Normally, this is the time of year when the whole vineyard goes dormant. The leaves change color and fall off as the green vines turn into wood. But this year we’re seeing a lot of unusual behavior in the Syrah vines where many plants are actually growing new leaves!
How vines usually behave
This is a picture of a row of Merlot vines just a few hundred yards away from the Syrah. You can see that these vines are already dormant. They have lost almost all their leaves and have hardened to wood. Although there are a couple traces of green on one of the plants in the far left of the photo, most of the vines are ready to be pruned.
In the detail below, you really see that the vines have hardened to wood and that there is no new growth.
The Syrah’s Unusual Green Growth
Compare that detail of the Merlot to this close up from the Syrah:
Lots of green growth! New buds! And it’s not just that the wood hardens progressively and hasn’t reached the ends of the branches yet. Normally, those are newly grown leaves. In the photo below, you see the clear juxtaposition of a new green bud on a hardened wooden branch. Highly unusual stuff!
And these young buds aren’t isolated to a plant here and there. The whole parcel is showing new leaves as displayed in the photo below.
More photos of the vines in november
Why a November spring?
You’re probably wondering why this is happening. I know I was.
The Chamber of Agriculture supplied a simple answer a couple weeks ago: it doesn’t feel like winter yet! The temperatures have been so mild. Yesterday was balmy 18 degrees outside. We opened all the doors and windows. As a result of the temperature, sunshine and so on, the vines think they have enough energy to start growing new leaves again. I’ve heard that grapevines in Florida give two crops a year for this very reason. There is no winter season there!
In nature, this would benefit them because they could continue to grow through an indian summer. However we need them to take a break and build up their reserves for next spring!
What will we do?
Just wait. In all likelihood the winter temperatures will set in and the vines will take the hint and fall asleep. It’s just an interesting phenomenon and we’ll only know how it affects next year’s crop a year from now. 🙂
2011 has been a very strang vintage and the viticultural anomalies are continuing even after harvest. This is normally the most predictable time of year. Once you harvest the grapes, the leaves all turn fall colors and they fall off. The stems all harden into sturdy wood. And then you prune back before the next spring. But this year, some of the syrah vines got confused and started growing new green growth in October/November!