Thursday, October 6, 2011

Harvest is almost over!

We were able to pick all the Chardonnay that was ripe on Tuesday, right before the rains! We started at 2 am and finished at 10 am -- with a break for coffee & donuts at 6:30. We then visit with them and hear their stories of how the night has gone. They're a wonderful team!

The Chardonnay grapes looked wonderful as they were loaded into the press


Our car is the breakfast center at 6:30 am! Just as dawn breaks, Mom and I (see me there?) take coffee, donuts & cookies to our pickers

We've picked all the Pinot Noir and the lower blocks of Chardonnay, which always ripen earlier. The sugars are quite low but flavors and acid are very good, so everyone is very excited that we will be able to make wonderful wines with lowere alcohols than usual. 


After the rain, the Chardonnay from Rued clone looks very good - but they know it's not ripe because I won't eat it! 


This is the See clone of Chardonnay, which also looks great but not quite ripe yet

The Syrah fruit has withstood the rain without any problems and is ripening surely but slowly
We are planning to pick the remainig Chardonnay next week -- when Mom will be in Spain! This is the second year that she has to leave before harvest is over and she is reeeeally upset. Although we know the team will do an excellent job, we won't be able to care for the vineyard crew and we truly love that!

Then after that, it will be the Tempranillo and the Syrah, which always ripen latest. The fruit is in excellent shape and the skin is much harder than that of Pinot and Chardonnay, so they can withstand the rain without any problem.

Well, we'll be backin touch in November. Have a wonderful October -- and Halloween!! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Picking Earthquake Block Pinot!

The fruit in our single-clone bottling of Earthquake Block looked great as we picked it yesterday!

So far the yields are measly, although the fruit is wonderful -- fresh and full of flavors.  And we've been able to pick at rather low sugars with very good acids. The dream of a wine grower!

From here you can see how this came to be called Earthquake Block: the ravine in the middle that we covered before planting gave way after a big storm and it looked like an earthquake!

The fruit looked beautiful as it was being harvested

The views from the Earthquake Block are stunning, while the grapes are meticulously cleaned of leaves and twigs at the bins 

On the right, the new compost pile being created with pomace and stems from the red grapes plus saw dust. The grey pile to the left is ready to use

We knew the grapes were ready to pick because Chico & Bonita were devouring them!
Chico is starting to take short walks on leash!  Mom took both of us to the Earthquake Block so we could taste the grapes, since we LOVE eating them! And when we do, the team knows it's time to pick...
Tomorrow we move on the the Doña Margarita Vineyard to harvest -- it's so much fun running in that vineyard, can't wait! But sadly, Chico will have to stay in Mom's office  :-(
After that, the only fruit left to be harvested will be the Chardonnay -- which is still at least a week away from being ripe. With the rain forecast for next week, we are lighting candles to Saint Peter praying for it to skip our vineyard!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Harvest has started in the Don Miguel Vineyard! But Chico can't see it...

Harvest has started at the Don Miguel Vineyard! It's so sad that Chico can't come along with Mom and me, since his leg needs to rest. He looks so sad every time Mom and I leave the house!

On Wednesday we picked the Stony Block at the crack of dawn! The sunrise was magnificent

day picking
Yesterday we picked the steepest slope of the Don Miguel Vineyard. Hard work indeed!

night picking
 And today we picked at night for the first time!

We started Tuesday, September 20 -- how exciting! First fruit to go was the block below our house, which was the first one to become Biodynamic and always ripens earliest.
Then Wednesday was the Stony Block, our single-clone bottling of Dijon 115. Yesterday we picked the steepest block of the vineyard, planted with the Pommard clone.
Only today were we able to harvest at night, since the other blocks of Pinot Noir are too steep and we'd worry about the safety of the team. But night picking is of course most desirable, as the fruit comes cool and at its best. 

We went to the Doña Margarita Vineyard in Sonoma Coast yesterday -- the Pinot Nor is getting ripe very quickly but definitely not there yet.  With the nice weather this week, we feel pretty sure we'll be picking next week. And that Mother Nature will spare us from the chance of rain announced for this weekend!

perfect dmr pinot
Some vines are perfectly balanced with great looking bunches, like this one -- but others have very little fruit

not ready pinot
Bonita did not want to eat the grapes -- that tells us the fruit for sure is not ripe yet! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting closer to Havest!

The Pinot Noir grapes are now mature and many are looking great, like these -- and tasty, too!

The Chardonnay is not quite ripe yet, although the fruit is very balanced and flavorful. But still too sour!

Chico has been looking very sad since his leg operation -- and hated to have it all bandaged!
All of a sudden, with the heat wave of this past weekend, we finally can start harvest -- that's so exciting!  We hope this will be one of those rare years when we can pick with full flavors and low sugars. We'll keep you in the loop -- but now we have a lot to do, getting ready for the first day of harvest tomorrow!!!

Unfortunately Chico is not going to be able to run around chasing the tractor nd the pickers -- he had surgery on his leg a week ago and needs to sit still for four weeks!! Can you imapgine what torture that is for him??

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Still probably a couple of weeks away from harvest... Some Pinot Noir blocks are ahead of others, but all the Chardonnay is still way behind. And this must have been the worst year ever to have an organic vineyard! We don't remember ever the powdery mildew being this bad. But as far as organic veineyards are concerned, we are probably the cleanest one in the region!

The Swan clone is always one of the first to ripen. Now it's fully colored!

The Pommard clone, on the other hand, is among the latest picked

What we decided to do is to make a pass the day before harvest and pull all the leaves around the grapes, so as to expose the fruit and be able to remove any mildewed clusters and berries. Right now we don't want to do that, since the fruit would be exposed to the sun rays and likely to get sunburned. It's always a fine line between avoiding mildew as well as sunburn - it is often very difficult, if not impossible!

The mildew spores are dead and will not affect the
rest of the clusters - but these must come out

We have build birdhouses to encourage them to ecologically balance the vineyard - this one had eggs just a few days ago!

We love to fight for fun...

... but we also can look like we really get along!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Definitely late harvest and low yields!

This is past mid-August, and véraison is still at less than 50% — can you believe it?  The Doña Margarita Vineyard has no more than 5-10% color, and the Don Miguel is not much ahead of it. It’s a very difficult (and costly) year because of the high pressure of powdery mildew (oidium), especially with the puny organic materials that are not nearly as effective as the conventional ones — and much more expensive!

Very few bunches had this much color in the Doña Margarita Vineyard. Looking good, though!

We love the insectary patch below the vineyard, full of Queen Anne's Lace (we don't like their other name, wild carrot, as much).

Other than the organic sprays, aggressive leafing has been necessary as well as immediate removal of each berry that shows the first sign of mildew, even cluster thinning of any bunches that are lumped together, despite the low yields, to ensure the aeration of the canopy.

It was hot this week! Fortunately, after two hours of running in the Doña Margarita Vineyard Jim gave us a long drink of water ...

In our Don Miguel Vineyard, the Tempranillo has barely started véraison -- we're not going to pick that until October for sure!

The good news is that, although small and sparse, the bunches look really good. They are healthy and well balanced, while the vine rows are nicely trimmed and tidy.  Our vineyard team is doing an excellent job!

They've been doing sooo much leafing in the Don Miguel Vineyard... And it's been hot, too! We do feel bad for the vineyard team

Bonita bath
And we got so messy, Patricia had to give us a bath! I love baths, but Chico hates them...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Véraison is finally arriving!!

This year is actually shaping up to be even later than last – which was the latest harvest in our history!  It has been a tough year so far and continues to be; at this stage, when normally we should be almost at 100% véraison, it is just beginning and only in a couple of blocks.  The fruit looks healthy, but that has not been easy; the threat of powdery mildew and botrytis, our natural arch-enemies due to our location so close to to the ocean, have been particularly severe with the cold weather we’ve had this year.

dogs being groomed
We are being professionally groomed these days! Our trainer not only exercises us and trains us 2-3 days a week, she also grooms us. We love it!!

Walking the Don Miguel Vineyard today, we finally saw the first signs of véraison, in the Swan clone!

A lot of work has gone into leafing the vines, hedging, and spraying the organic fungicides like Kaligreen and Sonata that provide some protection against those  dreadful fungi; we’ve had to increase the frequency compared to normal years, as well as extend it.  You see, due to their nature, organic fungicides are less effective than conventional ones — and more expensive.  We still see the threat of mildew, even though it should be over by now!

Leafing, hedging and cutting off laterals has been a non-stop activity this year!

In the cooler Doña Margarita Vineyard, botrytis came so early that many berries never had a chance -- it burned them and they dried up

On the Sonoma Coast, our Doña Margarita Vineyard is requiring an enormous amount of attention — but thanks to that, the  few clusters that survived the cool spring are looking very good indeed!

A consequence of the poor set was millerandage, or peas and pumpkins, which diminishes yields

But some Pinot Noir clusters look beautiful, like these in the Doña Margarita Vineyard!

Our new planting of Syrah and Tempranillo is doing terrific! We have two clones of Syrah, the 877 (from our own vineyard) and a new one, the 470, which we field grafted from dormant nursery wood last spring. These plants are growing neatly up the tube — but we really  find fall budding much preferable, since you really gain half a year. You see, by grafting from green budwood (our own) in August or September, now the plants are much more established and mature.

Found an excellent insectary patch below the vineyard, full of Queen Ann's Lace (also known as wild carrot). Can you see the lady bugs??

The closer rows, field grafted in the spring, are just coming out the tubes; whereas the vines we field budded last fall, in the background, are much more established

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Today we walked the Don Miguel Vineyard -- the growth is just as astounding as in the Doña Margarita! The crew is working non-stop to keep the canopy in check. We also saw some powdery mildew (oidium) but it is practically gone and not a concern anymore.

Fortunately, this is the only cluster we could find in the vineyard with powdery mildew!

Leafing and hedging has been a non-stop job in the vineyard

good balanced vine
Many vines, however, are showing good balanced clusters and excellent set

The young tempranillo vines look healthy and great!

A good example of 'coulure' or shatter: sparse berries in a cluster, due to poor weather at the time of pollinization and set.


Many vines show normal-size and tiny berries in the same cluster, another result of weather, commonly referred to as 'peas & pumpkins'.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mom is back from Spain!

Other than the organic sprays, aggressive leafing has been necessary as well as immediate removal of each berry that shows the first sign of mildew, even cluster thinning of any bunches that are lumped together, despite the low yields, to ensure the aeration of the canopy.
July 14, 2011 

Mom and Cristina are back from Spain! Not that we missed them that much, really — we had a grand time while they were gone, with Cooper and his Mom, Susan. She took us to the beach (which of course gave Chico an ear infection) and we also swam in the pool and lounged on her patio. Truly, a dog’s life!

Swimming in the ocean at Stinson Beach was so much fun! The water was coooold and great

That’s only three of us, not six! Bonita and Cooper are definitely going steady…

 Today we went in the Doña Margarita Vineyard and saw the incredibly wild growth that has taken place with all the rains last month. Can you imagine 4 inches in one day?? And that was not all, of course. So it has been impossible to keep up with the shoot growth – the vineyard crew is scrambling. But they’ll soon have it all under control, hopefully it won’t rain anymore, and we’ll have beautiful Goldilocks weather to ensure a perfect harvest!

The shoot growth has been wild — look at them going in all directions!

A very organic way to get rid of gophers: a gopher snake is the perfect predator!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Rainy Spring

Shoot tips and leaves in the Doña Margarita Vineyard are
yellow due to the cool, wet weather
One of the many yellow leaves






Persistent rain and cool conditions have dried
 the leaves near the tip (where the arrows point)

The rains and cold weather are driving us crazy!!  Mom wakes up in the night worried and wondering when they are going to stop… The consequences are showing especially in our Sonoma Coast’s Doña Margarita Vineyard, which is even cooler than the Russian River Valley. Signs of Pinot Noir “leaf curl”, with dead leaves near the tip, are everywhere; this is due to a build-up of toxic putrescine during wet, cool conditions. And also, leaves toward the top are yellow instead of green. As the season advances leaves will turn green and new ones will grow near the tip – but it’s sad to see them looking so “sick” now.Bloom is barely starting; we found just a few flowers in the upper area and none in the lower vineyard. Bu interestingly, last year we had 1% bloom on June 3rd — so the conditions were pretty similar to this year!  But we sure hope this will not be as difficult growing season as last year’s…