I received a great question today...
Why did my fruit get decimated this year?
Well, those fine stinging beasts known as wasps, yellow jackets, bees etc really, really, really like sugary sap.
Here on Old Mission Peninsula, we had a great year for fruit, weather-wise. This is overly appreciated by all of the winemakers and vineyard managers who had 5-12% of their normal harvest for the past two years. 2013 was an above average year and then it hit....The Polar Vortex. For two seasons, the wineries had to buy grapes or juice to bridge them until this bountiful year. This season we had wonderfully warm temperatures which can be typical coming out of an El Nino weather pattern. We had a pretty dry early and mid-year, but during the end of the growing season, we had a good deal of rain which always throws a wrench into harvest schedules and plans. Harvest started at the end of September for a lot of the white grapes and those to be used for sparkling wine. The reds always follow about a month later. This year some wineries had to pick their Pinot Noir early due to two things: Wasps and Rain. The reason rain is frowned upon is because the water can swell the grapes and dilute the goodness that you have nurtured all season long. Wasps & Hornets really can be destructive to thin-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir (or the table grape Concord) because they can easily detect the sugars and rip through the skin, climb in and eat their way out of the grapes. This damage completely decimates the grape, so you have to take action quickly. This combined with a rain forecast, forces a winemaker to make a decision and in this case it was a rather easy one. Pick a week or two early to be safe.
I should have seen this coming. I got stung 3 times and I can't count the number of times I was chased out of a row by the black and white bald-faced hornet. By the way, when I say chased out I mean I was 500 feet down the row and it chased me to the road. I hate hornets almost as much as Bindweed...Almost.