Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Harvest is in full swing!

This is one fast and furious harvest! No complaints from anybody, though -- everyone is happy as can be, working as hard as they can. The vineyard crew loves to pick at night, starting at 3 am (brrrr.... we're still sleeping at that time) and as soon as dawn breaks, Mom takes us to wherever they are picking with fresh coffee and donuts; and for the health conscious, fruit and almonds! We love that -- and sometimes, after much begging (when Mom isn't looking), one of the guys gives us a piece of donut!

Coffee feels good on those misty, cool Green Valley mornings at break of dawn
We won't get a treat while Mom is looking -- but when she turns her back, begging bears fruit!

On clear mornings, picking at sunrise can 
paint a beautiful picture
Last week we had some HOT days! The crew suffered the sun bravely, but WE needed shade

The clusters this year look more picture-perfect than any time in memory! The berries are good-sized  but not too big, juicy and well formed. Judge for yourself from the pictures below -- taken by our viticulturist, Zach Berkowitz, who not only knows a lot about vines but also about photographs!


We have picked by now all our Pinot Noir and Albariño, which have both given us outstanding fruit and very good yields. 

Some of the Chardonnay has been harvested, too; we're about mid way with that. Yields are mid-size, great fruit so far.

The Tempranillo is always the last one to come in, but as you can see it looks gorgeous! We will probably pick that at the same time as the Syrah, which although not pictured, looks promising!

Pinot Noir

Friday, September 21, 2012

Images of Harvest

Harvest is in full swing! And a good one it is, too -- so far at least. We LOVE going in the vineyard at this time and munching on the grapes; they are the most delicious we can ever remember! In fact, what's wonderful is to see everyone looking so happy: the vineyard guys, Tony and his cellar team, even the office  staff -- and Mom, especially. Sooo different from last year, when all were looking so stressed out and somber.

Mom has been taking tons of pictures and asked us to post them in our blog, so here are a few that we think will give you an idea of how things are looking!

We've had classic Green Valley weather most days: foggy and cool until mid-morning, then sunny through the day. Perfect for picking! 
Can you believe how fantastic these grapes look? Best in Sonoma County, for sure, if not in California -- which means the entire USA!

The grapes looked yummy here, but Mom made us pose instead of letting us eat them :-(
 Can't tell you how tasty these were -- we ate soooo many of them, we got upset tummies!

Once on the trays, the grapes are off-limits for us. But you can see from my look that I, Bonita,  very much wanted to eat the whole thing
 Agustín and Filiberto are our friends! They let us jump on the bins so we can check the quality of the grapes -- which they are rightly proud of

This little green friend on Filiberto's hand is a good bug! He was merrily walking on the fruit.

Can you see the blimp in the sky behind 
Mom? We took this picture, hah! We 
know this is a sign of good luck so the 
harvest will be the best ever!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Our Doña Margarita Vineyard in Sonoma Coast is always behind

Today we went to our Doña Margarita Vineyard, which is always behind the Don Miguel Vyd because it is so much closer to the ocean -- only six miles from it. But is was only me, Bonita, since Chico was very sick yesterday and had to rest. You'd never guess from what: he ate something that, in the words of the vet, was "dead, rotten and fermenting"! She had to pump out his stomach and took out, in her words, "a liter of a very smelly liquid"... :-( Tony said that it probably was a dead raccoon -- Yachhhh!  

 I had a taste of a few grapes, but they're 
not near ripe yet. Good flavors, though!
Tony was checking the grapes but Molly, 
his dog, was not interested -- unlike me!
This vineyard looked at least two weeks from harvest. But the flavors are wonderful; and we know from experience that if there is a heat wave, the sugars will jump up and we'll have to rush to pick! So we are following the grape maturities very closely and the vineyard crew is here every day checking things. 

 You can see how beautiful the grapes look -- this year we have perfectly formed bunches! They are not too big and not too small, same as the berries. Just Goldilock's size!!
  Can you believe this? We found a few Chardonnay vines in the new Pinot Noir block. Obviously they were mixed up with the Pinot budwood, so we'll t-bud them next spring.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Getting closer to harvest!

The weather has been beautiful and it looks like harvest could be just a week away! That means we get to eat the grapes during our vineyard walks -- yumm! Actually, they're not as sweet as we like them but we can't help ourselves to munch on them already. We've soooo much been looking forward to it!

Gearing for harvest means a lot of activity in the vineyard and also in the cellar -- getting new equipment like tanks, tractors, lights for night harvesting, an additional forklift, and also healthy drinks & lunches for our team! 

 In our 'Stony Block' the grapes are almost ready -- Chico devoured quite a few! Bonita is more picky & thought they were not ripe enough
We loved driving our new UTV, this fancy John Deere Gator! Tony taught us how to drive it so we can help him at harvest ... 

On the sad side, we have been having quite a problem with gophers this season. Being organic, we cannot use poison (and we wouldn't use poison anyhow, as we feel it's not the right thing to do for the land) but only traps, which take a lot longer to place and collect the pesky animals that devour our vines -- and the workload has been so high that the vineyard team couldn't take the time to put the traps in the Doña Margarita Vineyard -- and we lost 12 vines in a week!

 Here's one of the dead vines from the gophers. It's so sad! We saw the vineyard team feel really terrible to see their work destroyed like that
  You can see here, right, that the gophers ate the roots clean -- wish we could have gotten to those mean animals and killed them ourselves!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Véraison is here!

Some Pinot Noir vines of the Swan clone 
are almost totally colored!

Finally, the long awaited véraison has arrived; that's when the red grapes turn dark and the white grapes become soft and translucent. The season is definitely behind, although not as much as last year. And the weather is beautiful right now, sunny and warm but not beyond the mid-90s. 

We are anxiously awaiting the grapes to ripen, so we can munch on them while walking in the vineyard with Mom! On this vineyard walk we tried a few of the red grapes, but no way -- they are far from being ripe.

With the arrival of véraison, the powdery mildew risk disappears -- which makes us very happy. Now it is botrytis we have to fear, but as long as the weather stays nice and warm we should not have any problems. This could indeed be a great vintage!

I was not at all interested in the Chardonnay grapes -- they are just starting to soften up and turn translucent, which is the beginning of véraison for the whites.
And I was totally uninterested in the Albariño grapes -- I wouldn't even look at them! Those haven't yet begun véraison and are still hard as rocks. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Waiting and waiting for véraison!

Finally!!  Mom is back after her long tour of Europe -- Spain, France, Lithuania and Russia! It was hard to be  away from the vineyard for over a month, but since her return July 10 we've made up for it by running up and down just about every vine row -- in both our Don Miguel and Doña Margarita Vineyards!

This could be a really great harvest, it turns out! Albeit later than normal, the set was very good; the bunches are nicely sized and evenly balanced. Our only problem -- but a big one -- so far is powdery mildew; the weather has been perfect for this vicious fungus! So our team has had to be constantly watching for any affected grapes in the vineyard and removing the clusters before any other become infected.


 Look at our Albariño clusters! Our "V"
system of training the shoots, visible
here, is great for balanced vines
 This bunch and any that looks like it,
affected by powdery mildew, needs to
come out right away

Fortunately, the powdery mildew (also called 'oidium') has only affected  Chardonnay; the Pinot Noir vines are extremely healthy and we're counting the days until véraison starts -- that's when the red grapes turn color and the whites become translucent. At that time, the mildew is not a problem any longer.

A good example of a nicely balanced vine in the Doña Margarita Vineyard, of the Dijon 115 clone. Just the way we love to see Pinot Noir clusters look!
The Pommard clone in the Doña Margarita Vineyard also looks great, but we will need to do some leafing -- as Zach here is demonstrating

Last Thursday we went to the Sonoma Coast vineyard, Doña Margarita.  We haven't seen that vineyard look so good for years! The vines are still growing so véraison is even further away here than in our Russian River's Don Miguel Vineyard. We have three clones planted here: Dijon 115, Dijon 667, and Pommard. They all grow beautifully in this microclimate and provide different layers of flavor that complement each other. We can't wait to taste the 2012 wines!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bloom is here!

Finally, the vineyard is in bloom! We walked (actually, we ran) down the rows and enjoyed the most subtle, delicate and fragrant scent of the vine flowers. The first caps have detached and set is around the corner.

You couldn't believe how fragrant the scent of these vine flowers is! The brown spots are the detached caps. The cluster on the left has not  bloomed yet.

We ran into this huge gopher snake on the ground while walking the vineyard -- can you tell it just had eaten a gopher?? :-)

The vineyard crew is busy removing unwanted shoots -- which you can see on the ground

We are definitely ahead of 2011 (probably by about 10-14 days) and 2010, which is a good thing. The last two years have been so late! But we are behind 2007, 2008 and 2009; however, slightly ahead of the 10-year average.
This is the peak time of work in the vineyard, to get the vines properly trained for best results at harvest: shoot positioning; removing extra shoots from the cane; suckering (i.e., removing the 'suckers' or shoots that grow off the trunk);  weeding, mowing and cultivating the soil; moving up the wires to accommodate the growing shoots; and after set, pulling leaves to open up the canopy.  With the warm weather, the vines are growing quickly and a myriad tasks are required -- but the crew is doing a phenomenal job and the vineyard looks wonderful!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bloom is coming close!

Yesterday we went to our Sonoma Coast Vineyard, Doña Margarita -- things are happening quickly there, too!  The vineyard team is working as fast as they can to remove the suckers and keep the vines tidy, so the unwanted shoots do not sap out the vine's energy; we want them to concentrate that on the fruit!  With the hot weather this week, the vines have come a long way; we expect bloom to happen in a couple of weeks or so. This is our favorite time, because the entire vineyard exudes the most wonderful scent of the grape flowers!

Look how long the internodes are! That's because of the growth spurt due to the warm weather. It's been either rain or hot this spring!

That's back-breaking work, but necessary -- removing the suckers, which you can see on the 2 left vines that are not cleaned up yet

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The bees are back -- and the vines are growing quickly!

Everyone is so excited -- we got our bee hives back!  We lost both hives a few months ago to this shocking disease, CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder. Have you heard about it? It seems that the Neonicotinoid pesticides are doing away with a large amount of the bee population. And even though our vineyard is organic, since the bees travel up to 3 km they can bring it back from nearby conventional vineyards.  It's a horrible situation!

Meanwhile, with the recent warm weather following the rains, the vines are growing by leaps and bounds.       And the vineyards look beautiful!  Very uniform and manicured, thanks to the great work of our vineyard team. If things go well from here to harvest, we could have an excellent crop.  Hah!  Wish we had a crystal ball ...

The cover crops are in full bloom and looking gorgeous. We have different crops planted throughout the vineyards, selected to best suit each parcel. Pretty soon we will mow them or till them into the soil, depending on the needs of each block. But for now, we love to run amid the beautiful flowers!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bud break is finally here!

The rains finally came, and in no small buckets! It has been raining almost non-stop since mid March -- just after Mom left for Europe. She was gone for three weeks, then came back for a week and was off again, this time for a week's vacation helicopter-skiing in Canada with Cristina (what a tough life she lives!) and just returned last Sunday. We enjoyed seeing our sis for a few short days, but now she is back to work in Paris.  We did want to go heli-skiing with them, for we love the snow, but no way they would take us...

Chardonnay DMV
The first leaves of Chardonnay are unfolding in the Don Miguel Vineyard

DMV Vineyard
And in the Sonoma Coast's Doña Margarita Vineyard, the buds are just starting to open

Dogs at DMV
We ran and ran in the Doña Margarita Vineyard -- Mom had a hard time keeping us still for a pic!

Today we went to the Doña Margarita Vineyard; it rained really hard last night so everything was very wet -- which we love, of course! Running in that vineyard is a dog's dream... especially since the sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning. And then, guess what, it hailed in the afternoon. This weather is so insane!  We've had almost 50 inches of rain this season, but 2/3 of that in the last four weeks. OK, now the rain can stop!

In the vineyards it's a beautiful time, when the vines come to life after the long winter rest. The tiny leaves are so cute, all even and bright green! But it is also the time when they are most susceptible to deer, one of our natural enemies here. Last year someone left the vineyard gate open up at the Doña Margarita Vineyard and 4 deer came in -- in a couple of days they devoured more than an acre, which meant a loss of over $20,000 for us!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

 Pruning is almost done, just on schedule!


One good thing about the lack of rain (about the only one, we hear) is that the pruning has continued almost non-stop, so we're right on schedule. And the vineyard team has done a terrific job!  We feel bad for them on the cold days -- they don't have, like we do, a natural fur coat!  But they do bundle up pretty good.  Except for their fingers, which they need when they tie the canes to the wires; that they need bare hands to do.

The cover crop looks gorgeous in our young plantings of Syrah and (behind) Tempranillo

The organic cover crop consists of peas, vetch and barley.  The peas are starting to flower!

The pruning is all done; now all is left to do is the tying. In cold days like yesterday, it's a no fun job!

Did you know that's what a mole looks like?

Did you know the difference between moles and gophers?  We just learned about it from Zach, our viticulturist: moles are blind and only push the earth up, but don't eat the roots so they're not damaging to the vines.  Gophers, on the other hand, are really bad guys -- they devour vines!  It's so sad to find from time to time a vine that's totally dried up and dead - the work of a gopher.  Since we're organic, we cannot use poison (and we wouldn' want to -- that's not good for puppies!!) so we set lots of traps and we catch quite a few of them.  And we also have built owl houses, which attract the barn owls; gophers are their favorite meal, thankfully!

Moles do not make holes or eat vine roots-- the bad guys are the gophers!
Moles do not make holes or eat vine roots--this is the work of a gopher-- the bad guys!

This is a gogher
This is a gopher -- one of the guys we don't like! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pruning as fast as we can!

With the unusual good weather, we've been able to get quite a bit ahead with the pruning.  The vineyard crew has been working non-stop from 8 to 4!  We only have five in the team tough, so it's not going very fast. The shortage of workers seems to continue on since harvest , unfortunately -- but thanks to the rainless days, we are on schedule. Rain is forecast later in the week, though -- but we need it, so no complaints!

Vineyard Guys Prunning  The vineyard crew deep into pruning

Prunning  Almost all of he 'Earthquake Block' is pruned!

Vineyard House  With the Chardonnay vines already pruned, our home overlooking the vineyard looks beautiful in the mist

Dogs  We love jumping over the cuttings with our friend Molly - Tony's dog

Bonita Running  And Bonita can't stop running on the cover crop!
We heard Tony say that we got a glowing report from the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) inspector, on his annual visit to renew our Organic Farming certificate. he does spend a long time checking everything!  The CCOF does actually an excellent job in keeping organic certified farmers in check -- did you know that their organization's organic certificate is the strictest in the entire world??