Paso Robles Vineyard Update: “Veraison”

Guest blog by Matt Merrill of Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery

It’s a bit early this year, but veraison has begun in many of the vineyards of the Paso Robles wine grape growing region.

Veraison in Paso Robles 2013 - Pomar Junction Winery

The vineyards in the Paso Robles AVA are currently transitioning into a different phase of growth.  The grapes on the vines are coming out of a period of berry growth and into the exciting period of berry ripening.  This viticulture period is known as véraison in the wine world.  Véraison is a French term that means “the onset of ripening”, although it is more known for the change of color of the grape berries.  For red grape varietals the change in color is easy to spot as the green clusters have a few berries change to a light pink color.  Those berries will darken and the rest of the cluster will follow suit until the entire cluster is fully darkened and the grape skins begin to soften.  The white grape varietals are little more difficult to spot if they are going through véraison.  The biggest change is the feel of the berries as they begin to soften, but the clusters also begin to yellow a bit.

Besides the incomparable beauty of the clusters of multi-colored grapes hanging full on the vines, it is an exciting time in the vineyard because this signals that the upcoming harvest is approaching.  The earlier the onset of véraison, typically the earlier harvest will be.   This season the change in color is on the early side in Paso Robles.  This has winemakers gearing up for what could be an early harvest. And while we can’t believe it’s been almost a whole year already, we look forward to the hustle, bustle and excitement harvest brings.

Veraison of the Touriga Nacional at Pomar Junction in Paso Robles, CA  2013

Touriga Nacional at Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery

Bud Break at Cass Vineyard and Winery – 2013

Bud Break – Cab Franc – Spring 2013

Bud break Cass Vineyard Cab Franc

Spring is arguably the riskiest growing period for a  grower.  Our vineyard is in a cool spot so we tend to have bud break a few weeks later than other vineyards in South County or on hilltop locations.  We are out about 6 inches in our white vines and 1-2 inches in the reds.

The beginning of the growing season comes in 2 stages. The first sign of growth  comes on the energy stored in the plant from the prior season.

When we get an early harvest with no leaf-killing frosts in the fall, we can irrigate and fertilize in order to get the vines loaded up for a robust spring breakout.

Once the vines break out, the plant is stimulated to come to life and takes over responsibility for ongoing growth.

Young canes are very, very fragile. High winds can snap them off.

Berry set, which immediately follows bud break has a hugh impact on the size of the overall crop, a good set will get you a cluster that weighs in ¼ to ¾ lbs, depending on the variety. A poor set, possibly caused by high heat or high winds can  knock this down by 50%.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed, and our frost protection systems primed !

Steve Cass

Cass Vineyards and Winery

Paso Robles, California