June means June Gloom, the start of summer, school’s out, grads and dads, lots of festivals, concerts in the park and wineries!
In the vineyard, because California received an unusual amount of rain and had so much cloud cover and May Gray and June Gloom this spring, this means grape vines reaching toward the unavailable sun grew elongated and weak. What at first might seem like vigorous growth is not always the case.
When vines stretch like this toward the sun, it means etiolation.
“Vineyards going through etiolation often look extra leggy as if the vine proportions are stretched out like a dancer kicking and pointing for light,” explains Elaine Chukan Brown of Wakawaka Wine Reviews.
In addition to rain and cooler temperatures slowing grape and vine growth in some areas of California, the lack of light lasting much longer than normal means we are seeing etiolation in the vines.
While not common in California, when it happens, it’s serious.
“It is the first time in a few years we have seen etiolation so consistently through the state,” reports Elaine. “When etiolation happens it instead includes not only extra growth but also weaker growth. Essentially, the vine grows faster but also thinner, or less strong, because it is growing faster to try and reach light for photosynthesis more quickly. The weaker vine growth also comes with smaller, as well as lighter colored vines and leaves. The weaker growth makes vines more susceptible to wind. If the reduced light conditions continue, the vine can suffer a lack of adequate nutrients too. The lighter colored leaves have less ability for photosynthesis.”
This is what I noticed while leaf pulling and suckering. Gretel had told me not to worry — that the vines are strong and it would be hard to break them. But we both found that unless we were careful, we could break vines off surprisingly easily.
Fortunately, the weather shifted and the vines started getting more sunlight which “helped slow vine growth to more normal rates though continued sunlight is still welcome,” says Elaine. Her photo above shows tendrils in old vine Zinfandel on June 19 in the Russian River, and she has found evidence of etiolation in vineyards throughout Northern California. Also, fortunately, it is not as severe here in southern California where our days are longer sooner.
For wineries, so many festivals and invitations to pour your wines means you have to be selective – if you poured at everything, you wouldn’t have time to get the grapes from barrels to bottles. This is another important task for June: making room for the upcoming vintage which be getting picked as early as late next month for grapes destined for sparkling wine. That means bottling!
For Ventura County wineries and for fans of wine tasting, two festivals are highlights of everyone’s year and they take place on subsequent Sundays in June: Casa Pacifica which raises funds for their programs and Ojai Rotary’s Wine Festival held at Lake Casitas This year I helped the winemakers and owners of Clos des Amis pour a selection of their wines at each.
On a cold, drizzly, foggy Sunday morning in early June I put on the layers, packed extras, and drove through the agricultural fields to the bucolic campus of Cal State University Channel Islands. I’d only been back there a couple of times since I quit teaching graduate classes in education there, and I’m impressed by how this former mental health institution is being transformed into a state of the art university with a focus on integrating environmental problem solving throughout the curriculum. The courtyards and mature sycamore trees make it a lovely venue.
I’d always wanted to but never made it to Casa Pacifica’s festival as press or consumer so I was very excited as I drove through the tunnel of sycamores that line the approach. Volunteers directed us to the appropriate parking lots, then we walked to our gates for wristbands. My vendor wrist band got me in early, and since it was still quiet and I wasn’t needed to pour yet, I left my bag and jacket at the Clos des Amis tasting area and ventured off to explore along with the other VIPs.
VIP means Very Important Person, but these days it means someone with enough money or interest to pay extra in order to get in early before the crowds, lines, and disappointment because the food or drink you desire is all gone. Many winemakers will bring a few special bottles that they will open for those with early entry passes, and when those wines are gone, they’re gone.
At both of these festivals, VIP also means a shaded designated area where you have a chair and a table to relax and access to special wines and foods. At Casa Pacifica, for sponsors and others it means your own private cabana where you can relax with the food and drink you are enjoying – and get out of the sun if there is any!
A big difference between Casa Pacifica and the Ojai Wine Festival is food: at Ojai, people lug in coolers for picnics with views of the lake while at Casa Pacifica local restaurants tempt you and your waistline with samples. In Ojai, people have their favorite spots under the trees on the grass where they lay out blankets and food and friends gather where they share stories and tasting notes as well as pass glasses around with: “You’ve got to try this!”
Between juggling my glass and bites and pouring at Casa Pacifica, I didn’t take many photos – and sadly I didn’t get any of the Clos des Amis table or winemakers/owners Bruce Freeman and Gretel Meys Compton. With the Ojai Wine Festival much busier, I didn’t get a chance to take many photos there either even though I wasn’t juggling food as well as drinks.
The Ojai Wine Festival offers many contrasts with Casa Pacifica – and a huge one this year was temperature. With CSUCI located so close to the coast, most of the day at CSUCI was cold and damp. By June 9, as I drove along the windy road past the vineyards of Sine Qua Non to Lake Casitas, it got hot and hotter! I was clearly protected from the sun but at the same time overdressed in jeans, boots, and a long sleeved Western shirt and hat! The hot weather means good news for the grapes but not so good for me! Fortunately, breezes off Lake Casitas cooled us off. I’ve attended this event twice before, both as press, and once with a VIP press pass so I should have known how hot it can get out there!
This June, Clos des Amis poured at several other events, including one at Rancho Camulos where Bruce also talked about growing grapes in Ventura County which I missed, and the white wine got bottled without me. There’s still plenty of work to be done in the vineyards providing the best conditions for the grapes to progress and ripen; soon it will be time to pick them!
In the meantime, there are so many opportunities to bring wine to concerts and picnics in the park. Remember to check the rules so you’re not disappointed. Many places these days don’t mind alcohol (or will turn a blind eye) as long as it’s not in glass; for example, the campground I was at recently along the Kern River on a rafting trip doesn’t allow glass; in fact, glass isn’t a great idea at the beach or poolside either unless you’re really careful! Wines in cans are an option, and a Hydroflask insulated wine bottle is a great investment. Their insulated metal wine glasses work well also — they offer stability and a lid to keep the bugs out! They come in a range of colors too Learn more about Hydroflask here. NOTE: I received a wine flask and wine “glasses” as samples for my review consideration which you can learn more about here.
Some places, like the Hollywood Bowl, allow you to bring in alcohol for certain events but not others. We could for last night’s LA Philharmonic’s showing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where I brought a Clos Des Amis Rose to pair with my Trader Joe’s Wine Country Chicken Salad. If you want to read more about what I think about this wine (which is one of my favorites for sure but is just about sold out already), go here.
But for other Bowl events like the Dead and Company concert we attended earlier in the month, I brought my wine in a Hydroflask so we could picnic outside the venue and then I brought the empty bottle in where I could fill it up with water. You can also buy alcohol on site — and they have great (if pricey) selection.
Summer has just begun and there’s so many fun activities to do during the long days and warm nights! I’m looking forward to getting back out to the vineyards to see how the vines are progressing and to prepare for harvest which is just around the corner!
So what are you looking forward to drinking and doing this summer season?
Here on Wine Predator, we will be planning a bit of a break in July and August. So far in the first six months of 2019, I’ve published 60 posts, counting this one, with a total of almost 90k words and averaging about 1500 words per post. That’s the equivalent of writing 1.5 novels, and this puts me on track to make my goal of 108 for the year.
Which means that I’ve earned a bit of a break — and it will be a relief to get away from the construction noise that’s going on behind my house! For more about that, head over to Art Predator. Suffice to say that developers are excavating an old dump for inert road waste — asphalt and concrete– directly behind my home going down 3 stories and the size of a football field so that they can build 3 story luxry townhouses that will tower over my house and my below grade deck and backyard. Clearing began in last March; they thought they’d be done with this phase in mid-May. Next they will be compacting the soil they have reclaimed so they can build on it and excavating another area for a garage.
Because of this construction and the resulting monoliths that destroyed the native plants demonstration guerrilla garden I built and maintained for twenty years, and that will block my views of nature, I am also looking for job and housing opportunities elsewhere — from Ventura County to just about anywhere in the world. I’m a writer, speaker and a college teacher with undergraduate and graduate experience teaching English, Environmental Studies, and Education; I’ve also taught yoga and mountaineering and I have a Masters degree in Depth Psychology with an emphasis in Ecopsychology. This year I’ve also learned I LOVE working in the vineyards! I have experience pouring in tasting rooms and events, and I’d love to learn more about wine making too.
Regardless of where I am, in July and August, I plan to continue my streak of participating in:
- #ItalianFWT — Italian Food Wine Travel on Prosecco for July and North East Italy for August,
- #WinePW — Wine Pairing Weekend on Rioja and BBQ in July and New Zealand for August,
- #Winophiles — French Winophiles on Loire in July and Basque for August.
Last year, in 2018, I only missed seven out of 36 prompts! So far this year I’m 18 for 18 and I have drafts done for two of three for July and I’ll draft number three tomorrow night !
Plus I’ve got a few posts in draft form on making your own elderflower liquor, on vermouth, and wines for patriotic predators as well as lovers. I’ve also got notes to report on a South African wine tasting and a Missouri wine lunch. I have lots of wine around I am looking forward to tasting and writing about, so subscribe if you haven’t yet! And if you don’t see anything from me for a week or so, no worries– we’ll be back! And hey, if you want a visit, just invite us!
So what does June mean to you?
NOTE: This is part of my series of monthly posts about my experiences in the vineyards of Ventura County and with Clos des Amis: