Haut Tubee Vineyard Work

Last night, after an 88 minute hike at Calero, we settled ourselves out back on the deck and relaxed.  Paul had a martini and a cigar, I had a headache and some water.  Too much sun for me yesterday so I guzzled a ton of water instead.

With dinner, I opened a bottle of grenache that Paul suggested I grab off my side of the cellar.  We both really enjoyed the nose, body, and mouthfeel of this wine.  I kept saying over and over, this reminds me of dusty berries freshly picked off the vine on a beach trail.  And I asked Paul if he knew what I meant, had he ever had a dusty berry off a beach trail vine.  Oh yeah, yeah, I’ve done that, and I too smell and taste the dusty berry.

Paul grilled really spicy chicken breast, halved zucchinis and corn tortillas, an amazingly weird yet satisfying combo, and we lingered over the grenache.

This morning, I jumped on the treadmill and figured I’d pound out my usual 2 miles and then get on with the day.  After a mile, I quit, got my bike down from the ceiling hook and pumped up the tires.  Off to the Church Vineyard and market, things to do, people to see, etc etc.

I get to the church, and it’s a jungle!  It was mostly done flowering, but the third and fourth shoots that I was there to thin out were just newly blooming.  I sent Paul a quick text and said, “I’m gonna be here awhile”.

It took me just under two full hours to thin, tuck, and sucker these 20 cabernet vines, but it was time well spent.

The pile of cuttings, many of which had fresh blooming clusters on it, smelled exactly like the dusty berries on a beach trail vine from last night.  Kid you not.  I stood over the pile for an extra minute just absorbing the aroma and tying it back to so many other great wines I’ve enjoyed.  I kept smiling and grinning like a total dork as I made the assimilation.

I got back on my bike, pedaled over to Chavez market and picked up some munchies and mixers for tonight’s Happy Hour at Romero Bar and Grill.

That is not the church in the background…that’s the firehouse.  Which, kudos to the firemen that work there, because when they see me working out in the vineyard, they often wait til they are past me before blaring the sirens.  For all I know it’s out of respect for the church, but either way, I’m glad they wait.





Rain – Panic – Calm

It’s raining in Northern California.  You may have read newspaper articles about the rain or even seen the occasional TV report.  Those reports usually give an air of panic and desperation as wineries try and rush in grapes before they are ‘ruined’ by the rain.  Hooey!

We have a rain event every year.  Well almost every year.  In 2006 there was no October rain, otherwise it’s an annual thing.  We do try and bring in the thinned skinned grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay before the rains come.  The thick skinned grapes like Mourvedre (in the picture) and Cabernet Sauvignon though will go just fine through the rain.

The key is to let the grapes dry out after the rain and before you pick them.  In the picture you can see Mourvedre in our front yard and there are little drops of water on the grapes.  Those little drops add up and can dilute the wine, lowering alcohol by as much as 2-3%.  That’s why it’s important to let the grapes get some sun and dry out.

We had been scheduled to pick the Haut Tubee vineyards tomorrow, including Red Hen, the Church, and Home vineyards but I just sent a message to Millie and we are postponing until Tuesday.  We’ll still go on with Crimson Clover on Sunday as we have 2 days of sun coming and that will be enough to dry out the grapes.

Then what’s next?  Do we panic and bring in all the Cabernet out there before it rains again?  No, we go to New Orleans for a week to avoid all the panic going on.  The Cabs will be ready after October 20th from our testing.  Some vineyards will actually be ready around the 31st.  That’s normal for us, the warm September helped get us back to normal, so it’s best to stay calm and wait it out.

Memorial Day Weekend Tradition

The namesake

Every Memorial Day weekend Stefania and I go out and visit each vineyard and inspect it in detail.  We do this so we can plan out the work that needs to be done over the next six to eight weeks.  It really helps to see all the vineyard in a short time to see how they are doing relative to the others.

Our first stop was the ‘Church’.  Just 20 vines at Santa Teresa Church that we take care of.  The vines have started to flower as you can see below.  This is the process of the hard green grapes getting pollen on themselves and turning to real grapes.  This is a sensitive time in the vineyard and if the vines shake too much the flowers will fail in their efforts and the resulting clusters will have ‘shatter’.

Cabernet vines flowering

Stefania did clean up some suckers in the little vineyard and tucked up the growth in the wires.

clenaing up suckers

After a short stop at a wine store that wanted to try our wine we headed up to the Mount Eden area of Saratoga to inspect our vineyard there.  This is a view across the little valley from our location.  The vineyards on the far left are Mount Eden and Peter Martin Ray.   In the center is Copper Garrod – Francville, George’s, Lone Oak and Valley View. To the far right is Kathryn Kennedy.

Vineyards across the valley

This is the view down the vineyard looking out at the Santa Clara Valley and downtown San Jose.  The vineyard looked in pretty good shape. We need to handle a gopher outbreak and the vines need suckering and tucking, but that’s what we expect in June.  There were no signs of mildew and the Cabernet was just starting to flower.

looking down the vineyard across the valley

It’s a good hike to the bottom of the vineyard and back, probably a 150 foot drop.  The rows look really nice though and will look even better once we get everything tucked up.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is it is better to single task a crew rather than trying to do many things at once.  So here we’ll start by sending out Jerry to weedwhack under the rows.  Then we’ll send out a little crew to sucker the vines.  Finally we’ll do thinning and tucking in another effort.  I’ve found that if you have a crew out trying to do all those things at once, none of them really get done perfectly.  It’s better to do one at a time, do it once, and do it right.

looking back up the vineyard

Next we checked on a little 40 plant Merlot vineyard outside of downtown Los Gatos we just took on.   As I was inspecting the plants I heard a noise behind me.  I went; “what the f… is that?”   I turned around and this little hen was pecking at my leg.

The red hen makes her appearance

We hadn’t had a name for this vineyard yet.  We’d just been calling it the ‘Los Gatos’ vineyard.   Now though we’ll call it the “Red Hen Vineyard”.

The namesake

Stef loves chickens.  She had to play with these ones as we cleaned up the vineyard.  Stefania and I will go back and do the suckering, thinning and tucking here on our own.  No sense sending the crew for 40 plants.  We’ll have some after pictures soon to see the changes that happen as a vineyard is cleaned up in June.

birds in the vineyard

Our final stop was at the Gurr vineyard in suburban San Jose.  There are about 40 Syrah and Zinfandel vines here that go into the Haut Tubee blend each year.  There’s a new house under construction in the background.

Syrah and Zinfandel

Today we will go out and check on the southern vineyards and have pictures of those tomorrow.