Tucking and Thinning at Chaine d’Or

Saturday Millie had been tucking and thinning at Chaine d’Or when we went and pulled her away to inspect the new Brauns vineyard.

Yields will be very low again due to shatter and poor fertility of the nodes.  Fertility is determined the year before (2010).  The nodes where new growth will come from need lots of sunshine before flowering to be fertile and last year there was little sun in the vineyard in May and June.  So, fog in 2010 effects yield in 2011.

Shatter can have many causes.  This year the two big issues where rain and cold during flowering.  Grapes self pollinate .  In the late Spring and early summer small flowers open up on the clusters.  The flower then drops pollen on to the base and the grape is pollinated and will form into maturity.  The weather needs to be warm and calm.  Cold weather will keep the pollen from releasing.  Stormy weather will disrupt the dropping of the pollen.  We had cold weather and rain during flowering.  Above you can see what happens.  The cluster ends up with just a few grapes on the cluster.  It looks like the cluster has been ‘shattered’ and the grapes have fallen off.

What we really needed to get done though was tucking and thinning.  Tucking is making sure that the growth is up and into the wire system.  This insures the plants get the right amount of sun and that we can get mildew spray on the vines.  You actually tuck the shoots up into the wires.  Thinning is removing any excess growth so that there is good airflow (which prevents mildew) and sun access for the shoots that remain.

It was clear on Saturday that there was more work than Millie and I could finish on our own on Sunday.  The regular crew would still be working in Saratoga so we did something we have not done in a few years.  We sent out an email to friends asking for emergency help.  Amber, Dave and Wes came out to help Millie, Stefania and I on a warm Sunday.

Here’s what a row looks like before we start, note the fog hanging over the ridge line a mile away:

And after thinning:

Nice and cleaned up.  We worked until 2PM, and Dave’s new work out routine made him the star tucker and thinner of the day.  In all we finished 12 of the 22 rows.  They were the longest ones though and Millie and I were able to finish the other 10 the next day.


Our Most Expensive Wine Ever

Saturday I had a full day of work to do in the winery.  All of the barrels needed topping and that takes a couple of hours.  I also was going to bottle the 2010 Chardonnay from the Chaine d’Or Estate.

This was going to be a hand operation since I estimated (correctly) there were only about 10 cases.

Here’s the sad story of the 2010 Chardonnay.  Last year the growing season was cold and foggy at Chaine d’Or well into July.  We were worried that the grapes would never get ripe.  So in mid-July we took the very expensive step of removing all the leafs from the fruit zone to try and get more sun to the clusters.  There were many vineyards doing the same thing.

In early August things seemed ok and it looked like we might be able to pick in October.  We also noticed though that Mildew was starting in the vineyard.  The late verasion had increased the risk of mildew so we were prepared.  We went out and did two treatments, the first with an organic product called Oxidate, and then a week later with Stylet oil.

We zapped the mildew, no problem.  We also left a nice shinny sheen on the grapes for the hottest unexpected August heat wave in memory.  Without leafs the clusters had no protection and baked in the heat.

We knew there would be only a few hundred pounds in the vineyard.  When we eventually did pick we used just the ‘A’ team and it took about four times as long to pick.  They only picked good clusters.  Stefania and I set up a table and as the 30 pound bins came in from the field we hand sorted each cluster and then cut out the bad grapes with scissors.  Grape by grape.

When it was all done we had about 25 gallons of wine.  It was really good, and I put it in a small barrel to age before transferring to a tank for bottling.  We knew though we could never sell this wine.  The cost we estimated was about $165 a bottle for us to produce it.

Stefania decided she wanted it though and we would bottle it for our own use.  She really wants it for her Crab Feed party so that’s what the plan is.

This is the tank lifted up to help the wine flow for hand bottling.










The first picture is the hand corker I used. I filled each bottle one at a time and corked them with some left over 2008 corks.  No labels for this wine, it would have been too expensive to print a small run.