I always love an opportunity to quote Bob Marley.
This is that time of year when winemakers start to really look closely at the future crop and work out things in their (our) minds about a game plan for the coming harvest. That is to say, it's scrutiny season and no detail is left unnoticed. Meanwhile, grape growers and viticulturists are waiting for the vine growth to slow down and the grapes to begin their journey to mature, harvestable fruit. It's the middle of the growing season and it's not always pretty to the trained eye.
The photo shows a lovely vineyard down the road at the peak of this moment. Some of the vines look deep green, a sign of stabilizing growth while others have a light green, wispy look that reveals recent shoot growth. The fact that they are not all uniform at this stage is of debatable importance. The old timers would say that they will catch up. The winemaker that is laying out 3, 4, 5 or $6000 per ton is wondering when the grower is going to go out and scold the renegade vines that won't proceed to the next phase.
As a grape supplier to other wineries and a winemaker, I have mixed feelings about all of this. On one hand, harvest is many weeks away and the old timers probably have it right. On the other hand, I remember a few years back with a wet spring that the vines never seemed to slow down. It was almost a visceral reaction to go out and slap the vines to snap them out of their mad growing cycle. So it is right now with the odd corner, end vine, deeper soil section and vigorous variety. The fact is, nearly every vineyard block has these nuances and there are a vast array of opinions about this. At harvest time, the same will be true to some degree and, with quality the highest priority, a multitude of attitudes emerge when the pickers are chomping at the bit.
I can see things two ways, in general: on one hand, if the vines are perfectly uniform, one should expect perfectly uniform character throughout the block. On the other hand, if there are some weaker and stronger sections, there are "opportunities" for more complexity in the fruit, something I once called the "ambrosia effect." I mentioned this to one winemaker and he made a face in disgust, muttering something about yucky marshmallow cream. I mentioned it to another winemaker and he liked the idea, it also jogging an old reflex from his childhood -- treat time!
Some of the vexing is appropriate and some, in the words of a famous winemaker, is just a distraction. We all-too-often expect perfect looking vines to make perfect wine but it ain't always so. The usual stuff always seems to come to the forefront: site, variety/clone and judicious timing at every stage.