2018 Pre-Harvest Report - Fall Creek Vineyards
A quick look into the 2018 grape growing season in Texas Hill Country for Fall Creek Vineyards.
The harvest will soon be upon us before we know it, because our red grape varieties are changing the color of their berries in the vineyard, which is called Veraison. This is a good time to review the weather thus far for the 2018 growing season.
Coming out of winter, the vines started bud breaking at a normal time this year, which is mid to late March, and these dates are similar to the past several years with the exception of 2017 when it was about a month earlier.
This year the vineyards had a rather cool April. In fact, Growing Degree Days (GDD) in the Dripping Springs area were just 440 which compares to 520 GDD in 2014, which is the next lowest of the last five years, compared to nearly 580 in 2015 and 2017, as seen in the chart below.
Then, as if to play catch-up in a race, May brought enough heat to level the averages up, to the point of making 2018 the second warmest season over the same period. June set a solid record of heat accumulation, the highest in the current quinquennial.
So, if these temperatures stay within reasonable ranges, we may expect harvest dates to be a bit earlier than those from 2014 to 2016. Just a reminder, 2017 had a full month advantage due to an unprecedented early budbreak, which moved harvest dates several days earlier than usual.
Rainfall, on the other hand, has shown a 35% deficit compared to a normal year which has led us to compensate with the correspondent irrigation scheme.
As stated above, we’re in the middle of veraison (pictures below) in the vineyards, which is officially the beginning of the ripening time of grapes. The weather, particularly precipitation, cannot be more crucial over the coming weeks. Whether we might have had a drought or a period of pouring rain up until today, it matters not, because the weather from veraison forward defines what the season is going to be like. This is the time for vines to “think” about their descendants. Yes, they need to “feel” like it´s more important to produce good seeds and prized fruit for the harvest and winemakers than to grow and expand their perimeter, in effect, foliage, which is exactly what they would do if they were to receive an endless supply of water, days on end.
I know we need rain in the area, but for the record, hopefully, the downpours will not be coming our way until we have finished harvesting!
Sergio Cuadra, Director of Winemaking, Fall Creek Vineyards