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Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

Close up shot of the bud burst on a wine grape vineyard vine.

Contrast of hail damaged bud burst (first bud at the bottom of the spur, close to the tie tape) vs normal bud burst (at the top of the spur). Note also the scarring on last year’s wood.

The 2023 crop is coming along fine. There was hardly any bud damage from winter freeze events, and spring frosts were avoided completely. The buds burst about 2 weeks later than normal due to a cold spring. The first leaves and fruit clusters have expanded, and berry set is nearly complete. The next stage of growth is called “rapid berry expansion.”

The soil is drier than normal. We can irrigate when necessary, so that isn’t a concern to us. The beautiful green wheat fields that surround the valley are drying up prematurely, it won’t be a very good year for the dryland farmers.

As expected, there was damage to the buds resulting from the August 2022 hailstorm which destroyed our 2022 grapes. The damage was impossible to detect until the buds started to grow this spring. To compensate for this, we adjusted the winter pruning practices to leave more buds to choose from. Normally we leave 30 buds per grape plant, this year we left 60 buds per plant. Right after bud burst it was easy for our workers to see which ones were damaged and remove them by hand. Now the crew is removing surplus healthy shoots to bring the crop level back to what is needed to optimize quality. This is what we mean when we say our grapes are “hand nurtured.”

The next step for the crew will be to remove leaves to get more sunlight on the grapes. Sunlight builds better flavors.