Taft Street Harvest Russian River Valley

Through the Dog Days of Summer

July 3rd to August 11th are the “Dog Days of Summer” for 2022.  These hot summer days get their name from the Big Dog (Canis Major).  Sirius (not the radio channel) is the brightest star in the constellation.  The timing is when the Sirius is rising alongside the sun which was believed to result in the hotter days of summer.  It has nothing to do with summer days that are so hot that dogs would lie around panting.

For winemaking, these days push the grapes through veraison (the change of color) and start the adrenaline coursing through the veins of winemakers.   This on top of the stress getting wines bottled to empty the tanks needed for the fruit to arrive in the impending harvest.

But it is after the Dog Days that the heat really hits the Russian River Valley.  Multiple days in a row over 110 degrees!  More impactful are the nighttime temperatures above 90 degrees in Rockpile. Vines shut down when it gets this hot.  The vines are no longer working to ripen the grapes.  The berries, however, lose water spiking the Brix readings that are one indication of ripeness.   The clusters also lose the weight that the growers rely on for revenue. 

Ordinarily, we’d wait out the heat spell by irrigating the vines to keep the moisture up and the vines healthy.  As temperatures drop, the vines return to the process of ripening the fruit. This is harder to do as we are in a multi-year drought and water availability is limited for some. And then, just to really challenge grape growers, the threat of wildfire grows as temperatures rise and heavy potential fuels dry out.

The growers respond as best they can by rushing the fruit to the wineries.  The wineries face a logistically challenging tank dance as all the fruit seems to need to come in at the same time. All these challenges convince me that the word “agriculture” come from the original Latin translated as “Oh God, you screwed me again”!!

The good news is that the men and women who call the wine community their home embrace these challenges.  Magic will be worked and come next year there will be great wines once more from the Russian River Valley.  We will put the challenges behind us, celebrate the harvest of 2022 and prepare for the harvest of 2023.

Mike Martini
Founder & General Manager

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