What’s Happenin’ in the Vineyards at Robert Biale Vineyards?

Zinfandel bud break at Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa Valley.
Zinfandel bud break at Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa Valley.

Spring is in the air and Napa Valley is filled with the most gorgeous greenery. The 2020 harvest season is in sight. In the past few months we have seen bud break, cluster development, and now bloom. We want to keep you all updated on what’s happenin’ here at Robert Biale Vineyards. To do so, I asked our vineyard extraordinaires, Owner Bob Biale, and Winemaker, Tres Goetting, the following questions. They have been keeping an eye on the beautiful progress both in Napa and Sonoma. Fellas, tell us what’s happenin’!

How has 2020 growing season started out?

The season started very dry with zero precipitation in February and well above average temperatures. March, April, and May have since been very mild which has put us in a “normal” time frame for bud break and
flowering. Luckily as of May 11th, we are now past the 50% normal rainfall since we received 0.55 inches! We are currently seeing canopy growth and clusters starting to form in what some may call “baby grapes”.

Any differences with Sonoma and Napa Fruit?

Monte Rosso Vineyard ®

Sonoma seems to be a little bit ahead of Napa with more shoot growth, but it is really site specific. The moderate temperatures of the San Pablo Bay in Sonoma help some vineyards grow faster than others on the mountain. It also depends on where the vineyard is facing and how much sun exposure it receives.  All these factors are what makes winemaking challenging, but fun!

Mountain vs. Valley Floor Update?

The mountain vineyards are much further behind than the valley floor EXCEPT for the Monte Rosso Vineyard® which is in Sonoma and always the first or one of the first to be harvested for us. Due to the great drainage at Monte Rosso Vineyard® the soil temperatures heat faster, making the vines mature faster than others.

We have been suckering on vineyards here at the winery and elsewhere. What is the importance of suckering?

Suckering is the removal of unwanted secondary growth on the vine. This step in the growing season is important because it helps to focus the nutrient uptake to the clusters forming. Suckering also allows for filtered sunlight and airflow, which will help keep mildew pressure down! This is really important in Zinfandel particularly because the berries are so plump.

Are we close to flowering or have any vineyards started to bloom(flower)?

This year our first vineyard to flower was the Nonna’s Vineyard Sangiovese! Typically, in Napa, our first vineyard to flower are the Primitivo vines we have at the front of the winery property on Big Ranch Road. In Sonoma, the Monte Rosso Vineyard® is the typically the first. Once the clusters flower and the fruit set, we can all let out a sigh of relief. During bloom, the clusters are at risk of not having the fruit set if there is any intense rain or hailstorms. Somehow there is always a little rain that shows up during bloom to keep us on our toes!

Maura Postlethwait