Vineyard Diary 7-19-20

The growing season continues at Shaker Ridge as normal; the grapevines seem completely oblivious to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well they should be. We are now in the typical summer pattern of intense heat for a period of days or week, followed by a shorter period of relief, followed by a return to high heat. The vines tolerate the intense hot periods better than the farmers, who tend to seek shelter midday from the bright, cloudless sunshine typical of a Foothills summer. That said, the intensely hot periods have peaked in the high 90’s on several occasions but have really not breached the triple digits for more than a few hours at our site. We count that as a positive, and we’re already at that point in the season when anything short of 95 F for a mid-day high feels completely reasonable to us, low 90’s pleasant, and anything lower….downright cool. Such is the re-set of our internal thermostats at this time of year. We even had some June days with highs in the mid-70s…almost unheard of pleasant. We have not seen rain since mid-May, and don’t expect to see it until mid-September at earliest. All in all, if we can stay out of the triple digits (wishful thinking), this is shaping up to be a fantastic vintage, which would be nice counterpoint to the social-distanced and somewhat stressed world around us.

In the vineyard, bloom was on the late side and has come and gone. The fruit set appears solid–at least average for our main varietals–and the vines are healthy. We have been able to meet vines’ minimal irrigation needs given the moderate heat. Veraison started in our Tempranillo on or about July 14, a little bit on the late side but earlier than we would have expected from the late budburst. We immediately began netting our Quinta grapes, of which the the Tempranillo are a part, in hopes that we can get them completely buttoned up before the birds get a taste for it. They already have gotten a taste for cherries, blueberries, blackberries, plums, peaches…basically every fruit and berry we grow that ripens ahead of the grapes. Meanwhile, we’re on the lookout for star thistle–a miserable invastive weed–and pull it out manually wherever encountered to prevent its establishment. We’ll probably need one more preventative mildew spray to protect the grapes prior to full veraison.

Wine competitions were largely cancelled along with county fairs due to the novel coronavirus, but we’ve gotten some very positive anecdotal feedback on last year’s Quinta fruit and Barbera from clients. Our Quinta shares for this year are sold out, though there is still a possibility of securing o share via our waitlist. We still have plenty of our Barbera and–unusual for us at this point in the season–a little bit of Touriga available. This is because some of our commercial winery clients have been impacted more than us by COVID-19 given the closure for several months of tasting rooms at a prime time of the year, a closure which has been recently extended in some places outside of El Dorado and Amador Counties.

Current Grape Availability 7-19-20

Varietal Amount Still Available for Sale (tons) Expected Optimal Harvest Time

Price ($)

(<1 ton)      (>1 ton)

Barbera             4.0 Mid Sept 1.00/lb        0.95/lb
Primitivo         0.5 Early Sept 1.00/lb        0.95/lb
Touriga         0.6 Mid Sept-Mid Oct 1.00/lb        1.00/lb
Quinta**                WAITLIST* Mid Sept-Early Oct $300/share
       
       

*Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

**The Quinta = A field of touriga nacional, tempranillo, tinta cao, souzao, tinta amarela planted in 2004 and 2005.  One share entitles holder to 250 lb of a field blend of Quinta grapes in the proportions that they are harvested this year.  For example, if 40% of the total Quinta production is Touriga, then 40% of each shareholder’s 250 lb allotment will be Touriga.  Harvest will be on a single, specific Saturday to accommodate home winemakers, with date optimized around ripeness of the Touriga Nacional.  The Quinta has historically provided superb grapes for a port-style blend as well as dry red blend.

***Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

 

Current Grape Availability 7-3-20

Varietal Amount Still Available for Sale (tons) Expected Optimal Harvest Time Price ($)
Barbera             4.0 Mid Sept 1.00/lb
Primitivo         0.5 Early Sept 1.00/lb
Touriga         0.6 Mid Sept-Mid Oct 1.00/lb
Quinta**                WAITLIST* Mid Sept-Early Oct $300/share
       
       

*Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

**The Quinta = A field of touriga nacional, tempranillo, tinta cao, souzao, tinta amarela planted in 2004 and 2005.  One share entitles holder to 250 lb of a field blend of Quinta grapes in the proportions that they are harvested this year.  For example, if 40% of the total Quinta production is Touriga, then 40% of each shareholder’s 250 lb allotment will be Touriga.  Harvest will be on a single, specific Saturday to accommodate home winemakers, with date optimized around ripeness of the Touriga Nacional.  The Quinta has historically provided superb grapes for a port-style blend as well as dry red blend.

***Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

 

Current Grape Availability 6-21-20

Varietal Amount Still Available for Sale (tons) Expected Optimal Harvest Time Price ($)
Barbera            4.0 Mid Sept 1.00/lb
Primitivo         0.5 Early Sept 1.00/lb
Touriga WAITLIST* Mid Sept-Mid Oct 1.00/lb
Quinta**                WAITLIST* Mid Sept-Early Oct $300/share
       
       

 

*Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

**The Quinta = A field of touriga nacional, tempranillo, tinta cao, souzao, tinta amarela planted in 2004 and 2005.  One share entitles holder to 250 lb of a field blend of Quinta grapes in the proportions that they are harvested this year.  For example, if 40% of the total Quinta production is Touriga, then 40% of each shareholder’s 250 lb allotment will be Touriga.  Harvest will be on a single, specific Saturday to accommodate home winemakers, with date optimized around ripeness of the Touriga Nacional.  The Quinta has historically provided superb grapes for a port-style blend as well as dry red blend.

***Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

 

Current Grape Availability 5-27-20

Varietal Amount Still Available for Sale (tons) Expected Optimal Harvest Time Price ($)
Barbera            2.5 Mid Sept 1.00/lb
Primitivo         0.5 Early Sept 1.00/lb
Touriga WAITLIST Mid Sept-Mid Oct 1.00/lb
Quinta***                WAITLIST Mid Sept-Early Oct $300/share
       
       

*Not currently planned for production this year, but final decision in May 2020.  Inquire for more  information.

**Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

***The Quinta = A field of touriga nacional, tempranillo, tinta cao, souzao, tinta amarela planted in 2004 and 2005.  One share entitles holder to 250 lb of a field blend of Quinta grapes in the proportions that they are harvested this year.  For example, if 40% of the total Quinta production is Touriga, then 40% of each shareholder’s 250 lb allotment will be Touriga.  Harvest will be on a single, specific Saturday to accommodate home winemakers, with date optimized around ripeness of the Touriga Nacional.  The Quinta has historically provided superb grapes for a port-style blend as well as dry red blend.

***Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

 

Current Grape Availability 5-19-20

Varietal Amount Still Available for Sale (tons) Expected Optimal Harvest Time Price ($)
Barbera            0.5 Mid Sept 1.00/lb
Primitivo ON HOLD* Early Sept 1.00/lb
Touriga WAITLIST Mid Sept-Mid Oct 1.00/lb
Quinta***                 1 share Mid Sept-Early Oct $300/share
       
       

*Not currently planned for production this year, but final decision in May 2020.  Inquire for more  information.

**Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

***The Quinta = A field of touriga nacional, tempranillo, tinta cao, souzao, tinta amarela planted in 2004 and 2005.  One share entitles holder to 250 lb of a field blend of Quinta grapes in the proportions that they are harvested this year.  For example, if 40% of the total Quinta production is Touriga, then 40% of each shareholder’s 250 lb allotment will be Touriga.  Harvest will be on a single, specific Saturday to accommodate home winemakers, with date optimized around ripeness of the Touriga Nacional.  The Quinta has historically provided superb grapes for a port-style blend as well as dry red blend.

***Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

 

Current Grape Availability 5-18-20

Varietal Amount Still Available for Sale (tons) Expected Optimal Harvest Time Price ($)
Barbera            0.5 Mid Sept 1.00/lb
Primitivo ON HOLD* Early Sept 1.00/lb
Touriga WAITLIST Mid Sept-Mid Oct 1.00/lb
Quinta***                 2 shares Mid Sept-Early Oct $300/share
       
       

*Not currently planned for production this year, but final decision in May 2020.  Inquire for more  information.

**Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

***The Quinta = A field of touriga nacional, tempranillo, tinta cao, souzao, tinta amarela planted in 2004 and 2005.  One share entitles holder to 250 lb of a field blend of Quinta grapes in the proportions that they are harvested this year.  For example, if 40% of the total Quinta production is Touriga, then 40% of each shareholder’s 250 lb allotment will be Touriga.  Harvest will be on a single, specific Saturday to accommodate home winemakers, with date optimized around ripeness of the Touriga Nacional.  The Quinta has historically provided superb grapes for a port-style blend as well as dry red blend.

***Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

 

Current Grape Availability 5-17-20

Varietal Amount Still Available for Sale (tons) Expected Optimal Harvest Time Price ($)
Barbera            0.5 Mid Sept 1.00/lb
Primitivo ON HOLD* Early Sept 1.00/lb
Touriga WAITLIST Mid Sept-Mid Oct 1.00/lb
Quinta***                 6 shares Mid Sept-Early Oct $300/share
       
       

*Not currently planned for production this year, but final decision in May 2020.  Inquire for more  information.

**Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

***The Quinta = A field of touriga nacional, tempranillo, tinta cao, souzao, tinta amarela planted in 2004 and 2005.  One share entitles holder to 250 lb of a field blend of Quinta grapes in the proportions that they are harvested this year.  For example, if 40% of the total Quinta production is Touriga, then 40% of each shareholder’s 250 lb allotment will be Touriga.  Harvest will be on a single, specific Saturday to accommodate home winemakers, with date optimized around ripeness of the Touriga Nacional.  The Quinta has historically provided superb grapes for a port-style blend as well as dry red blend.

***Wait list requests on a first-come, first-served basis.  Wait list does not commit to purchase, but should grapes become available, persons/entities on wait list will have 24 hr to commit or not, at which point the next person/entity will be contacted, and so on, until grapes are sold.  

 

Vineyard Diary 4-26-20

The “March Miracle” of generous rainfall continued briefly into April and then shutdown abruptly, giving way to sunny or partly sunny skies and slowly warming temperatures, culminating in some 80-degree plus days in late April. With a full soil profile of water, this was the signal that the grapes and annual grasses were waiting for, and the reluctantly green hillside gave way to verdant green, though inevitably to be baked to brown. We’ll enjoy the perfect spring weather and beautiful green in the meantime.

The vines didn’t come awake until mid-April, and though the different varietals pushed buds in their customary temporal order, it was a compressed period of about 2 weeks in which each of the varietals pushed. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of the pause (finish?) of rain and start of budburst to finish grinding the winter prunings and get some weed sprays down before the grapes pushed. We have since already started shoot thinning in our earliest pushing varieties: tinta tao, muscat canelli, and tempranillo.

This past week was an historic one for our vineyard, as we cut down 500 of our 18-yo primitivo vines to graft over to additional touriga nacional, tinta amarela, and cabernet sauvignon. The section of the Primitivo vineyard chosen was one with a distinctly different soil than the balance, so we think this operation, while obviously providing some of the above varietals, will make for a more uniformly ripe Primitivo crop and benefit that varietal. The cab is a modest planting suitable only for home winemaker-type quantities and very much experimental. Though cab can readily grown well in most climates, it does not necessarily make the best wine in all climates, and the Sierra Foothills are not traditionally a strong area for this classic varietal. However, we had to take a shot, and we have chosen the highest point of our vineyard and a somewhat shaded area on well-drained soil, and we’ll see what’s possible with good care. When cabernet was grown more extensively in the area about 40 years ago, it was in an era that predated the widespread use of viticultural practices likely to give the best quality wines. Some excellent cabernet has been since made by certain growers in the Foothills, so we know that quality is achievable on the right site with the right care.

The tinta amarela planted would, for the first time, give us perhaps half-ton quantities that might be usable by a microwinery or home winemaker working on scale. It makes a lovely fruity dry wine or rose in addition to its traditional use in port-style blends. We have heretofore only had a modest planting as part of our Quinta block.

Shaker Ridge is pleased to offer again in 2020 our Quinta fruit as 250-lb shares. These allow buyers working on a home winemaker scale to obtain, with one stop, a complex blend of 5 different Portugese varietals suitable for a classic port-style wine or for a delicious, complex dry red. The grapes will be distributed on a single Saturday in the mid-September to mid-October time frame to be determined.

Vineyard Diary 3-30-20

It’s been an interesting start to the 2020 vintage to say the least. Weather-wise, it was a suitably cold but by no means frigid winter that coughed up a little rain in December, very little in January, and not a drop in February. March has come to the rescue with around 8 inches of rain, just in time to get the soil profile filled with moisture and for the warming temperatures to get some green growth started. Budburst is still barely visible in our earliest grape varietals–held back in part by late pruning of last year’s wood–but seems sure to burst forth in earnest later this week. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 virus and the measures to slow its spread are having a major impact on life in general, though farming generally goes on…social distancing comes relatively naturally in the vineyard. That said, local commercial wineries face closures of tasting rooms during what is normally a busy time of year for wine-tasting in the Sierra Foothills when temperatures are still cool enough to enjoy a red wine and it is particularly scenic, with green hillsides and snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Completely independent of the COVID-19 situation, we had decided to scale back our grape growing this year to give ourselves a break from the routine, and this is reflected in our recently posted current grape availability. We are planning to farm our Touriga, a limited amount of Barbera, and are again selling grapes from our Quinta block of Portugese varietals as “shares”. As Tempranillo yield has been slowly declining over the years, we are adding a couple adjacent short rows of Tempranillo planted in 2004 to the Quinta, which we have been otherwise selling separately. These will enable buyers, with one-stop (a single designated Saturday TBD in mid-Sept to mid-Oct period) to pick up a field blend of our Portugese varietals in 250-lb with suitable ripeness for either a fortified (port-style) wine or as a complex red. We continue farming activities in the balance of the vineyard as normal for now, and will be making a final decision in the May time frame in terms of seeking a crop from our Primitivo and the balance of our Barbera. Please inquire if you have interest in these beyond posted quantities.