Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The amazing spring rush crush

No, that does not mean we are crushing grapes in May, but it does mean that there has been a massive amount of work done since my last blog, now a full month ago. To loyal readers, my apologies, but the vineyard has been all consuming to the extreme. Since a month ago, the gopher population has gone crazy, with more gophers than we have ever seen in the past 11 years. Controlling these pests takes an inordinate amount of many, myself included, this is negative work; ie, we are working like mad, but are not going forward. We are, in military parlance, building and holding. We are not progressing.

Since last month, you might be interested to know what the nuts and bolts of running a vineyard encompasses. First gopher control; then there is the irrigation of our cold valley potted dormant Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc replants. Now, 3 weeks later, we have to put shelters around all those dormant vines we buried under 3 inches of soil. As the new leaves sprout, we dig away the dirt they were buried under, and carefully place cardboard shelters around them. Next is once again tractor repairs. The broken crawler tread has held up, but the PTO cable broke, requiring a virtual dismantling of the tractor to replace one lousy cable.

Next was spray rig, which required a new bearing, replacing a mysteriously lost fan belt, and finally replacing worn out nozzles. Unfortunately our spray rig is no longer made, parts are scarce, and many have to be hand manufactured. Ugh. The Bush Hog, a 42" mower pulled behind our 6X6 ATV, has now been completely rebuilt, yet continues to cause problems with breakdowns with each and every use. Sounds like farming, doesn't it? In our 3 year old Syrah, which is growing out of pure limestone rock, we have had to put up a second set of catch wires, in that heavy winds of spring snap off 2 foot long shoots as if they were nothing. Two days ago I encountered 53 broken shoots just on our top row of Syrah alone. The catch wires will alleviate most of that problem. My dependable work truck, a Ford F150, had a compressor go bad and required replacing, plus the new fan belt that drives it.

On a daily basis, we have to clean a massive filter for our irrigation pump due to our extremely hard(basic) water. Mainly it is just time consuming, but again is just negative work. By cleaning it, we don't progress...we just stay neutral. Thus is life in the spring vineyard, but due to heavy winter rains, and then 3 late spring rains, we have had to re-mow and re-weedeat the entire vineyard 3 times. This is easily our busiest spring on record, but finally it is immensely gratifying to see things round up into good shape. As for wines, 2007 is in bottle and will be released June 30th. The 2008 vintages need a topping and the 2009 needs racking, plus chemistries. My gut feeling is that we have improved on our 92 point Paso Bordo, and have got a Merlot blend that is better than our international gold medal 2006 Merlot. Time and tasters will tell, but we are extremely excited about our 2007 releases.

We hope to see all our old friends and new ones, too, here at the vineyard this coming weekend during Wine Festival. Our planned move to open a tasting room across from the downtown park at Meritage Lounge remains in the works, but bureaucratic red tape has delayed things. Please call for information on tasting at 805-226-8448. Our 2006 Paso Bordo has managed to actually improve with age, which makes that 92 point wine truly spectacular. We will make a stand alone Syrah this year, but will not be available until next yr. I cannot wait to get this into bottle.

In closing, there are two pictures of our vineyard in 1999, and then today. You can see the remarkable changes in this, the county's most photographed vineyard (or at least, so I have been told). Vineyard tours are by appointment, but most are already spoken for during Wine Fest weekend. Call to see if there are any cancellations should you be interested. We are foregoing the downtown park pouring this year, as we were much busier at the vineyard last year than we were at the Wine Fest pouring . Look forward to seeing you all again. Also a note to wine club members: you are welcome to pick up your shipments here and save the cost of shipping, should you wish. Enjoy the Wine Fest, and we look forward to seeing you.


  1. Greetings Larry,
    I apologize in advance for the pseudo-advertisement, however, you may find some interest in our products found at CrittergetterOnline.Com which have been proven (both through customer feedback and testing performed by the University of Nebraska) to be 90% effective for gopher control. The Crittergetter uses an abatement technique that folks have employed successfully for decades. I live in the Napa valley myself and have a small (617 vine) cabernet vineyard and used this device myself for my abatement issues. I am currently in discussion with our local hardware chain to have our products placed in their stores.
    Link to University of Nebraska report:

  2. Crittergetter, thanks for the info, and I will look into it. Believe me, we need gopher help. Sometimes I wonder if it is an earthquake beneath my feet, or is it gophers tunnelling thruout the entire vineyard.