Vineyard Diary

“La Nina” years are supposed to be lean on rain, and the specific forecast for our wet season this year was early winter rain, followed by relatively dry weather.  And this looked brilliant for awhile there, with notably heavy rain in late December/early January yielding to several weeks on end of sunny skies and warming temperatures in January and early February.  But cool, wet rains have been very persistent since late February, with more rain forecast in the days ahead, promising yet another relatively late bud burst and compact spring season. 

The vineyard is like a tightly coiled spring right now.  While not a single bud has pushed and there are only minimal indications of bud swelling, the ground is completely saturated with water, the days are getting palpably longer, and the temperatures are slowly creeping up.  One senses that the vines–not to mention the cover crops and weeds–can’t wait to start their explosive early season growth–but consistent cool rains and limited sunshine have kept them all in check.  As usual, the extension of the “off season” is welcome to some degree since there is always more to do than time to do it, but at some point, the lateness is not welcome, as it makes for a more hectic early season and pushes other vineyard activities into a time of unbearable heat.   Right now, with our barbera vineyard completely pruned and pruning begun on the other varietals, all is orderly and serene.  But, we know too well that it is the calm before the storm.

Vineyard Diary


Varietal Amount Still Available for Sale (tons) Expected Optimal Harvest Time Price ($)/lb(<1000 lb/ > 1000 lb)
Barbera 7.5 Early October 0.75/0.625
Primitivo 2.25 Mid September 0.75/0.65
Touriga* 1.0 Late September 0.75/0.65
“Buy the Quinta” 1.25 Early Sept-Mid Oct   NA**

* 2009 grafted.
**Not applicable, $1750 fixed price.

Vineyard Diary


The vineyard is completely dormant as of early March, but the cool weather is slowly losing its grip, and the buds will soon begin to swell.  Some false spring weather some weeks back fooled some of our fruit trees into flowering, but fortunately the vines did not bite on the fake, as a series of frosty days ensued.   We are busily working on off-season projects including some work to more evenly distribute our irrigation blocks and improve tractor turnaround room.  The biggest job–now more than half-complete–is the winter pruning of the vines, a very satisfying but labor-intensive endeavor.

The most important change in the off-season is that co-proprietor Andy is on the farm fulltime now and will be personally providing a much greater fraction of the farm labor.  We anticipate that this will allow the individual attention to vines required for achieving optimal vine balance.  Hired labor is expedient and necessary at times, but it’s very hard to communicate instructions that are practical enough to be implemented by a hired crew that take into account an individual vine’s needs.  

We think our experiment with the inclusion of “kicker canes” was successful last year in our barbera as a means of reigning in vigor, though they certainly add to the labor at multiple steps.  We are using kicker canes again this year in the barbera, but this time have taken pains for a more optimal placement of these to be more readily removed later.

We look forward to a great year–maybe closer to the mean in terms of timing–and hope for some strong showings for wines made from our grapes in regional competitions.  Prices and availability for the 2011 growing season are now posted.