Many of you have asked how California’s “Atmospheric rivers” have been affecting our vineyards and we are happy to report that the vines are dormant right now and the soil is happily soaking up all that rain.
January – March is usually wet out in the vineyards, so we have pruned the vines while they are dormant and tilled the surrounding soil.
Our vines will wake up soon to fully saturated soil, allowing them to get off to a great start this growing season. The extra water from wet years is stored deep in the soil and when we hit drought years, the vines will utilize their long root system to thrive during drought years. Did you know: some old vines have tap roots that may reach down over 25 feet!
April and May are our busiest months in the vineyards. As we patiently wait for bud break, we will be mowing, tilling the soil and adding cover crops, which are the various types of vegetation planted between the rows of grapevines. Although this vegetation might look like random weeds, it is actually a well-thought-out mix of beneficial plants and goes a long way towards our sustainable farming efforts.
Sustainable benefits of cover crops:
- Increase biodiversity from additional vine-friendly micro-flora and fauna
- Prevent soil erosion
- Improve soil structure for water retention and root development
- Provide habitat for beneficial insects
- Allow the soil to hold more moisture from the winter rains
- Permit easier access to vineyards during wet weather
- Provide organic matter that breaks down in the soil to slowly release nutrients necessary for healthy vine growth
- Suppress weeds
Bud break is about five weeks late this year, following months of added cloud cover that has kept the vines cool and slumbering. Once the vines wake up, we will begin suckering, which occurs when the shoots reach about 18 inches long. All the suckers (or unproductive shoots) must be removed, so all the vine’s energy can be directed to the producing shoots.
Towards the end of May, we will be spreading compost, which we have been custom-making since 2020. We produce our compost material by recycling pomace (discarded skins, pulp, seeds, and stems) from the production process with cow manure purchased from a local ranch. The material is mixed, cooked, and screened offsite, then returned to the vineyards in the Spring to replenish and maintain such nutrients as Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium which are vital to keep our vines healthy and producing grapes packed full of flavors.
The cellar is buzzing with activity as we start hitting the peak of our bottling season. From now until early August, we will be finalizing our blends and bottling non-stop.
We just wrapped up bottling our 2022 Dry Stack Sauvignon Blanc, utilizing our own screw cap bottling line that was installed earlier this year. Our 2022 Rose was recently bottled as well. You can look forward to these two releases very soon. Be sure to reach out to the Wine Club team to purchase. Both of these wines tend to sell out within just a couple of months.
Our 2021 Pinot Noirs and 2021 Zinfandels are newly bottled and resting up.
We are currently bottling our 10 Year Tawny Port and White Port (These highly allocated Ports are only available through our Ruby Allocation shipment in October, so if you are a Port lover, you’ll want to join!).
In May, we will begin bottling our 2021 Cabernet Sauvignons.
During July and August, we will be wrapping up our 2022 Estate Cuvee Blanc and 2022 Chardonnays.
After bottling, these wines will need some time to rest up, but you can look forward to their releases starting next year. Our wine club members always get first access and many of these wines are allocated for members only.
We are currently working with our coopers to order barrels for Harvest 2023. Early ordering helps us ensure we have the barrels on-site for when the fruit arrives in September.
Think of oak as a spice – we use primarily French Oak barrels, but also use other oak barrels like Hungarian and American oak both to compliment French oak and to continually experiment with aromas and flavors.
We use different types of toasting levels in our programs. In general, we use what is referred to as Medium Plus and Medium Long toasting (These terms refer to the amount of time the oak staves are toasted).
Toasting of the oak caramelizes the wood sugars into all the great things we love and find in wine. Depending on the “strength” of the toast, it adds aromas and flavors of coffee, cocoa, mocha, chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, warm brown spices (think nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon) and even enhances the fruit-forward notes of the wine itself.
We prefer that the heads of our barrels remain untoasted, meaning the wood for the barrel heads is allowed to air dry, but is not toasted before the heads are installed onto the barrel. This allows us to bring in some freshness to the wine as it ages.
We also use “Hybrid” barrels, which are a blend of both American and French oak. For example, we have barrels that have American oak bodies and French oak heads. We also flip this and have barrels with French oak bodies and American oak heads.
For our Sauvignon Blanc program, we are also working with Acacia wood barrels, which help enhance the fruit naturally found in the varietal and then brings in a fresh floral element as well. It’s a very subtle touch, but one that adds in additional layers of complexity.
All types and toasts of barrels bring in an additional mouthfeel element as well, adding structure and richness to the wine. This whole barrel thing is a very complicated science but at the end of the day, it makes wine go from great to amazing!
We are utilizing about 13 different Coopers for all our barrel programs. Winemaker, Chris Louton, often refers to each Cooper like a chef would to their spice rack. Each Cooper brings their own unique style to the barrels they produce.