Spring Is Here
This picture pretty much says it all. The rains have stopped for the time being, and we have had a week of sunny weather in the 70's and 80's. A couple of days have even started out with the summer pattern of a deep marine layer in the morning. You can see in the photo that our Estate Syrah is already out several leaves. Even the late-budding Mourvedre is out by 50%. The soil is looking pretty dry on top, but 6"-8" down it is still very moist.
We made our first disease prevention spray yesterday, and I have a standing request to get crews in the vineyard ASAP to finish adjusting the pruning
, sucker the crowns and trunks, and take shovels to any rootstock suckers popping out below the graft union. With the late season and the soil being so wet we probably won't start irrigating the lower blocks until July -- barring any more rain. The soil is so shallow on the upper blocks that we already need to be keeping an eye on the vines for excess stress.
Since bottling the week of the 10th and racking all the 2005 Rhone varietals earlier this week my efforts have been pretty scattered: doing accounting stuff (and hoping to hire a bookeeper soon), working on licensing and labeling issues, and shipping wines. A number of recent visitors to the Salon have joined the Wine Club
just to get the opportunity to purchase some of our unfiltered 2005 Grenache Rosé
in June or July. I hope I have enough to go around. If not you can be sure I will make more rosé in 2006, and include some Mourvedre, Counoise and Syrah with the Grenache.
04.25.05 Vicard Fermenters Ordered
I'm really quite excited -- I ordered a couple of new oak fermenters for the winery today. In an earlier post
I noted that my 2006 harvest is likely to be tank-space-limited and that these fermenters might be part of the answer. Here is more or less what we are getting:
We are not getting the stainless top and racking port in the side shown in this picture. Our tanks are going to have a little different shape: 6 feet in diameter and 3-1/2 feet tall inside, holding 3 tons of fruit. They will be easier to punch down and will shed heat better than a taller, narrower tank. I'm going to put Tri-Clover ports for draining and racking valves directly in the door. Sweet!
I'm sure that by now readers are bored with my constant blah-blah-blogging about the weather, but it is what is on my mind. More rain coming tomorrow, but it is supposed to be clear and warm again by Sunday.
This latest stretch of nice weather has caused everything at our Annadel Estate Vineyard to push -- at last -- except for the Mourvedre.
I have been taking advantage of the great weather to make some pruning adjustments in the Pinot Noir at the Estate.
For the last ten years, everywhere I have worked I have been trying to break my pruners of BAD HABITS. But it seems that no matter how much effort I put into telling these guys "I want two-bud spurs - dos ojos solamente
", year after year I get three-bud spurs -- or longer. Even when I try to get them to do what I really want by asking for one-bud spurs, I get these monstrosities.
Then I spend the rest of the season paying the guys to trim out excess shoots and drop excess crop. Hey, I have plenty of productive work to keep everyone busy without adding round after round of late crop load adjustment. And I have to worry about too much elongation of the cordon spurs over time. I just don't understand the reluctance to prune correctly.
Prayers For Sunshine Answered For Now
Today we woke up to a sunny day here in Sonoma for the first time in -- oh -- FOREVER. Cold and still at first, but now it is in the mid-60's and a little breezy as high pressure builds over the region. NOAA noted that snow levels were down to 4000 feet in the Santa Lucia Highlands last night, and that we may be in for our first frost event of the season tonight. Still on track for more wet weather starting Thursday, though.
Working today with the TABC to try to get our Texas Non-Resident Seller's Permit activated. We have a distributor lined up who is chomping at the bit to sell some Westwood, but can't get any wine to him until the permit is approved and the labels registered with the State.
Starting today we are implementing new hours for the Tasting Salon. I finally recognized that there are a number of visitors to the Wine Country who come for the proverbial three-day weekend. We were missing them on Mondays, so now we are "by appointment only" on Tuesday and Wednesday, instead of Monday and Tuesday.
04.15.06 Will Winter Never End?
Here in our little valley we finally had two days with no rain, intermittent sunlight and temperatures in the mid-70's. Amazing what it did to the vines! This morning I noted at least an inch of new growth on Les Pierres Chardonnay.
But the respite from the rain was short-lived. Today is cloudy and drizzly -- again -- and we are supposed to get yet another rainy cold front in this afternoon and tonight. Temps tomorrow are not projected to get out of the low 50's. The low pressure center is forecast to move inland Sunday night, with weak ridging developing behind it and bringing warmer and drier weather. Until next Thursday. Then more rain.
The Estate vineyard is still mostly dormant, but I plan to have the crew out there at the first signs of green to spray for Botrytis control.
The bigger issues from an operational standpoint are that the poor weather is 1) keeping visitors out of the Tasting Salon, and 2) keeping me from doing some long-postponed work at both production locations.
Bottling Done -- More Rain
Well, we completed the bottling of the 2003 Pinots and 2005 Rosé yesterday with almost no hiccups. Big thanks to John & Westley for their friendly and proficient operation of the bottling line, and thanks to my volunteer crew: Sandy, Rob, Kenji, Greg, David, Matt & LeAnn. We all broke a good sweat, and there were a couple of "Lucy & Ethel in the chocolate factory" moments, but every one of them did a great job, and I really appreciate it.
In sharp contrast to how this bottling would NOT have played out if we were still in Shingle Springs, we snugly (and a bit smugly) completed the job in the middle of a storm that dropped another 2 inches of rain on us here in Sonoma. The 2005-2006 rainy season is rapidly closing in on 1997-1998, the previous record holder in my books.
Pretty much all the vines are starting to flag-out (turn green) here in out little valley, with the exception of a couple of Cabernet and Merlot vineyards. The weather is projected to dry out and warm up next week -- by then I expect to see everything budded out. Then we can start worrying about Botrytis and frost. And weed control -- as wet as it is we could have several feet of growth before we can get into the vineyard with a tractor to mow.
On an entirely different subject, yesterday after the bottling I had a pleasant visit with Ed Metcalf, chef/owner of a new restaurant soon to open here in Sonoma. Along with business partner Jeff Buonacorsi, Ed is building on his prior experience as a high-end sushi chef to create Shiso
-- an upscale space that should be well-received here. Here's wishing him good fortune -- cheers!
Twenty-Four Hours Of Dry Weather
But there are another two storm systems lined up to dump on us through Tuesday. The first is supposed to start by this afternoon.
Driving around yesterday I noticed some green on Chardonnay vines at the south end of the Valley for the first time this year. This means that budbreak is imminent at our Estate vineyard. Even so, I am not all that deeply concerned that it is still raining on us this late in the year.
Wet weather will create the risk of early Botrytis, which can damage shoots and flower clusters -- but we have done our best with dormant sprays (lime/sulfur/copper and related products) to keep the inoculum level low. If we have a Botrytis outbreak in spite of these dormant applications we will deal with it -- even if it means getting the guys out there with backpack sprayers because the ground is too wet for a tractor.
My greatest fear is continued cold weather, or worse. We have frost control in place in the most susceptible areas at the Estate vineyard, but the system is unproven. And frankly I would rather have no frost at all than have to test it.
04.06.06 Ready For Bottling
The rain finally let up for a day -- almost 44 inches this season! -- which allowed me to move my empty glass from the warehouse to the winery. I picked up my order for corks today, and also some cylinders of nitrogen and argon to push wine from barrels and sparge bottles before filling.
I had a great response to my call for volunteers to help with the bottling: unstacking empty glass, filling cases and stacking full ones. It looks to me like it should be a fun crew. And we have only about a half-day of moderate-speed work (I am thinking of running the line at only 40 bottles/minute).
I will spend the next few mornings pushing the wines from barrels into tanks, making a final adjustment and check on sulfur dioxide levels, filling and corking some large-format (3 liter) bottles of each of the Pinot lots, making sure the Grenache Rosé
is sparkling clear, and cleaning empty barrels.
The bottling truck is scheduled to arrive and set up sometime Monday. We are shooting for a 9 am start time to be flying along by 9:30 (if it were a bigger bottling I would want to start at 7 am, but it is hard to motivate volunteers to be there at that time).