Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head.
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up, I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.
“A Day in the Life”
–The Beatles, 1967
…and in that dream…I was a grape. That’s right, I dreamt I was a grape! Not just any grape, but Cabernet Sauvignon, growing at the very top of the Spring Mountain District. If all goes well, I’ll be picked this harvest and make my way into Schweiger Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon…or dare I dream??? Schweiger Dedication? These dreams seem so real, when I wake up there are pictures of me and my grape friends on my phone. My wife has started getting sick and tired of this nonsense (I asked her to call me Gilbert…Gilbert Grape) and is making me see someone about these dreams. My therapist thought it best I start writing about these dreams, so where to begin.
I guess it all started last spring. Yes, that’s right. Over A FULL YEAR AGO! While I dream of being a berry to be harvested in the fall of 2016, my development began in the spring of 2015. You see, the shoot that I hang off of today developed in a bud on a shoot from last year. If you were to have snipped that bud off the vine, sliced it open with a razor, and slid it under a microscope, you would have seen a very juvenile version of my shoot and me (I’m very glad you didn’t do that or I wouldn’t be here today) along with some of my buddies on the cluster. The degree days, humidity, drought and other factors that affected the 2015 vintage (which, the conscious winemaker in me is very pleased with) also affect my early development.
So, while this journey began last year, most people will acknowledge my true “birthday” being about 6 weeks ago, when the vineyard was still dormant…after some nice days of warm sun, the bud I’d been sleeping in began to swell, push, et voila…here is a tiny shoot. It was hard to see me at first but I was there. Here’s a fun picture of me from this morning…see me, I’m on the first cluster (the basal cluster) about midway up.
I’m actually not a grape yet; I’m a flower! A very sleepy flower at that. If everything continues as normal, all my friends and I will bloom. The protective caps protecting our pistil and stamen will pop off and usually within minutes, pollen from my stamen will land on my stigma, and within days, pollenated ovule will start to swell (Yes, I’m self-pollenating; in human terms, I guess I wouldn’t be welcome in North Carolina restrooms).
My big brothers and sisters had a tough go of it last year. The winter of 2014/2015 was very warm which caused an early bud break. All us flowers/baby berries wound up blooming earlier than normal and if we tired doing it during a spring rain, our caps would stick to our stamen, choking the Ovule. All those flowers died and fell to the ground. Some flowers popped their caps off just fine, but because they did it so early it would take longer to pollenate because of lower temperatures…longer pollination window, more opportunities for wind to blow away the pollen, resulting in no berry from that flower. It was a sad growing season for farmers, with many wineries production being down by as much as 45%.
I continue to be very optimistic about this season. I just got my first spray of sulfur dust to keep any mildew at bay and I look forward to many more bright sunny days to come. If you come visit the winery this season, please ask your tasting room host to bring you out and introduce yourself. The other grapes aren’t very talkative and it gets lonely out here.
To be continued…