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Vintage 2005 Wine Blog


winesonoma
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Well the year starts anew and we have to go prune the grapevines to get next years yield at the max. I'll try to get some pics. :sad: as Manyard G Krebs would say "WORK!!!" :biggrin::laugh:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Well the year starts anew and we have to go prune the grapevines to get next years yield at the max. I'll try to get some pics. :sad:  as Manyard G Krebs would say "WORK!!!" :biggrin:  :laugh:

Well I have some pictures all I need to do is get them heregallery_14400_890_272354.jpgThis is what it looks like when we start.

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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gallery_14400_890_293235.jpg

And then we are done. We try to get one cane per spur with 2 buds. We want the bud to be upward facing so it will grow toward the wires. Cane's should be about 6" apart on the main plant.

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/11097248..._890_293235.jpg

  And when we are done. We try to get one cane per spur with 2 buds. We want the bud to be upward facing so it will grow toward the wires.

How do you do that?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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This vineyard is on a trellis system so we want the vine to grow up into the wires. It's really a matter of trail and error with this vineyard as it was not well cared for in the past. Judgment call as to which is the dominant came. Should come out from the top rather than the side or bottom of the vine. 2-3 buds max to get the best quality grapes. You sometimes come through later in the season and thin the grapes. Quality of the grapes not quantity is the ideal. Keep asking questions and I'll do my best to answer them. :biggrin:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Hi Winesonoma,

What grape varietal are the vines, and is that influencing how you prune?

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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"Taille tôt, taille tard, rien ne vaut la taille de mars."

Prune early, prune late, but nothing is better than pruning in March.

(French winemaker proverb)

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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First, I'm not a winegrower.

My observations say:

If you prune too early, you promote stronger growth (that's what I've seen with my wisterias).

If you prune too late (that's what my local winegrowers say), you have no second "rescue" prune in the case of late spring frost.

Here in Switzerland (rather frosty region) they prefer pruning in late February to have some more rescue pruning. It's regionally different, I assume.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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I'm in Northern California, the vineyard in question is Syrah. If we wait much later we will have growth starting. Today was high 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You have to watch out for the rain cause it can do bad things to the vines after pruning for at least 3 days. If you want to know what that is I'll ask those who know and have much more knowledge than me. The wineries started pruning in January. We have to wait till we have the people and days off. This is not our job, but our hobby. I hope to make this an ongoing thread like Carolyn Tilles last year , but that's a hard act to follow. Always glad to answer questions. It's a fun process to make wine most of the time. See also http://homepage.mac.com/winesonoma/PhotoAlbum20.html :biggrin:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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How many acres are you working, and how many people are working it? Are you really all volunteers, or do you mean you get volunteer help with the most labor-intensive and time-critical operations, like pruning?

(I remember being 'volunteered' to help sucker orange trees in my youth. At age 12 or so, volunteerism is a lot less voluntary. :raz: )

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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We have 900 plants in 19 rows. We paid one guy, $10 an hour cause he needed the work. We are 5 partners and we do it all. During harvest we generally hire 4 people for a day or two just so we can get the rest of the work done at a reasonable hour. Crush at midnight tends to be less fun. :biggrin:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Bruce, let's take this from the ground up! :laugh::laugh:

Can you find out for us what type of soil this is? And maybe give us a pit view?

Is this site near a hilltop or crest, or in a valley?

Are the vines on a disease resistant rootstock or on their own roots?

Let's get to know our little buddies before they bud, which will be happening soon with the warm March weather.

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Mary Baker

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The vineyard is on the valley floor and is irrigated. Things are starting to move fast here in the valley. I'll try to get some more pictures and info later today. In todays paper http://www.sonomanews.com/articles/2005/03...ries/news02.txt :biggrin:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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  • 2 months later...

I hope Bruce will continue with a vineyard report from Sonoma, but in the meantime here's an April followup from our syrah lot in west Paso Robles:

gallery_17061_1216_78231.jpg

Vigorous April shoots enjoying a stretch in the sun. April was a continuation of an unusually rainy spring. Our weather year starts on July 1st, and typically west Paso Robles receives about 20 inches of rain a year. So far, we have received 42.63 inches.

gallery_17061_1216_58660.jpg

This is a closeup of the flowers and buds that will eventually become grapes.

gallery_17061_1216_342214.jpg

And this is a bat. Bats are welcome here, and in fact, we have two bathouses on our wine barn--a single bat can eat 5,000 fruit flies a night. We opened our storm doors last week and found him stunned on the ground. He must have crawled under the door to stay dry. I was afraid we had broken his wings or worse with the heavy door, but I scooped him into a jar (to protect him from the cats), gave him a twig to cling to and hoped he would recover and fly up to the bat houses. We named him Mason the Bat (after the jar). He recovered and has now set up housekeeping with his wife Kerr.

I also took a picture of a recent badger hole in the syrah, but it's not as interesting in digital form. It just looks like, well, a hole in the dirt. :hmmm:

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Sorry, I've been busy. I'll try to get over there this week

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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  • 1 month later...

Since April, the syrah shoots have been growing 2 inches a day. So the shoots that were tidy, well-behaved, and upward-pointing in April are now a sprawl of fiercely tangled 12 foot vines, loaded with green clusters.

gallery_17061_1216_31485.jpg

If you look closely you can see shoots that have just been trimmed off, lying on the ground.

We should have had everything tucked and tied by now, but Dan came down with a moderately severe case of West Nile Virus and was bedridden for over two weeks. Sooooo . . . we're a little behind.

gallery_17061_1216_43426.jpg

Clusters of syrah grapes, just begging to be thinned. Let's see, which one should I pick?

Since we're a little behind on everything, Dan and I work the rows together, one on each side. We untangle the vines, select healthy upward-pointing shoots, trim shoots that are sickly or growing too close together, count clusters and trim them back to two clusters per shoot, tie cordons when they need training, kick off suckers from the vine base, pull some weeds, and tuck the remaining shoots up into the second tier of trellis. What was a disorderly yet abundantly healthy sprawl becomes, one row at a time, a tidy row of upward pointing green shoots, with evenly spaced clusters of berries hanging in a row at chest height.

Our unusually long, wet spring has resulted in voluptuous growth everywhere. We are hoping for another high yield and high quality vintage like 1997. However, in order to protect the vines' ability to also ripen the fruit, growers are cutting off excess clusters of grapes.

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A "moderately severe" case of West Nile? :shock: I hope he's all right now. I didn't realize the virus had made it all the way West already.

2" a day of growth makes me think: wouldn't it be fun to set up a camera to do time-lapse photography of a vine growing? Somebody - David Attenborough, perhaps - took such an approach to plants some years back and put it into a show that I never managed to see. The claim was that the plants looked like they were reaching and groping for things to cling to as they grew. I wish I'd seen it. "The Private Life of Plants" - does that sound right? Has anyone seen it?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

Follow us on social media! Facebook; instagram.com/egulletx; twitter.com/egullet

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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  • 4 weeks later...

Dan is fully recovered (thanks for asking, Smithy) and has been making up for lost time. We have finished the vineyard prep, and begun conversion of the 1920's era pole barn built by Diamond Walnuts for crop processing into a real, bonafide wine building.

gallery_17061_1216_6641.jpg

Dry farmed, head trained zinfandel vines now trail across the twelve-foot aisles. We no longer drive the ATV's through the vine rows.

gallery_17061_1216_106446.jpg

This is a nice open bush--taller than some of the others, with nicely spaced clusters hanging in the sun. These zin clusters are approaching veraison (the moment when berries begin to turn from hard, green beads to purple, succulent fruit). The berries here are still filling out in size--they will get slightly more plump, I think.

gallery_17061_1216_28382.jpg

This bush is actually heavier than the above one, and the fruit is more shaded, but we can see a tinge of lavender on these berries.

We've had our first real heat spike this week--108F in downtown Paso Robles and on the east side. We are on a windy hilltop on the west side, with only a few ridges between us and the ocean, so our highest temperature on top of the hill has been 92F, and that for only an hour or two. However, downslope in the vineyard where the wind is blocked, it stays warmer.

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  • 1 month later...

gallery_17061_1216_18397.jpg

Veraison in the syrah is developing quickly now. Harvest is only a few weeks away. Most of the berries are deep lavender to purple already. I didn't take a refractometer with me, but the ripe berries taste as though they are approaching 18 deg. Brix. The syrah is trellised up and exposed to the sun more than the zinfandel--we also have a very heavy crop for four-year-old vines, even though we thinned shoots to every 4", and clusters of grapes to 2 per spur.

Alto Pomar Vineyard, one of our sustainably farmed source vineyards, reports an aggravating mold problem this year, and a 50% reduction in crop load due to the fact that infected clusters were cut off and removed from the vineyard to prevent spreading the mold.

Judy Starr at Starr Ranch in the Adelaida Hills reports that her cabernet franc is outracing the cabernet, which is uncharacteristic. After abundant and energetic spring growth due to heavy and prolonged rains, the vines experienced our usual summer heat spikes and some locations raced toward veraison and ripening. But now things seem to be slowing down again. Judy describes it as "a feeling in the air. The days are getting shorter and the air cooler. The sun angle is lower now and I think things are going to stabilize for awhile."

Here you can see some shots of the head trained zinfandel. Some clusters are still tightly green, but fat. Some are only halfway through veraison, and some are more advanced. We are probably looking at two pickings this year.

gallery_17061_1216_19711.jpg

gallery_17061_1216_17299.jpg

gallery_17061_1216_27100.jpg

gallery_17061_1216_29518.jpg

Some bushes, like this one, still have green fruit, but the vines are starting to slow down and show signs of stress.

Although our walnut trees are already turning golden and pumpkins are nearly ripe, our neighboring vineyards here are reporting that harvest dates should happen as regularly scheduled, although not in the order they usually appear. :unsure:

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Mary Baker

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  • 4 weeks later...

Three weeks since my last post. The syrah is developing good color now, and the berries are starting to soften. As a whole, the clusters do not look quite ready, but they're beginning to get very, very close.

First, I look down the row. Most of the clusters are developing to a dark purple, and everything seems to ripening evenly, but each cluster still has a few lavender berries.

Next, I taste a few of the riper berries. Mmm, sweet and chewy. Too chewy--the skins are not softening up yet. Opening a berry and examing the pips, I can see that they're beginning to turn brown, but they're just a mottled green, white and brown. Then I split a berry open, pop out the pulp, and taste the pulp and skin separately. The skin is sweeter, and while the pulp has nice acid, it still tastes a little too "green." I'm guessing the overall Brix is about 21-22.

This is a refractometer.

gallery_17061_331_6044.jpg

To use it, you just flip back this little lid, exposing a small window.

gallery_17061_331_13140.jpg

A few drops of berry juice go onto the window. Ordinarily, we'd take a field sample by picking a representative sample of berries and squishing them up in a baggie, or by selecting clusters from various parts of the vineyard and smashing them up in a bucket. Having failed to bring either a bucket or baggie, I'm just going to pick a really, really plump purple berry to measure, since the point of this particular stroll is to take pictures for eGullet.

gallery_17061_331_10789.jpg

I discard the berry, leaving just a trace of juice on the window. Close the lid, look through the eyepiece and point the refractometer up to the light.

gallery_17061_331_5414.jpg

Twenty-FOUR?? HOly shit!

Okay, okay, breathe, breathe. It was a really ripe berry. The vineyard is not ready yet. Look at the whole picture, Mary. Whoo. That'll teach me to play around with technology.

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Mary Baker

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It's been pleasantly warm here during mid-day, with overcast mornings and downright chilly wee hours. This week's forecast is for a brief, one day heat spike and a thunderstorm. Great.

The zin is still a long ways off. Syrah in a week to ten days. The sugar is already there in the syrah, but not the skin and pip development. Viognier in a few days, possibly.

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Well, the weather reports threatened a 50% chance of rain and thunderstorms beginning last night. But it never happened. I was awake and looking out the window at 2 am to clear, starry skies, cricketsong by the thousands, owls hooting, foxes and coyotes yipping.

This morning the skies are crystal blue and the air is slightly crisp. A predicted heat spike is moving away and apparently temperatures will be our usual cool mornings and 80-85 afternoons. Our hilltop to the west of Paso proper gets lots of wind and cooler air in the afternoons. With the temperatures cooling down and days growing shorter, the maturation rate of the fruit will slow down.

Dan made the comment this morning that this harvest will be pretty much back to normal in terms of scheduling. Last year, we harvested everything in September--we had no fruit in October. Most years, the fruit comes in from early September through October. This will be a low tonnage year as many growers dropped fruit early in the season to prevent or offset mildew during the rainy spring, and many growers are dropping unripe fruit again now as the vines respond to the shortening days by shutting down--dropping fruit will help ensure that nearly ripe clusters ripen fully.

In the meantime, the storm that was supposed to start here is still rotating northward, and there's still a chance for thunderstorms and possibly hail in Napa. Personally, I think the storm will stay mostly offshore, and they'll just get a brief shower or two.

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Mary Baker

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Mary~

Thank you for this wonderful blog and fantastic pictures. I always wondered how you could tell when to harvest. The refractometer explanation is perfect.

I was disappointed that we didn't get that rain early in the week since I had just come back from San Diego where it poured for hours (after I left, of course!)

I miss the rain, even after 25 years of living in CA. Last winter seemed normal to me :unsure:

Kathy

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