I am a grape, one of about a zillion on the 1,033 acres here at King Estate Winery. Well, maybe not a zillion. More like 13 million clusters, and with about 80 grapes per cluster, I’m one of, oh, I don’t know, math isn’t a grape’s strong suit.
What I do excel at is sunning myself on the vine, growing plump, sweet and juicy in the sun with just the right amount of shade from the leaf canopy above, taking in the view and enjoying the valley breeze.
Lately it’s been hot out here for mid-July and the forecast is for more of the same. Temperatures in the high 90s definitely are a bit out of the ordinary (so I’m told; this is actually my first vintage). There’s been talk out here on the grapevine about what all this heat does to us – is it healthy for us or are we at risk?
I was relieved to learn that the heat has no effect on me whatsoever at this stage of my growth. In fact from where I hang, it wasn’t really all that hot. Turns out I am pretty hardy and resilient. Temperatures would have to get up to 104 or 105 degrees before I might suffer any ill effects.
One thing we do need to watch out for is sunburn, and that’s where the vineyard team at King Estate has me covered. Ha, that’s a grape joke, because the leafy canopy literally protects us from sunburn so our skins don’t get damaged and we don’t get too sugary.
Striking the right balance of sun and shade at the right time is key. If I am too shaded as a berry, I’ll be more prone to sunburn later. The trick is to give me some exposure when I’m young and can handle it. If I get too much sun right before harvest it can have a profound effect on the wine, and not in a good way.
Luckily King Estate trims the canopy early to give me a little exposure to the sun – kind of like getting a base tan. Then the canopy can grow back as I need more protection. Most of leaf-pulling, or trimming, occurs on the east-facing side of the vine, where the morning sun is less intense and I can take slightly more exposure.
Grapes are a lot like people. Too much sun is bad for our skin. Lighter grapes are more prone to burn than darker ones. And a little protection goes a long way.
Right now I’m sitting pretty, taking the heat and doing my part to grow into the best grape I can be. California Raisins got nothin’ on Oregon wine grapes.