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 mak 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 ...

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!