And then there was the bad with the good. On Christmas eve, our best friend these last 12 years, who helped plant the vineyard, then put in stakes and posts, put up wire, and trap gophers....Cazadora, our amazing vineyard dog, passed away. She was a favorite of everyone who has ever visited, and it was sheer misery having to put her down. She had a sarcoma removed from her back leg over a yr ago, and the damn thing spread to her heart muscle, internal organs and lungs. It was painful having this grown dog on my lap, and when they came in to put her to sleep, she put her muzzle under my arm...just like she always has done when afraid...and then went to sleep for one last time. I think we cried over Caza for a week, until we got a call from a hunting buddy, letting me know there might be a couple pups up in Oroville, that possibly were from Caza's blood line. We skedaddled up there two days later, and sure enough, ended up with a new pup, Sombra...Shadow, in English. Anyway, she is now queen of the castle, and has filled the void left by our best friend. Caza, however, could never be forgotten... gosh, how we miss her.
Mid way thru the two coldest months of the winter, Dec 15 to Feb 15, all that comes to mind is mild. Our coldest days are usually over by Jan 15th, altho winter stays another month. We have had several gentle farmer's rains, of about 5", enough to get all the mountain rows of cover crops wet enough to coax the perennial pasture mix to grow out on the steep mountain rows. This will be adequate to keep what little topsoil we have in place should we get a couple gully washers. In 2005, we got exactly that, 20" of rain in four separate storms. The problem was each rain was 5", and each one dumped all its water on us in a little over a couple hours. Everything washed out, we had to repair 5 short rows of Cab, due to loss of the ten foot wide row in 5 adjacent rows. It was the first time I truly understood the "whys" of cover crops. Everything has been fine since then, even 2010 and 2011, both years of the "big, cold, dark wet." Both those years were forgettable in that we had two hailstorms on our bloom,which cut the crop by half. The 2010 Syrah, however, was another matter... truly something special. Since I knew 2010 was destined to be a disastrous year, I put away a barrel of 2009 Cab for mixing with our 2010 Syrah should we want to. Well, we bottled those Dec 1st and 2nd and the straight up 2010 Syrah Reserve( la Terrazza bloc) was phenomenal. We also bottled a '10 Syrah Bordo(93% Syrah/ 7% Cab from 2009). That meant we had 13 cases of '09 Cab left so we bottled those straight up. I firmly believe these are the 3 best wines I have ever made. Yes, our '09 Syrah is fantastic, 90 pts in WE, but our 2010 Syrahs, are both just flat out phenomenal. And the tiny amount of '09 Cab is even better. So look for when I release those, probably in April- June. They will be worth the wait.
Above top: The regal Cazadora ready in early morning to chase gophers, and ride in the ATV
Bottom: First rays of dawn breaking over Cerro Teresa, one of our best Cab blocs