Friday, June 20, 2014

The Grapes are Looking Good!

Well, Mom is in Europe and we are at our beloved kennel, Tappen Hill -- but we asked Zach to send us some pictures and his impressions from the last visit, when he, Filiberto and Tony went to the Don Miguel Vineyard. He sent us these and we thought you would like to see them!

Good news is, the grapes are growing beautifully and we are most excited about how they are developing. So far the vines are very healthy, with no signs of powdery mildew (oidium) or bunch rot (botrytis), our natural arch-enemies!

The Pinot Noir clusters are loose and don't
look like they will be tight this year!

The Chardonnay clusters are showing some 'peas and pumpkins' but look very healthy

The 'Earthquake Block' Pinot Noir (Pommard clone) looks even better than a few weeks ago

The shoots are still actively growing, for the most part, and fruit exposure is good, even though the vines have not been leafed yet.
Clusters are big in the Syrah, Tempranillo and Albarino; these are behind the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Here the clusters show some 'peas and pumpkins' -- smaller and normal-sized berries in the same cluster -- as a result of the brief rains during bloom, which will make for a smaller crop.
But at this point, all these are projections and a lot can still happen to change the outlook; so we keep our fingers crossed!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Flowers Have Become Real Grapes!

The fruit set has been very good and we are very optimistic about the new harvest! The canopies look healthy and early yield estimates are higher than average, which would make this the third consecutive large crop - something almost unprecedented. Of course that's if everything stays perfect until harvest, as many factors can still affect the crop size and quality.

Filiberto, Mom and I walked by the new Albariño planting to check the 'take' of the new grafts

Only a week after field grafting, the first leaves are appearing already and they all look very healthy!

The new clusters are healthy and nicely sized

I learned a little viticulture lesson that I found really interesting! The vine has a perfect flower, in that it has both the female part (ovary) and male part (stigma) in it - therefore it is self-pollinating. The flower also has a cap over it, which it sheds after fruit set.

Our insectary, pictured in my last blog, attracts insects that will pollinate other flowers, but not the vine flowers. Still, it helps create diversity - one of the principles of Biodynamics.

In the picture to the left you can see a cluster after fruit set, with some brown caps still on, as well as some dead flowers (brown dots) that never were pollinated so they didn't become fruit. 

If you shake the cluster or pass your hand over it, both the caps and the flowers that didn't make it fall off. Mom showed me and it's very neat!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bonita's First Report from the Vineyard

This time it's just me, Bonita (Jr.), reporting on the Tales -- Chico has been unable to run in the vineyard, as much as he loves that, because his knees are giving him trouble (arthritis, I hear, ugh!). You see, he's getting old -- just turned 9! I, on the other hand, am only 4, in the prime of life as they say. And I LOOOVE running around the vineyard! In my former life I was with a family that not only didn't have a vineyard, I spent most of the time in a backyard. It's like I died and went to heaven!

You can see that I listened attentively while Filiberto and Zach discussed the next steps after a great set in the Chardonnay blocks

Zach looked on approvingly (and I watched very carefully) as Filiberto showed how he's planning to pull leaves in the Chardonnay vines

In fact I've been on vineyard walks a few times, as it's six weeks now that I've been part of the Torres family! So I think I can do this blog by myself, until Chico is better and can run for a couple of hours again without hurting the entire next day, as it did happen. And I am starting to know Zach and Filiberto quite well; I listen attentively when they discuss the vineyard, of course, and I've learned a lot! 

With the good weather and bits of rain recently, the vines have had a growth spurt! Their tops have been hedged (trimmed) already, ahead of schedule 

The Albariño is growing beautifully, too! It is behind the Chardonnay, as is normal; but it's also been hedged, as Filiberto is showing here

The good weather has caused a growth spurt in the vines, so we've hedged them (or trimmed their tops) already, about two weeks ahead of normal; we do that because cutting off their tops will stop the upward growth and thus the energy of the vine will concentrate on the fruit, not the canopy -- which is what we want right now.

Our insectary this year is looking fabulous!

All in all (while keeping our fingers crossed), this year is looking good! It would be awesome if we had another great vintage, after the last two outstanding harvests.

The recent light rainfall have produced some coulure, which means that the rain hampered the set and therefore some flowers never became grapes. But it's really minimal; we just won't have as large a harvest as last year, yet still can be very good!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Vines are in Full Bloom!

The weather has been very nice in our region, and with the few hot days last week the growth spurt has accelerated. The vineyard crew is going through the rows non-stop tucking shoots and lifting wires! And the outlook is very good for this year - although as we hear Zach say a lot, "these are eggs, not chickens yet". We think he means that the eggs are like the potential of flowering vs. the reality of fruit set... Well, we'll see!

This is a very special time in the vineyards. The soft and fragrant smell of the vine flowers permeates the air and it is truly a pleasure to breathe it in while walking among the vines. Pretty soon the flowers will disappear and the caps will fall, giving way to the tiny berries. That's when we will do cluster counts and start to estimate the yields for every parcel.

Bloom is practically completed in the Don Miguel Vineyard and the clusters are very healthy, as
shown in this Pinot Noir vine of the Swan clone

The Tempranillo is a bit behind, but
perfectly head trained

The new planting of Albariño is very exciting, and so much fun to run up and down on it because the vines are so tiny. We just field grafted the budwood from our own vines onto the American rootstock, which will make the vines resistant to the dreaded phylloxera; and very soon after, the new buds are beginning to sprout. Nature is so beautiful!

The Albariño vines planted in 2008 are
looking terrific, but the shoots are growing fast

After field grafting he Albariño budwood in the
new planting, the teensy buds are just coming out! 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring is definitely here!

The weather has been beautiful lately, the recent rains have given us enough water that we are not worried about the drought here anymore, and bud break is looking terrific - the overall mood is good!

But at home we are still so sad about the loss of my 'sister' and companion, Bonita - it's not the same to run in the vineyard without her. And I have nobody to give me a hard time, like she always did. I miss that so much!

At least I have Mom back now - she had to leave for Europe just three days after Boni passed away. I know that was very hard for her, as it is now for both of us at home. We hug a lot and feel very sad; but we have each other and are even closer than before.

While Mom was gone in March, Zach took this picture in the new Albariño block. I felt so sad and lonely running among the vines without Boni!

The Pinot Noir buds in the Swan clone, cane pruned, looked wonderful on April 3, very even
and fruitful, and pushing well

The new Albariño block is going to be grafted next week; we are all very excited. The rootstock started to push in mid March and with the rains, it has grown enough now to field graft already the Albariño budwood, from our own vines. We always prefer field grafting to dormant bench grafts and ideally we use our own budwood, which we know is healthy and virus free. It will take another three years to get the first good crop - as Mom says, to make wine from your own grapes you need to be very patient!

 Yesterday we saw good growth in the Chardonnay: two bunches per shoot in most vines 

And the Pinot Noir was even more fruitful, with three buds per shoot on average!

The growth throughout both of our vineyards is very healthy, with mostly two bunches per shoot in the Chardonnay, which is good, and three in the Pinot Noir, which is excellent. We keep our fingers crossed that this coming vintage may be similar to the fabulous 2013!

Here is a good example of a perfectly head pruned vine, the ideal way to train the Tempranillo.

I like this picture of me next to a nicely
grown Tempranillo vine!

The new planting of Tempranillo, which gave us a first small crop last year, is looking really good. The vineyard crew has learned very well to train the vines in the 'gobelet' system: the shoots have to look like the spikes of a wheel, or a cup ('gobelet' means cup in French).

This machine has replaced hand weeding, one of the most expensive parts of organic farming.

After the pass, the weeds are gone from under the vines, leaving the cover crop intact.

We are very pleased with the Gramegna weeding machine we have now been using for two years. That's how long it takes for the results to show, as it is a process; but it's wonderful to have eliminated the weeding by hand, which was extremely costly. Of course, in organic farming we never use any herbicides because we want to preserve the nutrients and richness of the soil, which herbicides will kill at the same time as the weeds. And believe me, the results for the health of the vineyard are undoubtedly there!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mourning the loss of Bonita...but celebrating her life

Today it's only me, Chico, writing this blog -- unfortunately, I have lost my beloved companion. As many of you already know, Bonita passed away last Monday, February 24, after a short but very brave fight for life. It started with an apparently upset stomach the prior Wednesday, but then a very delicate surgery the following Saturday revealed a twisting of her intestines -- something very rare that I didn't even understand.

She was 6, at the prime of her life, and the most fun-loving, vivacious, rambunctious, beautiful, affectionate and smart companion you can ever imagine. Those of you who met us knew that well!

    A collage of images from Bonita's life, from her young days to today. Her favorite place was the vineyard!

On her last walk of the vineyard, Tuesday 18 February, Bonita was admiring the swelling buds

This is how huge some of our redwoods
are in our Doña Margarita Vineyard

Life goes on in the vineyard, and the vines are starting to wake up. We saw some bud swelling last week at the Doña Margarita Vineyard, and today as well at the Don Miguel Vineyard. The team is almost finished tying the vines -- just in time. We expect bud break to happen perhaps in a couple of weeks, depending on the weather; which by the way, we're delighted it has been quite wet!

Today we walked the Don Miguel Vineyard
and found some bud break already -- look
at this young vine, it had 3 tiny clusters!

Mom was very proud of me for having caught this gopher -- but I wanted to eat it and she didn't let me. She held me by the collar so I would't jump!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pruning is almost done - now let's have some rain!

This week we visited the Doña Margarita Vineyard, where the crew is now pruning the vines. With this weather we are way ahead of schedule, of course - but we'd rather get some rain, and in fact a lot would even be better. Besides, we LOVE to romp in the mud and the puddles!!

Jaime does a great job pruning!

The cover crop is growing well, despite the water shortage. In Sonoma Coast is has been cold at night so the soil has held the moisture much better than in other regions that are warmer 

Gophers are a great attraction for Bonita - she loves to dig in the holes ...

... and make them way bigger, as you can see, emerging with a very muddy face!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Winter Pruning is on Its Way

Pruning is almost done in the Don Miguel Vineyard! We plan to start next week in the Sonoma Coast's Doña Margarita Vineyard, which takes about  two weeks -- so that means we'd be done by early to mid February, a record! With this incredibly beautiful weather, we have been able to work in the vineyard just about every day. Today the vineyard team was complaining about how hot it was!!

And we love it too, as we can run in the vineyard and we don't get scolded for getting too messy... But nights have been very cold, most of them with freezing temperatures. some days it goes from mid-twenties at night to lower seventies in the day!

Of course the downside to this great weather is that we need the rain -- and there is none in the forecast. But hopefully we'll get some (a lot would be better) in February.  Please pray for rain!

The crew is pruning non-stop, doing a
beautiful job in this great weather

A fallen tree destroyed our
fence -- quite a sight!

We loved running amid the canes in the Doña Margarita Vineyard!

Bonita got stuck in a blackberry bush, as you
can see from the thorny branch dangling on
her head ...