January - March

2022 proved an excellent growing season for second-year vines on Sunshine Mesa. Riesling was the most vigorous, Pinot Noir did well but in a slower less bodacious manner. With the first freeze in late October, the season was officially over. After the successful second season, my anticipation and excitement were high for what lay in store!

Being away from the property in January and February, I was able to monitor the vineyard and weather remotely via my Blink camera and Tempest weather station. Unfortunately, Tempest connectivity was lost for several weeks beginning in mid-January. The issue lie with the Bluetooth connection between the Tempest router (which connects to our house wifi), and the station. Thankfully, for an unknown reason, the connection reestablished itself. No human intervention required. 

While a few weeks of data was lost, we recorded our lowest temperature of the winter at 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit on February 17. While unnerving, until that date (as far as I could tell with missing data), temps hadn’t dropped below 5 degrees. There were sporadic 5 to 10-degree occurrences but the average daily temps ranged in the mid to upper 20s. Not bad considering our lowest temp the previous winter was -3 degrees, with longer sustained colder periods.

Remarkably, we neared three inches of rain during the period—with an inch during the previous December. I repeat, rain, at nearly 6,000 feet of elevation in the western Colorado Rockies, between December and March. Obviously, unusually moderate temps were experienced during the period. In addition, the Tempest, as with most home weather stations, doesn’t measure snow and associated moisture content. And snow was had. Bottomline, the valley was benefiting from the overflow of atmospheric rivers plummeting the west coast.

My greatest anticipation upon my return in early March was affirming whether the vines were green behind the buds in the upper canopy. While not unusual in our cold weather climate, I had to prune the first-year vines back to the ground the previous spring. Out came my razor knife upon my first stroll in the vineyard. Several buds were laid to bare, and green was had! I could pursue more traditional vertical shoot pruning this season, taking advantage of the cordons I had laid across the lower trellis wire the previous season. 

Due to the levels of rain and snow during March (think mud bath), I debated whether to start pruning. We were going to be gone for a few weeks again, returning in April. My research suggested I should go ahead and prune while the vines were still in a dormant stage, and before the sap really got running. Talking with local growers, suggested waiting till April. I believe it could go either way but I decided due to weather and time constraints to wait till our return. 

As you’ve probably discerned, there was limited activity in the first three months of the year. It’s sort of like visiting with folks when there is a lull in the action, what do you talk about, the weather! There also wasn’t much to manage with the wine in carboys from the previous fall’s harvest. So I could say I did something constructive, I ensured the airlocks were filled, and adjusted free SO2 as needed. Bottling both the Pinot Meunier Rosé and Riesling (grapes secured from a local grower) could wait another month or two. The Pinot Noir would wait longer.

It was now ultimately clear, April and May’s vineyard and winemaking calendar was going to be full!

The Storm Cellar's vineyard and winery next door on Sunshine Mesa in the West Elks AVA.
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