This is one of the most important lessons I learned over the last 20 years of growing ultra-premium wine grapes. Regardless of where they came from or how they got here, our wine grape vines having been producing mature fruit for millions of years….a lot longer than us. And they are pretty good at it.
So rather than thinking that we, as growers or the wine makers, are smarter than those vines, we all should listen to what they are telling us and act accordingly. There is a bell curve of quality for every site and variety and every grower needs to find the top of that bell curve of quality for his/her vineyard whether it is producing at 2 tons per acre or at 8 tons per acre. And if you miss that top of that bell curve either by picking too early or waiting too long or by over-cropping or under-cropping your vines, the quality of the grapes they produce, and the wines made from those grapes, will suffer.
As growers, our job is to produce the best quality wine grapes we can from our vineyards and that means that we need to make the right decisions every step of the way. Listening to what the vines and the site is telling us is one of the most critical decisions.
This is a lesson that Andy Walker and Nick Dokoozlian of UC Davis and Phil Freese of Mondavi taught me a long time ago and I have never forgotten it. As Phil Freese once said to me a long time ago, “when you mitigate, you compromise”. It is a simple concept to understand but it is very difficult to execute well and over time.