Farm Rule #1–Do Not Panic! And What’s Happening in the Kitchen?

It’s lovely in the mornings when we awake to fog, but after 2 weeks of morning fog lasting well into the 10 and 11 o’clock hours…it causes concern. And famously, the 100+ degree Paso Robles heat suddenly arrives and leaves us all lethargic and slow and shocked! that’s it’s SO DANG HOT! But never mind us, what about our 7,000 grapevines that are dry-farmed (no irrigation)??!!

We experienced some panic yesterday…to the point where Phillip put in two calls to people who’s opinions we rely on and considered calling a “vineyard management company” for some additional advice. We were seeing what appeared to be botrytis or some other form of grape rot in the Syrah. (Which both occur with fog…but what we researched in books didn’t confirm our thoughts.) Phillip observed that over 1 day, this “malady” was affecting previously healthy and thriving vines–and it was rapidly spreading and we were seriously thinking we could lose our entire Syrah crop for the year. We were going to have an “emergency pick” just to get the grapes out of the vineyard and then figure what to do with them (make a late-harvest wine? Lay them on straw? etc…), but after taking the numbers, these grapes weren’t showing high sugar levels to even consider picking. Emergency plan cancelled, but we were prepared to pick them Sunday and Monday, on fruit days.

Oh, what a good night’s sleep and cool temperatures do! Early, early this morning as Phillip was on bird patrol (keep those winged wonders out!) he noticed that the Syrah grapes were plump and healthy, nothing like what he saw yesterday (in the 108 degree afternoon blazing heat). And again, the old rule of thumb struck him: don’t panic, have faith. Yesterday, our vines were showing the results of this major heat and the liquids were draining down. But after a cool evening, the energy was back and the grapes were plump and full. Yes, we have 2 more days of this extreme heat (some people ask if we have the option to turn on the water…no, when we say we’re “dry-farmed”, we really mean it), but this weekend we have respite with temperatures dropping 30 degrees in our daytime highs.

Our moral of the story: don’t panic. About once a year, our vineyard teaches us this–have faith in our vines and our natural way of farming and wait to see the final outcome. It may be an interesting reflection in our wine!

And in the kitchen? The canning pot is boiling! We have graciously been given peaches and apples, so we have chutneys, marmalades, and butters stocked full in the pantry. I have an old, tattered book that I refer to for all of my food preserving (talk about panic…the other day I couldn’t find it and I was sent in a whirlwind looking everywhere for it!) and I follow an excellent blog for more recipes and canning expertise. At right you see Refrigerator Sun Pickles–wow! How fun! I’ve been eyeing the tomatoes, those too shall soon be in the shelves of the pantry. Summer is a fantastic time of year!