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Yearly Seasons in the Vineyard and Winery
Early Spring is budbreak, the beginning of the vintage year. Depending on the weather, budbreak can occur in January or February, but typically it takes place in March. The vine begins its rapid period of growth and frost protection begins. At this time, the wines from the previous harvest are monitored for stability and completion of fermentation.
April is the period of rapid shoot growth as the vine canopies fill out. The foliage must be protected from powdery mildew. Shoot selection and positioning is performed to keep the vine canopy controlled and in its proper place. In the winery, white wines may be racked off the yeast lees. Barrels are topped to minimize possible oxidation of the wines inside the barrels.
May is typically the period when the flower clusters bloom and seed formation begins. The growers call this fruit set, when the development of the berries commences. In the winery, racking the wines and topping the barrels continue. Wines are checked for stability and flavor.
June in the vineyard is the period of vine and fruit protection. Growers irrigate in order to maintain a balance between the amount of fruit and the foliage of each vine. In the winery, white wines are being prepared to be bottled.
Summer or July in the vineyard is when véraison, or berry coloration and softening, typically begins. The grower starts to protect the berries from birds and begins to estimate the total amount of fruit for the current vintage, so that the winemaker will know how much tank and barrel space will be needed when the grapes are harvested. Bottling the wines may commence.
August in the vineyard is the time when the berries are ripening and accumulating sugar. Growers start to monitor the berries for sugar content and acid level. It is a busy time in the winery, as all the crush equipment needs to be tested. New barrels are soaked and prepared to receive the upcoming vintage. Blends of wines are tasted and evaluated by the winemakers as the bottling process continues.
Fall or September is when harvest of the fruit typically occurs. The winemakers and growers work closely together to determine the optimum time to pick the fruit to insure the best wine quality. White grapes are pressed off the skins, the juice chilled to prevent oxidation, and inoculated with yeast. Red grapes are crushed and inoculated with yeast, and the ensuing fermentation on the skins allow for color and flavor extraction.
October can be a continuance of harvest, depending on the temperatures and how the vintage year developed over the summer. Fermentations are monitored by checking how rapidly the grape sugars decline as the alcohol level increases.
November is typically the completion of harvest. All the wines are now in the tanks or barrels. The winery crush equipment is thoroughly cleaned and put to rest until next year. In the vineyard, the grower may perform some post-harvest irrigation and fertilization of the vines before they go dormant.
December typically is the beginning of pruning of the dormant vines (if the weather has been cold enough). The grower decides how many buds to leave per vine depending on how much crop was harvested this year. The winemakers and enologists differentiate between the different tanks and barrels, keeping records on all the wines' quality attributes.
Winter or January in the vineyard is a busy time with pruning. In the winery, the barrels are topped. The wines are analyzed for pH, titratable acidity, alcohol content, sulfur dioxide level (SO2) and color.
February can be a slow time in the vineyard if the pruning is done and bud break has not yet occurred. It is a busy time in the winery with topping barrels, monitoring quality, and tasting the new wines. The current vintage is compared to wines of previous vintages. Winemakers and growers taste and evaluate the wines together in order to determine any improvements that may need to be made for the upcoming season.