Vineyard Diary as of 4-11-12

A little whining about the paucity of rain in our diary post last month seemed to do the trick: it was followed by fairly heavy rain in March and continued periodic rain here in April. This is definitely good for the region as a whole, and though not as helpful to Northern California water supplies as rain earlier in the season that is more likely to be stored in the Sierras as snow, there are not too many in the agricultural community complaining. We remain light in overall rainfall for the season, but certainly the soil water profile has been significantly replenished by the late rains, and we should be able to follow a more normal irrigation pattern.

At Shaker Ridge, winter pruning was finished on time in early March, and we managed to thread in our weed control treatments within the rows between rains. We’re calling the arrival of budburst in many of our earlier-pushing varietals—barbera, touriga nacional, tinta cao, and tinta amarela– as Easter, April 8. Tempranillo, primitivo, and souzao are still mostly dormant. We had seemed primed for an earlier start, but cloud cover from the March rains and generally cool temperatures kept the vines at bay. In fact, we experienced our typical once-annual snow fall on March 18, with just a dusting that had melted by noon. The later budburst was fortuitous actually, since we got temperatures close to freezing last week, and had the vines already pushed, there likely would have been pockets of frost damage.

The timing of budburst is noteworthy, because we called budburst in most of the aforementioned early varietals as April 6 in 2011–an historically late season. This would suggest the possibility of yet another late harvest season, though weather patterns downstream of budburst (including those affecting the length of time until flowering) are relevant in the final outcome. Significantly, our barbera did not push until about 2 weeks later last year, which we later realized was due to frost damage suffered by many of the primary buds just prior to overt full opening. Thus, we’re glad to see the barbera safely out of the gates at an earlier date than last year. The key now will be avoiding frost going forward, which of course is almost 100% out of our control!

We still have availability of all of our grape varietals, but preseason orders have been steady, and we would encourage those wishing to secure grape supply for 2012 to act early. We are looking forward to the coming wine judging season and the 2012 vintage.

Vineyard Gallery as of 4-5-12

This is our obligatory annual picture of a snow-covered vineyard. The magical moment arrived on the morning of March 18, 2012 following an overnight dusting. This is looking east over the barbera vineyard toward the Sierra Nevada.

Probably our favorite time of the year in the vineyard: Vines pruned for the coming season and cuttings mulched, cover crop green but not overgrown yet, beautiful spring weather conditions. This is looking east over the barbera vineyard on April 5, 2012.

Current Grape Availability as of 4-5-12


Amount Still Available for Sale

Expected Optimal Harvest Time

Price ($)/lb

(<1000 lb/ > 1000 lb)


6.0 tons

Late September



2.75 tons

Mid September


Touriga Nacional*

0.5 tons

Early October



Mixed Port Grapes

~1.4 tons

Early September-Early October


Buy the Quinta

Shaker Ridge Vineyard is once again offering our entire production from a field of mixed Portugese varietal grapes planted in 2005 (“the Quinta”) for a single fixed price of $1900. The varietals, which can be picked together or on up to 4 separate days to capture the individual peaks of ripeness of the different varietals, include (in decreasing order of expected yield) touriga nacional, tempranillo, tinta cao, souzao, and tinta amarela. The varietals are planted in proportions such that a field blend would make a suitable port-style wine, but can also make a lovely dry red wine. The fixed price entitles the buyer to the full production of the Quinta, whether higher or lower than the ~1.4-ton target, though there is some price protection on the downside. Please see “Pricing and Services” tab for more details.

If the Quinta is not sold to a single client by June 1, 2012, then the three most abundant varietals making up the Quinta–touriga nacional, tempranillo, and tinta cao–will be made available for sale on a conventional per pound basis. Clients can go on a wait list for these varietals prior to June 1, 2012. See “Pricing and Services” tab for more details.