Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sprinkle liberally.

The record low temperatures that were forecast for last week did not materialise. Last night it was supposed to only get down to 36 degrees and it got down to 32 instead...weathermen!!!
I took this picture several weeks ago, around the time I did my smudge pot post. I imagined that Napa was going to be in for a frosty April but no, it has just been cool and damp all month long. Of course, the scarcity of freezing overnight temperatures has been great for the vines, thank goodness.
Besides fans, the other primary method of frost protection in Napa vineyards is the utilisation of overhead sprinkler systems, designed to apply .11 inches of water per hour. Overhead sprinklers require upwards of 50 gallons of water per minute per acre: at this rate full protection of the vineyard to temperatures down into the mid-20s can be achieved. These systems derive their effectiveness from the latent heat of fusion which is given up as the water turns to ice on the vine. The mixture of ice and water maintains the bud at 32 degrees, just one critical degree above the point where bud damage begins. The sprinklers then continue until well after sunrise and subsequently the ice melts. This is a rather expensive method of frost protection and an adequate source of water is essential. Sprinklers are however very quiet unlike the wind fans, and very clean unlike the smudge pots. The sprinklers can also be used at other times in the growing season for irrigation, heat suppression, and pest management. This year I am sure the sprinklers will be employed in the certain pesticide-death of the European Grapevine Moth.
Sprinkle liberally with water, add a dash of physics and you have the recipe for a successful harvest in the autumn.


Weston said...

I got that question right in WSET level 3 in class, even had to explain to the class how it worked.!

Affer said...

I rather had the impression that water is a commodity in short supply in California. Presumably it's expensive but do vineyards generally collect their own (eg rainfall etc) and store in reservoirs or whatever?

Vinogirl said...

Weston: Thanks for your comment, it proves I'm not just making all this stuff up :)

Affer: It is in some places, like where I live is a water deficit area, but our well is 375 deep so we're OK.
The winery were I work does have a 12 acre foot reservoir/pond. Being on the valley floor, they even have drain tiles under the merlot block and have to pump water out from under it.

Ron Combo said...

I never understood before about how freezing protected the buds. Seemed impossible. Thank you Vinogirl!

Vinogirl said...

Glad to be of service Ron.