• The D Word

    February 28, 2018 14:15

    The D Word

    Drought. The word is bandied about these days as we look to the last significant month in our rain cycle. March is usually the final frontier when it comes to the rain season. If we haven’t had enough (and we haven’t) then this is the last stand to make up for the small amount we have received so far. In fact the warm weather (in the 70s) we had in February almost made our vines think it was spring.

    We’ve had between 12 and 13 inches of rain this season. Average rainfall is around 30 inches. That’s why the dreaded D-word ‘drought’ is now being used. While considered moderate we’ll need a few more inches to even get close to normal.

    From the California Department of Water Resources comes this when defining drought for our state, “California is no stranger to drought; it is a recurring feature of our climate. We recently experienced the 5-year event of 2012-2016, and other notable historical droughts included 2007-09, 1987-92, 1976-77, and off-and-on dry conditions spanning more than a decade in the 1920s and 1930s. Paleoclimate records going back more than 1,000 years show many more significant dry periods. The dry conditions of the 1920s-30s, however, were on a par with the largest 10-year droughts in the much longer paleoclimate record.”

    The great amount of rain we received in 2017, while a distant memory, is something that isn’t repeated too often. The good news is it filled up reservoirs and even recharged groundwater storage in some places which is an important if unseen effect-without underground water the wells so many of us rely on for farming would affect our ability to deliver water when most needed.

    It remains to be seen what March will bring. We all hope for more rain to give the vines and other agricultural crops the water they need.

  • Trimming the Vine

    December 11, 2015 11:21

    Trimming vines is a months-long occupation for the vineyard crew beginning typically in November. Since it has been raining the last few days all pruning of the vines has ceased for the moment. Once the vines and ground have dried out a bit the crew will be back out in the vineyard. I discussed pruning last week and how a vine goes dormant after the first cold snap, usually happening in November.

    This week the subject is what happens with those canes. Spur pruning the head pruned vines on the home ranch requires the knowledge of where to make changes in the direction of the vine arm for optimal growth and ripening as well as leaving two buds on each arm for the 2016 crop. Canes are piled between the vines and in the old days were burned in large piles. In recent years, with an eye toward sustainability as well as sparing the air, the canes are chopped and left in the vineyard as mulch. A toast to the hardworking crew and vines with splash of vino in my Dino!

    Canes before

    Canes after

  • Fall into Winter: Dormant Vines

    December 2, 2015 12:02

    Dormant vineyards are the subject as we finish fall in a few weeks and move into winter. The vines began to move toward their dormant state after a few cold snaps-which we had plenty of in November. The colorful leaves have turned brown and are beginning to fall off of the canes. The vine is pulling inside of itself for some well-deserved rest.

    Sometimes people have commented that they look dead but there is still a lot of life going on inside those weathered trunks. They are actually carbo-loading as they absorb the nutrients they need for next year’s harvest. Pruning is in our vineyard’s future over the next few weeks. With 105 acres of vineyard, the vineyard crew has their work cut out for them. As you see from the second photo, after this Mother Clone vine has been pruned, that the 2016 crop has been set in the form of two buds per arm-all positioned by the crew to be in the best place for problem free growth and ripening. A toast to the vines as they go dormant with some Zinfandel in my Dino.

    This photo reminds me of a song...all the leaves are brown, and the skies are grey.

    Prepruned MC Zin Vine

    Pruned Mother Clone Zinfandel vine, ready for winter.

    Pruned MC Zin Vine

  • What is an Old Vine?

    December 9, 2014 12:34

    Bear with me as we navigate the sometimes confusing waters of wine terms. Old Vine, Reserve, Special Selection and others are phrases that are used on wine labels to help give more definition of style but don’t really stick to a particular set of rules. ‘Reserve’ in fact has no legal definition so wineries may use it freely—check out the wine wall the next time you are at a store and count the ‘reserves’. The same goes for Old Vine, where you would expect it to have a definition (75-100 years old at least) but it doesn’t. If you had 20 grape growers in a room I don’t think you’d draw a consensus for a definition. We don’t use the old vine term on our Mother Clone Zinfandel because we developed a proprietary name. It refers to vineyards ranging in age from 100 (a very small part of the blend) to 20 years old, some historic and some new kids on the block. These are well established vineyards but not ‘old’ in the sense that this Zinfandel is from a century old vineyard. If you are curious about what is in your glass when it comes to our wines rest assured we do our best to define it for you. From my Dino cup to yours, cheers!

    This photo of the Mother Clone vineyard on our Home Ranch shows 30+ year old vines.

    MC Vines