The mowing is done, weedeating is underway (with a large assist from machetes), and the vineyard is once again taking form as it usually does during the early spring. Clusters of California poppies, hillsides of pink, yellow, red, and white wild radishes, massive patches of lupine, a monster 8'X8' purple bush lupine, masses of yellow fireweed, dwarf blue lupine, wild purple vetch, standard blue lupine, a purple/brown/yellow wild sweet pea...the list goes on and on...all are now in their glory, and it is a fascinating time of year here in the vineyard. The weedeating and machetes are used to avoid herbicide sprays. A secondary benefit of not spraying is that we then can appreciate all the magnificent wildflowers mentioned above, plus another several dozen not mentioned.
To see it is to truly understand nature's wonder. Anyone who has visited Cerro Prieto during the spring time will attest to the sheer, overwhelming beauty of the vineyard and its surrounding hillsides. We have prevented any erosion in this, a 30 inch rain year, and we have continued the propagation of fields of magnificent, eye-hurting color...all of which would have been absent had we sprayed herbicide, primarily pre-emergents. Yes, weedeating is an added cost, but if one lives in the country, one should enjoy it to its fullest...and we do. Come see us and enjoy the color show, plus try some nationally recognized wines.
Bottling of '07s is now done, and we have laid the bottled wine down for a 3 month nap. There were no glitches, just premium wines making it into their bottles, where they now will take a brief rest. Quality of our Paso Bordo should match or exceed our 92 point 2006, and the Merlot is not a stand alone, but rather a blend of Merlot with a tiny bit of Syrah, and 12% superb Cabernet. It is difficult to compare our internationally acclaimed Gold Medal Merlot of 2006 with our '07 blend, but I assure you, it will not disappoint.
Next on the calendar is to finish weedeating, and then to control the ongoing gopherama that we continuously have. After that it will be time to evaluate all spur positions on each vine...yes, that is 180,000 spurs to look at...but well positioned spur positions now save a lot of time and heartache later. Also we will remove those spurs that have gotten leggy, again reducing our expected yield per vine. This time consuming task goes on for several months, as one might expect, but is time well spent. It is a time to check each plant, commune with it, and figure out if there are any special needs required. As for nutrients, that is taken care of once vines have leafed out fully, and are well on the way toward full leaf maturation.
There is one threat on the horizon: the Arctic Express is currently blowing through, and we are already leafed out in 90% of our Syrah, our highest bloc. It will stay 25 degrees warmer than our bottom valley vineyard, and hopefully will be spared any late hard frosts. The valley vineyard is still sleeping, with very little in the way of bud bulging, let alone, bud break. Somehow, someway it knows that to swell or break buds too early is to succumb to late spring frosts. Right now, most vineyard owners are "saying the beads" re: no hard hitting frost. If it should happen, well, that is farming, as the saying goes. We hope for the best, yet are prepared for the worst. The big rains of winter have recharged all vines, and we are on track for a great 2010.
As for fauna, the barn owls have already produced one clutch of young, and another is underway. The immense piles of gopher bones in the scat below barn owl boxes is impressive in number of dead skeletons, as well as the assortment of skeletons found. Gophers predominate, but ground squirrels as well as field mice and relatives are in abundance. The red tailed hawks are soaring, many already matched up, and frequently seen in the tallest oak trees overlooking the vineyard, with mouthfuls of weeds, leaves, sticks, and other nest building materials. Occasionally an existing nest gets rebuilt, but most years, large nests succumb to the 60-70 knot winds that blow in winter. Red shouldered hawks continue to do their aerial acrobatics, each male vying for a mate. Perrigrine falcons are likewise entertained, but they don't put on soaring shows like red tails and red shouldered hawks do. As for the songbirds (finches, juncos, nuthatches, titmouses, robins, stellars jays, et al), it is definitely nesting time, as can be noted by the tattered front and back doormats that have been shredded by one or all of the above culprits. Oh yes, the grey squirrels love to make their nests from our doormats also. All in all, it is an immensely busy time here, and sometimes I actually think the animals are working harder than we are. Oddly, the wild turkey, both Merriam and Rio Grande are not paired up yet, probably the result of a false summer the last two weeks, now followed by an Arctic air mass. Such is life at Cerro Prieto today, and we wish you could enjoy it all with us. A phone call or email usually works. We look forward to seeing you here to enjoy nature at her finest.