The weather this year has been unusual which is becoming the norm. Had a very hot spell at the beginning of the season. In fact, some of the Petite Syrah and Trousseau got a sunburn (see pics below). Most growers were claiming 2 -4 weeks ahead. Then the cooler weather set in for several weeks and slowed everything down. Had some rain as well but no mold/fungus issues so far. We shall see what Mother Nature has in store for us as we continue through the season.
All of the vines in Block 8 have started bud break… The vines are waking up but as you might expect the growth is not uniform across the vineyard which will bring its own set of challenges as we go along. No complaints. Glad things have finally started. Bring on bloom!
A man can do some serious thinking while he hoes around 500+ vines. I must say life is good. I’m mighty thankful to have such an understanding and supportive wife, three energetic and healthy sons and wonderful family and friends. Healdsburg is really a paradise. The only thing that would make it better is if our family lived closer.
So here is what I am up to. The gremagna (intervine tiller) pilled up soil and left weeds around the vines, so… I am hand hoeing around each vine. Not to mention it also tore out three healthy vines (2 petite syrah and 1 zin). Serenity Now!! So the jury is still out on the value of the gremagna.
So what’s a man to do but think and whistle some good ole hoe-down songs…
Before and after:
Sorry for not posting recently… It has been a busy month in the vineyard and getting the winery setup. Here are some of things that I have been doing.
In the Vineyard…
Bud break has begun! Overall the feeling is that everything is behind by a week or so. In Block 8, the majority of the Zin has not started yet. The delay is most likely caused by pruning late.
Here is a picture of Block 8.
Every other row has been cultivated and the other rows have been mowed.
Here is a Tinta Cao vine that has started bud break.
Learned to drive a tractor. Awesome!
Using a tool to cultivate between the vines called a Gramegna. Block 8 is getting cultivated today.
There were a number of vines that were not producing to a economic capacity so we removed them. We salute you for your service! In the process of ordering new vines.
Vines are pruned and tied, and trellis is repaired. Will be reviewing irrigation this week and as soon as bud break is further along, will start suckering.
In the winery…
Still waiting on the Secretary of State’s office to approve the LLC. Once this happens, I can move forward with licensing, wine making contracts, labels, etc. Still considering what other wines to make in addition to Zin. Have some leads on a Pinot and Cab vineyard that I could farm. More on this later….
Not only is the weather getting warmer but things are moving along with the winery. I have started farming a small block of Zinfandel in Alegria Vineyards that I plan to make wine from this year. Currently I am pruning the vines which I find quite relaxing. Seven of the twenty-three rows are complete. There is some rain forecast for this weekend and next week which means that I will likely paint the open wounds to prevent fungal diseases like Eutypa Dieback.
Also starting to see some sap flow in the vines which means they are starting to wake up from their winter nap.
Barrel tasting is the next two weekends and I will help out at Acorn Winery as much as I can.
Have also been working on the business plan, trademarks, etc for the winery. As soon as the proposed winery name is approved, I will discuss more.
From what I saw in Arizona and California.
Four things really stick out in my mind about the journey west….
As we pushed west of Phoenix, we started to notice that there was an unbelievable number of RVs parked everywhere in the desert. Then we came up to the town of Quartzite, AZ which was a mass of RV’s and this continued for miles past the town. Apparently close to a million rockhounds come to Quartzite (population ~3000) in January for a big rock, sports and RV show. It was quite a site.
I thought there was a lot of windmills in West Texas… I was wrong. Take a trip through the Palm Springs area. Unreal…
As we turned off to go to Paso Robles, we drove through Lost Hills, California. I have never seen so many pumpjacks in one field. Check it out.
And last but not least… there are unbelievable orchards and vineyards in the central valley of California. Acres and acres of trees and vines. Very impressive how they are managed.
For those of you crazy enough to drive to California from Texas here are the highlights from my journey. Take into account that I was pulling a 34ft camper behind the truck. Typically drove 65-70 miles per hour until California where the speed limit is 55mph for vehicles with trailers.
8.6 MPG (yes this hurts the pocket book…)
36hrs 16mins drive time
2 Large Bags of Sunflower Seeds
Frist day we drove from Cypress TX to Las Cruces, NM (~800 miles). We stayed at the KOA which was very nice. Would stay there again.
Had lunch at Cooper’s BBQ in Junction, TX
Last call for good Texas brisket. Right off the freeway and good gas stations.
Next day we drove to Phoenix and stayed with my in-laws (~400 miles). Had a very nice visit and dinner.
Had breakfast at Kransberry’s in Lordsburg, NM
Good Green Chile omelet and burrito. Gas station right across the street but not good for a trailer.
Day three we drove to Paso Robles (~600 miles). Had a nice lunch with some long time family friends in Palm Springs. Paso is about an hour out of the way but did not want to arrive late and disturb the family on a school/work day. Unfortunately did not arrive early enough to try out any wineries but definitely a place I will explore more in the future. Stayed at the Wine Country RV Park. Nice place, will definitely stay there again.
Day four, we drove to Healdsburg (~200 miles). Home at last!
I made it!! Was hard being away from my family for a month.
House is on the market, had three offers the first day and have accepted an offer. All of the hard work seems to have paid off. Hopefully we close in early March. Thanks Dad and Paul for all of your help!!
My grandparents are getting settled in a nice home which has taken much patience and hard work from my aunts and mother. I am very grateful for this.
The drive over with the camper was long but we had no problems. Dad was great company during the trip.
Had the flu all week and after 5 days of fever am finally feeling better. Avoid the flu at all costs. This is the worst flu I have ever had.
Katie and my sister-in-law Becky did an amazing job of getting the house setup. Still lots of boxes to unpack but the house is functional. Boys have acclimated extremely well in school and have already made many new friends. Its always a good sign when they do not want to be picked up from school.
Miss everyone in H-town. Hope to see you soon.
So a year or so later, we made another trip to Sonoma County with one of the couples Butch and Lisa Darnell who had been on the first wine-blur tour. Randomly we found ourselves in the tasting room at Christopher Creek Winery http://www.christophercreek.com.
At the end of the tasting, we asked for a recommendation for our next stop. They called Acorn Winery http://acornwinery.com and luckily they had an opening. So off we went… Had a wonderful tasting and walk in the vineyard with Betsy Nachbaur proprietor of Acorn Winery. When visiting the Russian River area, make sure to visit Acorn and Allegria Vineyards. The tasting and walk in the vineyard are a unique experience you will not want to miss.
When we returned from our walk in the vineyard, Betsy started to explain the fermentation that was taking place in a couple of T-bins in the winery. It just so happened that the caps needed to be punched down. During the fermentation of red wine, the skins form a “cap” that floats on the liquid and needs to be kept moist and in contact with the juice. A punch down tool is used to break up the cap. Being a bit more vertically “gifted” and enthusiastic about learning more, I offered to do the punch downs. So I put on the apron, grabbed the punch down tool and got to work.
Now this is the turning point when my obsession took over… As I was doing the punch downs, I asked Betsy if she would take volunteers for harvest. I suspect she gets this a lot and graciously agreed. She asked that we contact her the following year before harvest to arrange the details. I have never asked Betsy if she really expected that I would contact her. Anyway, so off we went back to our “normal” life in Houston. I started to count the days until harvest the next year.