Vineyard Diary 3-20-15

The winter that wasn’t in the Sierra Foothills is now officially over with today’s spring equinox.  A variation on the famous Mark Twain quote about San Francisco might read: “The hottest summer I ever spent was winter in El Dorado.”  Already the distant Sierra snow caps show the mottled appearance of partially melted snow that one would normally expect to see in late May or early June.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that we can’t still get a rogue freezing night in March or April that would wreak havoc on young grape shoots, and that in fact is the major threat going forward.

Bud burst came early in the vineyard as expected, with one of our early birds, tinta cao, pushing on March 10, a full week ahead of last year (itself an early year).  Our touriga and other Portugese varietals, apart from souzao which always pushes later, were also about a week earlier than last year.  Our barbera–we think because of our intentional late pruning thereof and not due to any Irish heritage of the vines–reached generalized budburst on exactly the same day as last year:  March 17. The primitivo has not pushed yet, but this is consistent with a timing that is usually 1-2 weeks later than our barbera.  All things being equal, this early trend at bud burst would suggest harvest no later than last year, and potentially a bit earlier for some varietals.  So, particularly for our primitivo buyers, don’t make any travel plans for Labor Day!

We managed to complete winter pruning, get our weeds sprays down, mulch the pruned canes, and complete a round of mowing right before budburst in most of the vineyard. This is a particularly pleasant time in the vineyard with warm but not scorching spring days, green grass, and mostly only the pruned older wood showing on the vines.  But this is a brief period which will quickly give way to abundant new shoot growth in the vines and rapid growth of grass and cover crop between the rows, followed of course by the real heat.

We are pleased to announce the availability of the 2012 touriga from Bumgarner Wines in Camino, CA that was made with Shaker Ridge grapes from that superb vintage.  Winemaker Brian Bumgarner has produced a truly elegant example of a dry touriga wine that showcases the lovely fruit, aroma, color, and structure of this Portugese varietal.  We highly recommend that you taste a beautifully crafted example of this exquisite varietal wine while it’s still available for sale.

Homemade Wine Competition

We are also pleased to announce our 3rd Annual Shaker Ridge Homemade Wine Competition to encourage formal judging and award excellence in wines made from our grapes.  The grand (and only…) prize will be 250 lbs of free wine grapes from our “Grapes Available” list. This year, we only have barbera still available for sale, but the prize could be used in a future vintage where additional choices may be available.

Entry rules are as follows:

  • The wine must be made at least 85% from grapes grown at Shaker Ridge Vineyard from vintage 2011, 2012, 2013, or 2014
  • You must contact us, in writing (email is fine), ahead of judging for a given competition to let us know that you have entered a wine of type X, vintage Y from our grapes.  We will confirm that your entry is or is not valid for our competition based on our sales records.  There is no cost to enter, and no obligation for future purchases.
  • 2015 home winemaker competitions results considered:  El Dorado County Fair, Amador County Fair, Orange County Fair, California State Fair, and Sacramento Home Winemakers June Jubilee.  Additional 2015 public, blinded competitions will be considered with advance agreement from Shaker Ridge, provided that results will be known by August 1, 2015.  Unfortunately, for the purposes of this competition, we cannot consider past results with the above vintages, only upcoming (prospective) entries.
  • Wines winning our competition previously are not eligible for winning again.
  • Appreciating the subjectivity in wine judging, we will consider the best outcome for a  given wine unless two or more wines with the same best outcome have been entered multiple times.  In the latter case, we will consider the best average outcome.  Ranking of outcomes is: double gold>gold>silver>bronze>honorable mention, with acceptable competitions given equal weight for such designations.  Tie breakers would include additional distinctions, eg Best of Show, Best of Class.   If the above criteria don’t yield a single winner, we may request a taste-off to designate the grand prize winner.
  • Entrants agree that we can choose to post the results–good, bad, or indifferent–including winemaker, wine, competition, and result, on this website.  We will use your initials if you prefer relative anonymity and if you let us know this at the time you contact us with your entry.  Otherwise, your full name will be used.

Good luck!