Thursday, November 14, 2013

Read our 2013 Harvest Report!

For the full report we wrote in our 2013 Harvest Newsletter, follow the link.  And for a one page summary [which Mom adapted from our newsletter, of course] see the Harvest Report.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Getting ready for the Chardonnay harvest!

We walked the Chardonnay rows this morning to check the fruit, which seems to be ripening nice and slowly; the flavors are excellent but the acidity is still too high, so we will wait a few more days to pick.

The Spring Mountain clone is always the last one picked but this year it has much higher yields than usual, so the crew will do another pass to thin out the excess clusters. This will enable the fruit to ripen evenly and earlier, avoiding botrytis or bunch rot.

A Spring Mountain vine with too much fruit on it that needs to be "de-clumped".

Zach's hand shows a cluster of Spring Mountain Chardonnay affected by S.A.D. These will never ripen and need to be removed.

We don't like the taste of the Chardonnay grapes as much as the Pinot Noir -- but we certainly hate the clusters affected by Sugar Accumulation Disorder, or S.A.D.!  We learned about it as we found quite a few such clusters in the Spring Mountain block. Zach explained that it used to be called Berry Shrivel but now we know that it has to do with altered nitrogen metabolism. The affected fruit has lower pH, berry weight and Brix; the shriveled berries have stopped developing and taste harsh and unripe. 

So the crew did a pass through the Spring Mountain parcel today to remove any excess clusters (we call that "de-clumping" -- our very own word!) as well as any affected by S.A.D. And we'll probably be ready for harvesting them in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Harvest is Here -- Fast & Furious!

Harvest arrived on September 3, right after Labor Day, and it has been non-stop since. We started with the Dijon 115 and Swan clones below our house above the vineyard, which has always been the first picked ever since it became biodynamic in 2008. It's either a coincidence or maybe not, but it sure gives us outstanding fruit!  

On the first day of harvest we picked Pinot Noir -- Mom let us have some and it was soooo good!
At sunrise, as is our tradition, we took coffee, pastries and fruit to the vineyard team 

This is an example of our Pinot Noir harvest this year - both bountiful and with fabulous flavors!
We looked out for the crew while they were picking -- they are so fast, we love watching them!

On September 10 we went to the Doña Margarita Vineyard in Sonoma Coast. The fruit there looked and tasted just fantastic and we have been picking there ever since! 

We are now harvesting our Doña Margarita Vineyard in Sonoma Coast, right above our Equestrian Center, Marimar Estate Stables. 
This is how good the Pinot Noir at Doña Margarita Vineyard looks -- and we love how it tastes, too. Mom thinks we will be making superb wine there!

The Chardonnay is also looking beautiful and we have picked some at lower sugars, so we don't exceed the alcohol levels we favor. As soon as we are done in Sonoma Coast, though, it will for sure be ready to harvest -- and also the Albariño, which looks and tastes great!

The Chardonnay in the Don Miguel Vineyard is almost ready to pick! 

Friday, August 9, 2013

The fruit is looking soooo good at the Doña Margarita Vineyard!

Yesterday we went to our Sonoma Coast vineyard and ran up and down just about every row (not in vain our barrel selection of this vineyard is named "Chico's Run"!) so we could see how wonderful the berries look. In fact, we have to thin out a lot of clusters. It is hard for the crew to do that because they know that then at picking time, it will take them longer to gather the same tonnage; but we explained to them that quality is what we are after, much more than quantity -- and rather reluctantly but understanding, they went back to the 1st row to start again and take off much more fruit.

Zach weighed a big cluster with his sophisticated gadget -- a scale that you hang the cluster from!
Then he showed the crew how much fruit to thin out -- look at all the clusters on the ground, how sad :-( 

Véraison is now in full swing at the Doña Margarita Vineyard and the vines look just magnificent. Using his high-end scale, Zach weighed a big cluster at 150 grams or 5.3 ounces -- that's about 5 times the weight of a couple of years ago! We are delighted to see that the vines are in much better balance now and should give us some extraordinary wines.  It's very exciting -- but hard to have the patience needed to wait for the results!

Bonita was VERY tempted to eat the seemingly juicy berries, from their great looks . . .
. . . but after falling into the temptation, pretty soon she realized that was not such a good idea!

With the grapes looking so gorgeous, we were very tempted to eat them -- but soon enough we realized they are far from ripe. You should have seen Boni's face after she swallowed some!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Véraison in in full swing at the Don Miguel Vineyard!

Véraison usually starts a bit earlier in our Russian River/Green Valley vineyard, Don Miguel, than in the Sonoma Coast's Doña Margarita. That's because although this one is just five miles closer to the ocean than the former, that distance accounts for a 5-10º F difference in temperature! So we were delighted to see that at the Don Miguel Vineyard around the winery, véraison is at about 85% in the Pinot and 60-70% in the Chardonnay -- and also that the fruit looks fantastic. We have high hopes for a superb harvest this year!!

      These clusters have already turned soft and         translucent, a sign of véraison in the Chardonnay 
In the Pinot Noir, véraison is  practically completed. And the fruit look gorgeous!
This would actually be quite extraordinary -- 2 years in a row of an excellent harvest! It would be nice, indeed, and make up for the very difficult 2011, when the yields were so poor that we are barely breaking even now that we are starting to sell the wines. We hear Mom complain about it a lot!! 

The yields are so good that we will have to drop some fruit, as you can see here, to achieve perfect balance and ripeness 
The Tempranillo is far behind. Some clusters are starting to gain color, bu they're not nearly ripe enough to tempt Bonita to taste them!

Besides the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the other varieties are far behind. The Albariño berries are still hard as rocks, and so are the Syrah. The Tempranillo is ahead of these; in fact, its name means "the little early one" in Spanish because it ripens earlier than the other Spanish varieties.

Worth mentioning is the fact that, in a year when the powdery mildew (oidium) pressure has been extremely high, both vineyards are absolutely healthy and without signs of either that hideous fungus or botrytis. The vineyard crew has been doing a fabulous job!!
The rootstock in our new planting of Albariño looks very healthy, as Bonita is showing you here

Friday, July 26, 2013

Veraison is just starting at the Dona Margarita Vineyard!

Berries are just starting to color in our Doña Margarita Vineyard - way behind the Don Miguel 
We made sure Filiberto, Zach and Tony paid close attention to the grapes!

Today we visited our Doña Margarita Vineyard in Sonoma Coast - which we LOVE because there we can run up and downhill non-stop! (Except when we have to pose for pictures). That's why Mom named the barrel selection from this Vineyard "Chico's Run"!

Being just 6 or 7 miles from the Pacific Ocean, it is quite a bit cooler than our Russian River / Green Valley site, where by now many Pinot grapes look totally black.

Harvest still seems about two weeks behind, but the current cool-ish weather may hasten it a bit. And we were all delighted to see that, in a year where powdery mildew has been a huge concern everywhere, our berries are clean and gorgeous. The vineyard team has been doing a fabulous job  the entire season, in the cold as well as in the heat!
This cute bee was enjoying the nectar from the beautiful Queen Anne's Lace flower in our natural 'insectary'

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The vines are in full bloom!

Walking down the vineyard rows right now is a fabulous treat -- the subtle but incredibly fragrant aromas are irresistible! Of course, not all vines flower at the same time; first comes the Chardonnay, then the Pinot Noir, the Albariño, and the last are Syrah and Tempranillo.

Many of the flowers have already finished bloom and are starting to lose their caps, becoming tiny grapes. Because vine flowers are self-pollinating, they don't need bees to become fruit. And this year they are doing their job very well!
The Chardonnay flowers are looking perfect this year! On the right, with their caps still on; left, they have become grapes; and middle, not flowered yet.

The Albariño vines are trained with one shoot going right and the next one left, in order to provide some shading and avoid sunburn
We managed to get some shade under the Albariño vines, while Filiberto, Tony and Zach discussed the proper training of the shoots

This huge tractor is cultivating the soil down to 5 feet, to remove any old roots, in preparation for our new Albariño planting
The Tempranillo vines are head pruned, in the classic style for this variety. You can see it seems to want to be trained that way!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The vines are growing very quickly with this beautiful weather!

The shoots are growing by leaps and bounds -- in fact we wish it was not so warm, since the quick growth will give us long internodes and thus more distant positions. But as farmers, we don't get to choose -- Mother Nature does!

Bloom is probably 2 or 3 weeks away -- hopefully just before Mom goes to Europe! She is leaving on May 19 -- and we know how sad she is to have to miss so much of the vineyard development at this time, when the vines change almost daily.
Some clusters at the 'pompom' phase -- you can see why they get this name!
Our 'Insectary' is starting to bloom -- in a few days it should be covered with lots of beautiful flowers!

Other than the vineyards, a few more things are going on -- like the new pizza oven we are building! It should be finished by next week, and then we will celebrate with a Team Party on May 9. Pizzas and BBQ!We are so looking forward to it, mostly because some treats are sure to come our way (and if not, Chico is great at stealing food, anyway).

Another exciting news item is that we already have a new bee hive. One of them did thrive this past season, but the second collapsed due to the insecticides that contain neonicotinoids. :-(  So Mom and our friends Millie & Tom, who live across the road, helped Steve (The Bee Master of Sonoma County, remember him??) and Dan get the new hive in. We will be harvesting a ton of honey from the 1st one soon -- we can't wait! 

The pizza oven is almost finished, then the BBQ willbe back next to it

The first bee hive is doing great, and the second one has just gone in!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Buds are Breaking - it must be Spring!

We love this weather, it's great for running in the vineyard -- and the new buds are sooo cute!

Finally, bud break arrived! Not that it's late, mind you -- this year everything is right on time. Bud break came in mid March, and fortunately we had finished pruning as scheduled, by late February. Then we had some heavy rains, as much as 3.5 inches, but they only lasted a week in early April. Ever since, the weather has been quite beautiful -- now we only want it to last until flowering, which should happen in early May.

The timely rains have added up to slightly more than last year's total rainfall to date, which is still below average for our region -- but not bad. 

We are intent on not letting gophers invade our vineyards this year; using traps, we have caught about 200 at the Doña Margarita Vineyard and more than 100 at the Don Miguel. Yaay!  Our only regret is, WE  haven't been able to catch a SINGLE one. But we keep trying!

A young bud of Tempranillo, looking very healthy!
The Chardonnay shoots are fruitful, with two clusters. Many have wings, promising good sized bunches

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pruning is in the last stages!

We are done with pruning in the Don Miguel Vineyard and the crew has moved on to Sonoma Coast and the Doña Margarita Vineyard. This year it has taken longer to prune because we had a late start with the December rains. Besides, we have been able to use a new organic product to paint the pruning wounds and prevent Eutypa, the feared wood fungus that can go inside the trunk and kill the vine. But it takes a long time to paint all the cuts!

The last parcel of Pinot Noir was pruned this week. While the rest of the crew prunes in the background, Alfredo goes after them and paints the cuts to prevent Eutypa.
This young vine in the Doña Margarita Vineyard thinks it's already spring and has budded out several leaves!

We went for a walk in the Doña Margarita Vineyard, which we love because there are sooo many gophers there!! We ran up and down the rows and tried so hard to catch one -- but no way, we couldn't. Not a single one. Darn!

We are indeed a bit behind in pruning, as it will take almost a month to do the 20 acres of that vineyard. Fortunately we've been lucky with the weather so hopefully we'll finish before bud break ... we don't have a choice!
We both worked really hard here as we could smell the gopher -- but although we made a humongous hole, we couldn't get him 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Pruning is on the way big time!

Not much happens during the winter, while the vines are dormant, except for pruning -- but that's no small feat. Pruning will very much affect the vine's development during the growing season, its balance and the canopy. And balanced vines produce balanced wines!

This is a cane-pruned vine, where the two arms have become too distant from each other. To re-train it,
we leave a sucker that next year can be
trained to form a perfect cane.
And this is a cane-pruned vine that we have re-trained. Last year's sucker has become the new cane, so now the two arms are close to each other and will make for a 
perfectly balanced canopy. 

We found a really well pruned cordon vine! Look at the perfect positions of each cordon arm: four on the 
right and four on the left.

This is the 'snaggletooth' pruning system that we have developed for Albariño. It forms a divided canopy
without a double arm that would make the vine  much bigger and negatively impact quality.

We had a lot of good company yesterday! Besides our
friend Molly, Tony's cute and smart dog, this
little puppy was so much fun -- we 
ran and ran together!
Digging for gophers is a fabulous part of our vineyard walks! We took turns at getting in the hole -- but no,
we didn't catch a single gopher. Just ended up
really messed up with mud!