The flower buds pictured below are an integral part of the beautiful journey from grape to glass. Budbreak for the vines usually occurs during March in our region. At this time, tons of energy from the vine is being poured into growth of the shoots and leaves. It always amazes me how quickly the vines grow during this period; sometimes multiple inches per day! Fast forward to now, May, where the grape flowers begin to develop and the fruit begins to set!
It generally takes 40–80 days after bud break until the process of flowering, or bloom, will begin just as it has in our estate vineyard. The interesting thing is that this years grapes were determined last year. Yes, you heard me right, last year. The amount of sun, proper vine nutrition, and the general climate influences how many clusters of grapes you will have the following year. However, THIS years climate determines how many of the flowers will turn into grape berries. Colder climate, rain, and lack of proper nutrition will cause many of these flowers to drop and become unfruitful. So it's really a two year process that determines how many clusters we will have per vine, and how large the clusters will be.
Mid way through bloom and harvest is a process known as verasion. This process is when the little, hard, green, grape berries begin to increase in size and sugar begins to accumulate. In red grapes, color begins to develop, whereas in white grapes they remain a green-yellow color. Before verasion, the berries are small, hard, sour, and bitter. After verasion the grape berries rapidly become sweeter and the acid mellows out.
When to harvest is decided primarily by the ripeness of the grapes. Ripeness is a two fold qualification. The grapes must have enough sugar, the proper acidity, and ripe tannins. They also must have the proper flavor our winemaker (David Brown) is looking for, based on the style of wine he wishes to produce. The Lodi region has a Mediterranean-like climate that makes it ideal for many of the grapes we purchase and grow ourselves. They ripen perfectly in this climate with tremendous flavor, vibrant acidity, and ample sugar.
The next stop is harvest and the actual winemaking. This is a critical time because our winemaker and his crew have the opportunity to preserve the quality of the fruit harvested through the winemaking process. David always says, "you can give me a fillet mignon and I can make you a beautiful fillet, or slice it thin and make something along the lines of a skirt steak. If you give me a skirt steak, theres no way I can make a fillet mignon." His comparison of quality of meat to grape quality is pretty self explanatory. Grow or buy the best grapes possible, and let them shine in the winery and cellar. A mantra we at Gnekow Family Winery live by.
-Kirk Gonzales & David Brown