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.
It has been a combination of getting used to the new blogging tool and being really busy that’s limited our writing. Neither Stefania nor I are really comfortable yet with the new blogging interface so we’re not writing much. Hopefully we’ll pick it up some in the next few weeks.
We did get to Vegas and had a fantastic time at Rock and Roll Wine. Train was much better than I expected. The concert was a blast and we partied and hung out in the cabana all night. The next day we swam and sunned and watched the football games outside. If you can make it to Vegas next year for the event, it’s highly recommended.
Offer letters have gone out and orders are humming in. Almost everyone seems to want more Haut Tubee and I don’t think we’ll have enough to go around.
We’ve also been out checking on all the vineyards. It looks like Pinot Noir will be first up this Saturday, then the Crimson Clover vineyard next weekend. Stefania and I will be in the winery Friday getting everything cleaned, prepared and ready to go.
We’ll try and pick up the blogging some more as we harvest and work over the next few weeks.
Bottling has always been a chore for us. It’s the hardest thing we do in the winery. There are lots of moving pieces and lots of vendors to work with and coordinate. Then there’s the bottling line itself which can be prone to all kinds of problems. Our latest biggest challenge has been finding a bottling truck to use. We really liked the company we were using but the truck really did not fit in our space. It took 7 hours last time to back the truck in through the gate and down the hill. It clears the gate by just 2 inches on each side and that’s not even the hardest pat of backing it in.
When we’re done bottling we would have to call a tow truck to wench the bottling truck back up the gravel road. It was just too difficult for the space. Every other bottling company we talked to though was either missing a key piece of equipment or was just too big to get in our space. We finally decided to move the wine out to another facility for bottling.
There was the usual drama with the glass company, they sent some of the wrong shape. Stefania was able to get that corrected. Everything else went pretty well including loading the barrels up on a truck to move. Friday was a long day – 15 hours total and there were several problems through the day, but in the end we got it all done. Our 2009 Cabernet Sauvignons; Crimson Clover, Santa Cruz Mountains and Chaine d’Or were all bottled.
Monday the trucking company will come back and pick all the finished cases up. One more bottling down and one long day behind us.
Saturday Stefania and I went out to visit vineyards and check on how things are going. We’d normally do this around the 4th of July but we were out of town unexpectedly.
First stop was the Peacock Vineyard. This would actually be the best vineyard we visited. Everything was very clean and there was good fruit set.
The rows were in great shape and healthy with no signs of mildew. I’m estimating we’ll get 1500-2000 pounds of Cabernet Franc from this vineyard.
We’re excited to have the Cabernet Franc. Stef’s wanted to make a Cab Franc since we started making wine. We’ll also likely do a blend of Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with some of the grapes.
Next stop was at Crimson Clover. At 9 AM we still had fog overhead. This is a familiar picture above of the back of El Toro.
The rows looked nice but fruit set was light. We’re expecting the same yield here as in 2008. There was shatter in the vineyard and a low number of clusters.
We had one little surprise in the vineyard, the tiny birds nest with an egg in it on this small vine.
Our third stop was at the Red Hen vineyard which has been full of vigor. There was about 400 pounds of Merlot here. We’ll need to come back and do some more thinning.
And the red rooster and red hen stopped by to say hello.
Next stop was at the Copenhagen vineyard. We had a crew of seven there thinning and tucking the vineyard.
The crew had finished about have the rows when we came by. We’ll have to spray for mildew again here but otherwise it looked good. Fruit set here was just ok as well.
You can see the little blue Toyota in the background here and Stef and Jerry talking in the row. We ran to Chaine d’Or next to pick up Millie who was thinning there and then went together to a new vineyard above Los Altos we’re taking on. I stopped taking pictures though as we were busy taking notes and coming up with a vineyard plan.
Everything looked pretty good, but yields will be very light again this year. Down 40% from 2009 I think, which was our last ‘normal year’.
Saturday morning we headed to the vineyards south of us outside of the town of Morgan Hill. That includes the Crimson Clover vineyard, source of our very popular single vineyard Cabernet. The vineyard had a little drama earlier with the gates being open and some deer damage. It looked though like the damage was limited to about 20 plants.
The view above is from the top of the vineyard out across the valley. It looks like we’ll need to do a new fertilizer sprays on the vines soon to make up for some low nitrogen. I’ve gotten to prefer using teas and sprays on the leafs to ground applications. I think the uptake is better with less waste. Fruit set looks low again this year. The wind in the little valley helps limit vigor and we usually get just about one to two tons of fruit per acre.
Our second stop was at the Peacock vineyard south of the city of Morgan Hill. This vineyard is doing very, very well. It will need to be thinned and suckered still, but overall looked really great. There is much more fruit than we figured the site could produce in its fourth year. A real rough guess at this time is about 1800-2400 pounds.
The owners were not 100% sure what they had in the vineyard. They thought it was Cabernet Franc, but also thought it might be Zinfandel as the crew lead who installed the vineyard told them Zinfandel. We’re 99% sure right now it’s Cabernet Franc and not Zinfandel. The leaf is wrong for Zin. We’ve only handled a little Cab Franc though in the past, just about 20 plants, so I won’t be 100% sure until we see some fruit bunches.
Cabernet Franc is an earlier grape to get ripe. There is already good flowering here and it would not surprise me to have this be the second vineyard we harvest this year. Maybe as early as September 15th or so. I’ll have to redo some winemaking plans for the year. We figured on 700-1000 pounds based on the 300 that were harvested last year. I had just planned to add that to the Haut Tubee.
With the potential though for up to 2400 pounds we could make three barrels of Cab Franc. I will replan to ferment and age this wine on its own if we can get three barrels. If it holds up we may release it as a single vineyard wine. I think more likely though is that we will use it to blend out some other wines. We can add up to 15% to our Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon and that wine always benefits from having some Merlot or Cab Franc to round it out and soften it. We may also consider a Santa Clara Valley Cabernet Sauvignon blend as a new wine. That would include fruit from a few new sources. There’s also the very good chance that it will go into the Haut Tubee though and I suspect at least some will go into the Haut Tubee.
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