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Sunlight into Wine

Summertime in the vineyard means working to bring the vines into “balance” – the right balance of nutrients, water and leaf area.  One of our generations’ great names in viticulture, Dr. Richard Smart, in his famous text, Sunlight Into Wine taught us the importance of light on the grapes to achieve those flavor compounds that result in the wines we all love.  Too much shade from the green canopy of vines will result in veggy flavors in the grapes (think bell pepper) and ultimately in the wine.  Too much sun, the grapes will be sun burned.  Find just the right balance and the flavors and deep purple colors will evolve to the wines we all cherish.

The Shadow Run wines are characteristically inky purple black in color.  Anthocyanin, the same compound that puts the purple into your iris, blueberries and eggplant, also brings color to the grape.  And this prized compound is best developed by bright, intense light.  Again, the “right” amount of light is a balancing act.  Too much sun on Pinot Noir or Grenache grapes (both thin skinned grapes) can ultimately lighten the color of the wine.   Many of our tasks in early summer are geared toward making sure that the growing grapes have just the right amount of sunlight.

The trellis system that we use at Shadow Run is a perfect design for insuring proper amounts of light on the grape clusters.  Wires hold the growing green shoots upright, allowing light to hit the grape clusters.  The vine rows run north to south, so as soon as the morning sun appears in the east, the light begins to saturate the grapes.  Air also moves more freely through the vines, reducing exposure to powdery mildew and other diseases.  The wires can also be used to allow the shoots to droop over on the western side of the vine row when the temperatures are soaring.   A brilliant system indeed!

In this video, Aaron walks us through the vineyard, and starts his summer work to make sunlight into wine.