Vineyard Diary

Normal mid-summer temperatures, with abundant sunshine unfiltered by wildfire smoke, have returned to our area.  As expected, verasion is well underway throughout the vineyard, with almost all first crop bunches of barbera showing at least some ripening, and most main primitivo clusters showing the uneven ripening typical of the primitivo/zinfandel family.  Our experimental crop of tempranillo, by contrast, shows almost uniformly purple bunches already, though it remains a few weeks from full ripeness.

As we enter the home stretch for this growing season, our main challenges will be keeping the grapes hydrated and out of the mouths of marauding birds.  We have already begun deploying bird netting on strategic parts of the vineyard adjacent to trees, and the familiar sounds of our mechanical “bird boxes” can be heard echoing across the vineyard from dawn until dusk.  As the birds (uncharacteristically) didn’t even wait till ripeness to attack the tempranillo, we expect the birds to be a real challenge this year.

The primitivo crop is light enough that we think we will be harvesting 2 tons or less per acre without any fruit dropping this year.  We suspect that this is payback for a relatively heavy fruit set last year.  On the barbera side, there seems to be more “second” fruit even than normal for barbera, and we are going to have the seconds dropped this week to allow the vines to focus their energy on ripening our main crop, which otherwise appears to be moderate in size.  The health and appearance of the vines for this point in the season remains excellent on both the barbera and primitivo sides of our vineyard.  If we can avoid high heat between now and harvest, it should be a very good year.

We are pleased to announce that the first commercial dry red wine made from our grapes was just released this weekend as a vineyard-designated wine at Obscurity Cellars in Fair Play, CA.  The 2006 Primitivo from Obscurity Cellars recently won a silver medal at the 2008 El Dorado County Fair and a bronze medal at the 2008 Amador County Fair.

Current Grape Availability


Amount Still Available for Sale (tons)

Expected Optimal Harvest Time






Early September

*We have committed all of the grapes that we are comfortable committing for the 2008 season.  It is possible that additional relatively small quantities, e.g. <1.5 ton/varietal, will be available once all of our existing orders are met, but we are unlikely to know this until harvest.  We will accept requests to be on a wait list for any such extra grapes.  There is no commitment to buy the grapes if available, but clients will be contacted in the order on the wait list and given that option on a first-come, first-served basis.

Vineyard Diary

Pleasant summer weather has given way to intense but seasonable summer heat.   This past week, we experienced a series of 105 F+ days, which have been book-ended by a series of 90 F+ days.  Coupled with smoke and haze from wildfires, it has been little short of an oven in the Foothills of late. 

The grapevines continue to look very good to date.  Mildew prevention has been complete, with most risk behind us now.  Weed and bug pressure has been minimal due to a combination of agricultural practices and, we suspect, the dry spring.  We have been watering the barbera relatively aggressively as compared to past years, and the primitivo less than in past years, as this seems to better match the vines’ requirements.  The vines look very healthy.  Both the barbera and primitivo grapes emerged very well from the recent scorching days, with very little evidence of sunburn.

The crop load on the barbera looks moderate, although there seem to be more “seconds” than usual, perhaps related to the April frost.  We will have a better sense of crop load, and the need to drop fruit or not, in 1-2 weeks as verasion kicks in. 

The primitivo is carrying a relatively light load, in part due to a fair number of “shot” berries evident after flowering, and also smaller clusters in general.  We have no complaints, as the fruit load looks to have naturally fallen within our 2 tons/acre target, which may obviate the need for any fruit dropping this year.    Some yellow leaves have begun to appear predominantly on our far hilltop which has a better-draining soil than the rest of the vineyard and may be showing a little water stress after the recent heat wave.  Since these were also the earliest emerging vines this spring, this may also be the start of the natural senescence/ripening process.

Our experimental plot of tempranillo grapes, always the earliest to ripen among our reds, have just begun verasion this weekend, and we suspect that we will see widespread evidence of verasion in both the barbera and the primitivo within 1-2 weeks.  This should not be a late harvest.