Vineyard Diary

We’ve enjoyed a little of everything so far in May, with summer-like heat giving way to perfect, low 70’s, springtime-like weather, followed by relatively rare May rain, more hail storms, and overnight temperatures in the low 40’s.  As expected, the vines exploded out of the gates in late April, and the cover crops between rows shot right up with them, the latter needing to be mowed early so that we could even move around out there. 

As predicted, we suffered some frost damage to our early-pushing tinto cao from a pair of early April frosts; the surprise was that our barbera got hit to some extent as well.  Apparently the buds–which were on the verge of pushing but had not yet pushed when the frosts hit–were sensitive enough to be affected.  The damage was random and, as the recent vineyard gallery pictures will attest, have hardly stopped the vines.  Indeed, it is rather hard to kill a grapevine; the main impact of mild frost like we experienced is to kill off some of the fruitful buds intentionally left behind from pruning, and lead to germination of less fruitful secondary buds, which we find that barbera push in abundance in a normal year.  The net impact of the frost is to decrease yield, though the magnitude of the impact will not be clear until we set select shoots and set fruit in a few weeks.  We expect that our committed barbera is quite safe at this point, but we may need to lower the estimate of barbera still available for sale. 

In the primitivo vineyard, we are experimenting with some nutritional supplementation in alternate rows derived from our cover crop.  In addition, we will be punching extra irrigation emitters in the rockier portion of the vineyard that dries out first in the summer heat.  Adjacent to both the primitivo and Portugese varietal vineyards, we’ve removed some trees that mainly provided easy cover for marauding birds and squirrels, which we think can only help our cause.

We received some fantastic news from the first of the regional home winemaker competitions, the El Dorado County Fair (our home county).  Our three entrants–a 2009 touriga nacional varietal wine, a 2008 dry red blend of our Portugese varietal grapes, and a 2008 dessert wine we call “Dorado” made from our Portugese varietal grapes in a vintage port style, all won gold medals.  We are particularly pleased to report that the Dorado won “Best of Show” in the El Dorado County Fair home winemaker competition, our first wine with this distinction.  All of these wines were made from our estate grapes. 

We have been “pounding the table” (in Wall Street speak) on the Portugese varietals for a couple of years now, and we hope that the strong showing of the wines made from these grapes will encourage more takers for our “Quinta” grapes.  As noted elsewhere on our website, if we are unable to sell the Quinta grapes to a single producer by July 1, we will be offering 10% shares in this year’s production to give smaller producers a chance to play with them.  Separately, we have varietal touriga for sale and suspect that you will enjoy its qualities as much as we do.

Vineyard Gallery as of May 15, 2011


Barbera between hail storms on May 15, 2011.  Young shoots push from buds left behind after pruning, plus everywhere else.  One of the joys of growing barbera…

Primitivo on May 15, 2011.  Young shoots come from buds left from pruning and almost nowhere else.  Note grass browning out between rows, reflecting the loss of moisture from surface soil and the annual life cycle of our native grasses.

The “quinta” (Portugese varietal vineyard) on May 15, 2011.  The trellised shoots are off to the races, and will benefit from the recent removal of a large tree to the south which in past seasons cast some shade plus aided and abetted irrigation-line chewing squirrels.