and Viognier that have suffered the most from big weather changes.
It’s true I buy all my grapes, but I’m every bit as dependent on the success in the vineyards as the growers are, so if you know me, you know I’m watching the weather even more closely than usual at this time of year.
It will probably be the end of June before all the vineyards have completed the process and we know just how much fruit we’ll have from each source. Only harvest time is more nerve-wracking.
One of the worst things that can happen at any time during the growing season is frost. The growing tissues are destroyed by freezing temperatures, and a whole season can be lost. It hasn’t happened to us often, but in ’95 our Higher Ground syrah vines (3300′ elevation in El Dorado County) which should have produced that vineyard’s first crop, were hammered by a 30-year frost. This year, earlier in May, there were two mornings of frost at Higher Ground, and considerable damage to the new vines planted last year to replace vines lost to the ’95 frost. This is a good illustration of what it means to be a farmer.
Hospice du Rhône, 2000
June 15, 16, and 17 the eighth annual celebration of wines made from Rhône varietals, the Hospice du Rhône will take place in Paso Robles. The celebration begins Thursday evening with the annual Rhône-n-Bowl tournament. Friday and Saturday feature a choice of numerous in-depth seminars relating to the production and consumption of wines from various Rhône grape varieties, in numerous different terroirs, followed by extensive tastings of wines from dozens and dozens of producers, and also features an auction of one-of-a-kind lots of wines produced exclusively for the auction, to benefit the Hospice program in San Luis Obispo County.
This is a great intensive immersion in the wines made from these grapes in all parts of the world, and a great, howling good time in the process. Click on www.hospicedurhone.com for details. If you can’t get excited about this event, please consult your doctor, and ask him/her to check for vital signs.
Lonesome on the Ground
I think it’s reasonable to assume that you would not expect to see an announcement of a CD release from a winery website. But, consider; the ancient Greek myths tell us that wine, music poetry and art all sprang from the same spot on the earth struck by the hoof of Pegasus, the fabled winged horse, at a place called Hippocrene. (And we should note that the most prestigious and notorious horse race in the world, the Kentucky Derby, was won this year by a horse named, of all things, Pegasus.) So, might a winemaker under the influence of these ancient energetic occurrences, not be as likely to be a poet/musician as a vintner, perhaps BOTH?
In fact, Steve Edmunds wrote songs for years before he ever tasted wine, and he insists that the music is better with wine than without. And who are you to argue?
So what we have here is an album, Lonesome on the Ground, of 11 songs that Steve wrote, most of them some 20 years ago. As a 50th birthday present to himself he wanted to make a recording to pass on to family and friends, and this March, it came to pass. The album was produced by Steve’s good friend, Laurie Lewis, whose name you may recognize as one of the great bluegrass musicians of our time (or any time). Laurie plays (and sings) on the album, as do a number of great local musicians including Tom Rozum, Todd Phillips, Nina Gerber, Barbara Higbie, Sally Van Meter and Chad Manning.
We’ll be teasing you with RealAudio versions of a few of the tunes from the album, prior to its release later this summer, and we’re willing to bet you may find yourself thinking: This music is as good as the wine!