Chardonnay and Cuvee Alis

September 17, 2013

We have been very busy lately here at Amapola Creek! The hot, dry weather brought on some very quick ripening, and quite a few of our grapes were ready to come in over the course of the last week.

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This picture is of the last of the Belli Chardonnay to come in for the year. These grapes will be pressed and the juice fermented separately from the Chardonnay we brought in earlier in the season, even though they will ultimately be blended together into a single wine. The second round of Belli Chardonnay is comprised primarily of Dijon clone 76, which is a selection of Chardonnay that has a distinct minerality and a strong backbone of acid, which will nicely balance the tropical Rued and Robert Young clones we brought in earlier this year.

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We also recently brought in our Cuvee Alis, which this year will be a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah. The different stacks of bins that you see above are the different varieties, we have to keep them carefully separated so that we know exactly what has been put into which fermentor. This year we were fortunate to be able to bring in all of the Cuvee Alis in a single day. Usually, these varieties of grapes ripen at rates different enough to require separate pick dates. Mourvedre, especially, is generally left out to ripen and brought in much later on its own. This year is very special, though, and we were able to bring in the entire blend at one time.

Things are still moving quickly here at Amapola Creek, don’t forget to check back soon for more updates!

 

More grapes…

September 5, 2013

The weather has been consistently warm and dry for the last few months, and so the grapes are all starting to ripen up very quickly. This week, we brought in the first of our Chardonnay from Belli vineyards for the year.Image

The Chardonnay we brought in this week is comprised of two different ‘clones’, meaning that they are two different kinds of Chardonnay with slightly different characteristics. The two clones we brought in are called ‘Rued’ and ‘Robert Young’, which are both very aromatic clones that contribute the vibrant fruit character to our Chardonnay. They are also early ripeners, which is why they came in first.

We also brought in our Zinfandel from Monte Rosso vineyards this week.ImageRichard is extremely happy with the quality of the Zinfandel this year, the flavor is outstanding, and the color is exceptionally dark.

Things are really going to pick up in the next week or so. Stay tuned!

 

Harvest 2013 is here!

August 29, 2013

We began harvest this week by bringing in just a little bit of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Viognier to make our 2013 Rose Cuvee! This is the first time the Rose Cuvee has ever come in before the Chardonnay, which is a testament to the perfection of the weather we’ve been seeing in Sonoma Valley this year.

ImageThe pickers started at daybreak so we could bring the fruit in cold, allowing us to gently extract only a little bit of color from the skins.

We pick the grapes for the Rose from the same blocks that we take our Cuvee Alis from, taking one or two clusters from each vine now and leaving the rest for later. Taking some grapes off the vines to make the Rose allows the remaining grapes to mature more fully, giving the Cuvee Alis darker color and a deeper flavor profile. The grapes taste outstanding, this is going to be a Rose to remember!

 

 

Cover Crops

February 26, 2013

This month continues to be warm and relatively dry, bringing us closer and closer to the start of the growing season for our vines.

The balmy February weather has also gotten our cover crops growing. In this picture you can see the mustard blooming all across the Montana Vista block.

The balmy February weather has also gotten our cover crops growing. In this picture you can see the mustard blooming all across the Montana Vista block.

Cover crops are grown from seeds that we sow in the vineyard rows just after harvest.

We use a mixture of mustard, oats, peas, and beans in our cover crops. You can see us mixing the various types of seeds together before sowing in this picture.

We use a mixture of mustard, oats, peas, and beans in our cover crops. Here you can see us mixing the various types of seeds together before sowing.

Each type of plant serves a different purpose in preserving the health of the vineyard; mustard and peas draw beneficial insects and add biomass to the soil, oats help to anchor the soil in place with their fibrous root systems, and beans help fix nitrogen into the soil, improving its’ nutrient status.

Wild plants also play an important role in the vineyard. These calendulas (pot marigolds) are popping up all over the vineyards this time of year. They are powerful attractors of beneficial insects which keep the pest load in our vineyards low.

Wild plants also play an important role in the vineyard. These calendulas (pot marigolds) are popping up all over the property this time of year. They are powerful attractors of beneficial insects which keep the populations of pests in our vineyards low.

While some more rain would be nice, we are still enjoying the mild days. Flowers are opening up all over the property and you can practically feel Spring coming.

Most of the peas and beans have not started to flower yet, but here is one early pea-bloom from the Foxtrot block.

Most of the peas and beans have not started to flower yet, but here is one early pea-bloom from the Foxtrot block.

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Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

 

Tying

February 19, 2013

Spring is coming on relatively early this year in Sonoma Valley. In 2012 we saw a warm February which was followed by a cool and rainy March, and so far we’re seeing the same pattern for 2013. It’s impossible for now to say what will happen as the season progresses, but at the moment it’s clear that Spring is coming and the world is waking up.

Mustard is one of the seeds we sow to form our cover crop. It can act as a sort of thermometer for the vineyard, blooming earliest in the warmest spots. This picture was taken in the Southwest corner of the Montana Vista block, where sun exposure and the contour of the terrain contrive to make an especially warm spot.

Mustard is one of the seeds we sow to form our cover crop. It can act as a sort of thermometer for the vineyard, blooming earliest in the warmest spots. This picture was taken in the Southwest corner of the Montana Vista block, where sun exposure and the contour of the terrain contrive to make an especially warm spot. Since it is relatively warm, this is often one of the first spots on the property where the grapes ripen during harvest.

This is the time of year that we start in on a vineyard process called ‘tying’. During tying we take loose canes from last year and fix them to the trellis wires, beginning the process of forming next years’ canopy.

We pruned our vines in January, leaving only the canes that were well positioned for tying.

We pruned our vines in January, leaving only the canes that were well positioned for tying.

We take the loose canes and bend their tips down to the lower trellis wires in a regimen known as the ‘Guyot’ system.

As this years new shoots begin to grow out of the buds on this cane, they will be perfectly spaced and directed to form the open canopy that makes for premium Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

As this years new shoots begin to grow out of the buds on this cane, they will be perfectly spaced and directed to form the open canopy that makes for premium Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

One interesting thing to note in the pictures above is that there is only one cane left on the vine, whereas normally we would leave two. If you look carefully at the right hand side of this vine, you will see a tiny piece of cane with two buds on it. This is called a ‘spur’.

Last year was so vigorous that some of the vines, such as this one, became a little stressed. Leaving a spur instead of a cane will result in a slightly smaller canopy with a little less fruit, reducing the stress on the vine for this year and letting it recover its’ strength. This means that our yield will be reduced slightly in 2013, but it also means that the fruit we do get will be of a higher quality. It also means that the vines will survive longer, continuing to produce high quality fruit further into the future.

With high-end wine growing it is sometimes necessary to make trade-offs like this, reducing our overall harvest to ensure the best possible quality in the final product.

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Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Done with grapes for 2012

November 1, 2012

As suddenly as it began back in September, it’s over! We topped off this vintage by bringing in the ‘second crop’, which is a small second wave of fruit that ripens up a few weeks after the main crop comes in. We managed to finish picking just the day before the rains came, which is fortunate, because rain tends to reduce flavor and promote rot.

Clusters of second crop are usually small and found high in the canopy. They are usually not quite as high in quality as the main crop, so we are planning to sell the wine we make from them to another winery sometime next year. It actually tastes pretty good this year, but with such a fantastic yield of main crop to select from we will be able to cull out only the cream of the crop for ourselves.

This has been a really big harvest for us, huge yields and stellar quality. Now we begin the long process of prepping our wines to store and age, and we begin getting our vineyards ready for next year. Be sure to check back to see how it’s going!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Petit Verdot!

October 24, 2012

Just recently, we finished up the bulk of this years’ harvest by bringing in the Petit Verdot from the Bobcat Run block. The Petit Verdot will be a component in the Cabernet Sauvignon blend, it tends to have an aroma best described as ‘berry pie’, which elevates the red fruit characters of the Cabernet and helps bring them to the forefront.

Petit Verdot is a late-ripening variety, even with all of the ideal weather we had this year we still had to wait until the vines were starting to go dormant for the winter before the fruit was ready to pick.

As you can see, these vine have already started gaining a bit of their fall coloring. Earlier in the season, the grapes get sweeter because the vines are producing sugar via photosynthesis and translocating it into the fruit. This late in the season, the fruit gets sweeter because it is slowly dehydrating. This was especially true in the last few days before these grapes were harvested, as we had warm temperatures and a stiff breeze to help the dehydration along.

That little bit of warm weather was actually very fortunate, as it started to rain several days after the fruit was picked. We were most fortunate this year to get pretty much all of our fruit in without having to contend with any rain. This has been a truly exceptional vintage, both in terms of quantity and, more importantly, quality. We still have a lot of work to do taking care of the wines we’ve made, be sure to check back to see what we’re up to!

 

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Petite Sirah!

October 16, 2012

We know we’re almost done with grapes for the year when the Petite Sirah shows up from Monte Rosso Vineyards!

Every year we pick just a couple of bins of Petite Sirah to make a small amount of wine for our club members. This block from Monte Rosso makes a lovely, dense wine, rich with fruit characters and exhibiting a strong backbone of tannins.

Petite Sirah clusters have a very distinctive look.

While Cabernet tends to have loose clusters with lots of space between the berries, Petite Sirah is very tight, with almost no space between the grapes.

This tight formation can make Petite Sirah vulnerable to Fall rains, if water gets inside the cluster it can promote the growth of rot. This threat is compounded by the fact that Petite Sirah is relatively late-ripening, meaning that we have to chance leaving it out in the vineyard longer. Fortunately the weather has held back and allowed us to bring this fruit in in pristine condition.

We picked first thing in the morning, so the fruit was ice-cold when we processed it. As a result,  it took a few days for the yeast to take hold and start fermenting, but now we are finally seeing a solid cap form in the fermentors. The fruit tasted fantastic, and the fermentations smell divine. All of our wines this year are turning out delicious, but we have especially high hopes for this one.

Be sure to check back soon to see what we’re up to!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Catching up

October 11, 2012

Well, faithful readers, we have been busy indeed these last few days! Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happened over the last few days.

First, the Belli Chardonnay has gotten far enough through its’ fermentation that we’re comfortable putting it back down to barrels to age.

During the initial fermentation we left some headspace in the barrels to keep them from overflowing, but now we have them topped up, to keep out the air. We started with twenty-three barrels, which we have now consolidated down to nineteen.

The Chardonnay is still fermenting just a little, so we left in the fermentation bungs.

These will let the minute amount of carbon dioxide still being generated by the fermentation to escape, if we just put in regular hard bungs then the pressure would make them pop out every couple of days. We are expecting the fermentation to wind down completely early next week.

Another item of interest, we have just pressed out the components of the 2012 Cuvee Alis!

We are still keeping the Syrah and Grenache separate for now, here you can see the brilliant color of the Syrah as it comes out of the press. This wine is still high in solids, as the solids settle out, the color will deepen to a very dark purple.

And finally, this week we have brought in the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Estate.

Actually, technically speaking there is still a little second crop out there, but this is the last of the first crop. This last load came out of the heaviest areas of the China Bowl block, which took the longest to ripen.

This has been an extremely bountiful year for us, our tank space is all but filled to capacity with very high quality fruit. There is still plenty of work to do, be sure to check back and see what we’re up to!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

 

 

 

Cuvee Alis is here!

October 8, 2012

We’re deep in the heart of harvest, and so we’ve been very busy this week. One of the most exciting things to happen this week; we’ve picked the grapes for the 2012 Cuvee Alis!

The Cuvee Alis is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and, this year, Mourvedre! The Mourvedre from the recently grafted vines in China Bowl isn’t quite ready to go yet, but the Syrah and Grenache ripened up very rapidly in the last few days because of the warm weather we had towards the beginning of the week.

As soon as we had the fruit in from the field, we set about destemming it and getting it into fermentors. We don’t make a huge amount of this product, so we ended up splitting it into several small containers that we will blend back together after fermentation.

Small fermentors mean punchdowns! Here’s Richards’ daughter Kerry Arrowood helping out in the cellar.

All of the punchdowns mean a fair amount of manual labor, but they are necessary to fully extract all of the color and flavor that this delicious fruit has to offer.

As soon as we had the fruit in the bins, we inoculated with a yeast called Rhone 4600.

This is the same yeast we used on the Rose. It is a quick fermenting yeast isolated from wines in the Rhone Valley in France. It is especially well suited to aromatic Rhone varieties, as it produces a high concentration of fruity smelling compounds known as esters. The Grenache especially has a strong tropical aroma of bananas at the moment. After fermentation, the aroma of bananas will fade, and leave behind aromas of red fruit and berries.

There is still a lot going on here, and we expect to be able to post more frequently over the course of this week. Stay tuned to see what we’re up to!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, to visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

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