Vineyard Diary 9-22-15

Another successful growing season is now in the books, closing out earlier than ever in our history, at least since we added commercial Portugese varietal offerings.  Our last harvest was an unusually non-frenetic one on September 20, with only a ton plus of touriga to pick, and a small crew on hand to help with that.  The last act for the vineyard season–hardly an exciting one–is bringing in the last of the bird netting.  We have no good words for bird netting except that it works–particularly when coupled with vigilant house cats that patrol the netting daily.  Our 1-yo tom was particularly entertaining as he learned the ropes and got more than his share of avian snacks.

August and early/mid September weather was generally a tailwind to our efforts, with temperatures mostly in the lower 90-degree region.  We did experience one last blast of high heat in late August  which brought unwelcome drying and only compounded the trends of a vintage in which brix tended to run high relative to other measures of ripeness.  But you have to expect some of that high heat in the Sierra Foothills, and at least there was no rain, which would be an unwelcome visitor in the immediate pre-harvest period.  Fortunately, our irrigation water held out till the end, we think in part due to our altered pattern of irrigation to water primarily at night.  Nevertheless, we hope the winter rains are abundant this year to re-charge the soil and our well.

In the end, we harvested over 14 tons of grapes, over 77% of that sold to out-of-county clients, providing wine grapes to 3 commercial wineries and about 20 home winemakers. Production was off mainly due to very low yield in our barbera field, where fruit set this year was characterized by unusually small, thin bunches.  We nevertheless dropped fruit in this field when individual vines were overcropped, and also to even out the ripening (fruit set also appeared to occur over a relatively long period).  The net effect was a small quantity of what we believe was concentrated fruit with excellent color (the latter per our customers).

Congratulations go out to Terry Piazza-Perham, who sealed victory in our third annual Shaker Ridge Home Winemaker contest with a double gold at the Sacramento Home Winemakers 2015 Jubilee competition.  Terry took the honors with a dry touriga wine made from grapes purchased from us in 2013.  On the commercial front, we are looking forward to the release of the 2014 primitivo from Due Vigne di Famiglia (Clarksburg, CA) made with our grapes, which we understand has been bottled.  The 2013 Westwood Family Cellars El Dorado Barbera, made with our grapes and notching Best of Class of Region at the California State Fair this year, is now available for sale from the producer.

As we contemplate possible changes to our operation in the coming year, we thank all of our clients for their support and wish you the best in your winemaking.  We also thank our neighbors on Mesquite Ct who pitch in every year at harvest time for our large picks, and the hard-working hired crews that supplement our own efforts to make the growing and harvest of high-quality wine grapes possible.

And if I claim to be a wise man,

Well, it surely means that I don’t know.

-Kansas, “Carry on Wayward Son”