July 31, 2015 | by Lisa Mattson

Veraison is underway in the vineyards throughout Alexander Valley. This month’s photo gallery captures the alluring colors of red wine grapes as they change from green to purple.

Some earlier-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon sites began to change color as early as the first week of July, while other benchland and hillside vineyards just a few miles away started veraison, the onset of ripening, last week.

It’s been an interesting growing season, to say the least. As we mentioned in our spring growing season report, variability has been the norm–variability in flowering, fruit set and thus ripening. Some vineyards are lagging behind others due to the cool May and moderate July temperatures; the grapes at one of our grower’s Merlot vineyards started veraison 1-2 weeks later than some nearby Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards–and that Merlot block is usually one of the first vineyards to go through veraison. (As a general rule, the grapes are fully ripe and ready to be harvested about six weeks after finishing veraison.) We expect to begin harvest just after Labor Day–which is about two weeks later than last year–but about a week ahead of a typical vintage. The last few vintages have been anything but typical. 2012, 2013 and 2014 were all very early harvests. For growers of early-ripening grapes, 2015 is poised to be an early harvest yet again–but not so for Jordan.

With veraison underway, Winemaker Rob Davis is focused on the critical precision farming practice called veraison thinning. The color change of the clusters gives farmers the perfect visual aide to identify which grapes are ripening at different rates–and uniformity is key–we want the bunches to be evenly ripening at the same pace, so they are ready to harvest at the same time. The green clusters pictured in this gallery are being removed, by hand, from every vine–at a time when quantities are already down. Our cluster counts (total number of clusters on the vine) are 10-20 percent lower than last year, and the cluster sizes are at least 20 percent less. Quality winegrowing requires sacrifice.