More pruning

January 26, 2012




Now that things have dried out a little bit, we’ve been able to move back into the vineyard to keep pruning. This morning we moved into the Cabernet Sauvignon in the China Bowl block.

You may recall from a previous post that we train our vines according to the Guyot system. Pruning the vine back to two canes is the first step with Guyot, and today we started in on the second step, which is bending the canes downward and fixing them to the lower trellis wires.

Look along each cane and you will see little bumps, or 'buds'. In the spring, each bud will release a shoot that we will train upwards over the upper trellis wires above.

Usually we would wait until all of the pruning was done and then go tie down all the canes in a single pass. However, this morning it started misting a little bit, which can make safely handling the pruning shears difficult, so the vineyard crew switched over to tying down until the weather cleared up again. Soon all of the Cabernet will be done, and it will be time to start collecting Grenache budwood for the T-budding project!

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.



Lots of Water

January 23, 2012




We got a pretty good amount of rain over the last few days, so now we’re getting a pretty good amount of runoff.

This is the eponymous Amapola Creek, as seen from about halfway up the property, between the winery and the Bobcat Run vineyard, currently swollen with rainwater.

There are parts of the property that are fairly steep, so we have a number of waterways that are seasonal. We even have a little waterfall at the moment!

All of this water will meet up with the main body of the creek down towards the foot of the property.

The weather looks like it will dry out considerably in the next few days, so we’ll be switching back over to vineyard work soon. In the meantime, we’ve been keeping busy splash-racking the 2011 Cabs that we still have in tank.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.


Topping and tiny berries

January 20, 2012

It’s been raining on and off pretty much all day today, so we went ahead and started topping. This will be the first round of topping for our 2011 Cabs, so it is likely to take a little bit more wine than usual to top these barrels, since new oak always soaks up a little bit of wine after filling. This is the time of year that topping is the most work, because we have put our 2011 wines down to barrel, but have not yet pumped out all of the wines we will bottle in March.

Each keg here more or less represents a separate lot of wine, so as you can see, topping is an involved process right now.

Another interesting development we noticed today on the grounds; you may recall earlier this month when we pointed out that the manzanitas had started to flower, well today we noticed that the plants have begun to set little berries.

Unfortunately this means we won't have the little pink and white flowers to look at for much longer, but the tiny, apple shaped manzanita fruit are attractive as well.

Join us again next week to see what we’re up to!

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.


January 19, 2012




After a morning of low clouds and cold wind, we finally got the rain we’ve been waiting for!

The winery has a metal roof, so it was pretty obvious from the sound when the rain started falling in earnest.

This is a very welcome development, even though it interrupts our pruning. The rain will give our cover crops a much needed boost, not to mention recharging the water table that our well draws from.  Since the rains didn’t actually start until the early afternoon, we were able to make a little bit more progress pruning the Foxtrot block.

If you look closely in the upper right hand corner, you can see the little section that still needs to be pruned.

Now we’ll begin working indoors a little bit more. Be sure to check back to follow what’s going on.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

More Pruning

January 18, 2012




We finished up pruning in the Montana Vista block yesterday afternoon, and this morning we moved on into the Foxtrot block.

We managed to get a little less than half the block done today.

This is the oldest block on the property, and so the vines here are the largest and most vigorous. Pruning these vines is a little bit more difficult than pruning the slightly younger vines in up in Montana Vista, because there are more canes to remove, and because care needs to be taken to make sure that the vines will not get too tall for the trellis wires in the next growing season. We are also having to adjust our pruning slightly because of the rain we are expecting.

There are two things to see in this picture. First, note that we chose to keep canes that start below the trellis wires. This will keep the vine from getting too tall next year. Second, note that we left a pretty good sized piece of the vine still attached above the cane on the right. The vine can tolerate little cuts without a problem, but large cuts coupled with damp weather can stress the vines immune system and lead to disease. Since it is going to rain soon, we don't want to leave any really large pruning wounds on the vine, so we will wait until the weather clears up and then go back through to remove any excess tissue.

Check back tomorrow to see how we’re dealing with the weather.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Topping Analysis

January 17, 2012

It looks like we’re finally going to get some rain on Thursday, which means we’ll have to stop pruning for awhile and bring things back inside.

Luckily, it’s time to top our barrels again, so there’s a need for some indoor labor anyhow. Topping is a good opportunity to examine the wine, both for how its’ sensory characteristics are developing and to run analysis on it. Topping analysis is generally done to ensure that the wine is not spoiling. Wine is reasonably stable because it is acidic and contains alcohol, but there are still some bugs that can grow in it, given the opportunity.

The primary analysis we do to monitor spoilage is called VA, or Volatile Acidity. There are a number of different types of acid in wine that are considered volatile, but the one we are primarily concerned with is acetic acid, also known as vinegar.

Our lab is very small, so things get a little chaotic when we run analysis. The glass chamber with boiling water and wine in it on the right side of the picture is a Cash Still, it is the device we use to measure Volatile Acidity.

Acetic acid is present in all wines to some degree, but at too high a concentration it has an unpleasant aroma, and a sudden increase in acetic acid is a sure sign of spoilage in the wine, which can lead to all kinds of problems. We check the concentration of acetic acid regularly in every lot of wine to make sure that the wines are still sound and do not require any special treatment. Happily enough, everything checked out as usual, so we will proceed with normal topping later this week.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main  site, please click here.

Winter Pruning

January 16, 2012




Today we began pruning our Estate vineyards in preparation for the Spring. As you may recall, we began pruning some of the Cabernet Sauvignon vines down in the China Bowl recently in order to prepare them for T-budding in the Spring.

Winter pruning is a slightly different process. In the case of the pruning we did in the China Bowl, we were trying to set the vines up so they would grow vigorously and produce a lot of vegetation in the Spring. In the case of the vines we are working on today, we are trying to set the vines up to create a balanced canopy that will produce high-quality fruit. This is what one of the vines looks like after normal winter pruning;

There are many different pruning methods that can be used for shaping and trellising grapevines. In the Amapola Creek estate vineyards, we use the 'Guyot' system, which leaves two canes on every vine, each of which has 7 or 8 buds on it (buds are the little bumps you can see every few inches along the canes, each of these will push a shoot out in the Spring). Later on this winter, vineyard workers will tie the end of each cane down to the trellis wire, forming them into arcs. In the Spring, the buds will push and the green shoots will be draped over trellis wires that are higher up (outside the frame of the picture). The fruit will hang down in the open area that the naked canes are currently occupying. Each shoot will have one or two clusters on it, so each vine will probably yield somewhere between 20 and 30 clusters of grapes.

We always start pruning at the top of the property in the Montana Vista block. Here is what the block looked like before pruning,

A little messy, as is normal in winter.

And here is what it looks like after,

A little cleaner post-pruning. The canes that were dropped on the ground will be gathered and burned after the next rains.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery website, please click here.




Today we had several small projects going on at the winery. First, we took what was left of the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon after barrel down and consolidated it into topped tanks. This wine is quite nice, but we won’t need all of it for our program. What’s left will be sold to another winery that needs more Cab than they were able to produce this year.

We also spent some time today packing up a few pallets of wine to ship out. These cases are going to be sold to restaurants in Illinois, one row is 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, the other is 2008 Monte Rosso Zinfandel.

Wine being shipped out to sell in restaurants gets repackaged into these 6-bottle shipping boxes.

This doesn’t exactly count as a project, but it is a good example of the physical beauty we find here on the property; right now the manzanitas (Spanish for ‘little apple’, because of the tiny, apple shaped fruit they bear) are blooming all over the place right now.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.




Today we are putting our 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon down to barrel. We ended up with three different lots of Cab this year, each of which is going to contribute some volume to the final blend.

This has been a very unusual year, the timing of harvest coupled with the volumes of fruit we received meant that we had to organize the lots of Cabs in a slightly different way than usual. Generally we try to keep the wines from every vineyard block separate before going to barrel to maximize our flexibility at blending later on. This year, in order to keep topped tanks, it worked out that we had to do a little bit of blending beforehand. For instance, we found it convenient to crush the Petit Verdot directly to tank with the Cabernet, while in previous years we have kept it separate until the final blending. The result is three distinctive lots of Cabernet Sauvignon that, taken together, make a gorgeous example of what our estate vineyards have to offer.

Since this year was very cool, the wines are slightly more delicate than usual, so we’ve decided to pull back just a little on the American oak in our barrel profile for the Cab, from about 20% American oak to about 15%. American oak adds strong flavors of vanilla and butterscotch, so a lighter handed approach will better suit the elegant profile of our 2011 Cab.

The largest lot, 12 barrels that will likely form the base of the final blend, is a mixture of China Bowl, Montana Vista, and approximately 8% Petit Verdot. The second lot, 7 barrels of pure Cab, is comprised mostly of the Foxtrot block with a little bit of China Bowl blended in. The third lot, also 7 barrels, is a mixture of China Bowl, Montana Vista, and close to 20% Petit Verdot from Bobcat Run.

It’s hard to know exactly what these wines will taste like when we pump them out to prep them for bottling two years from now, so we will refrain from any further blending until then.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.

Preparation for T-budding

January 5, 2012




Deciding what kind of vines to plant  in a vineyard is a complicated task. You won’t get any fruit off of the vines for a minimum of three years, and they may not reach their full production until as many as seven years after planting. Trends in wine consumption can vary wildly from year to year so it is possible that, by the time the vines you have planted begin to bear fruit, the demand for those grapes may be much lower or higher than you had originally expected.

Fortunately, a vineyard is not necessarily locked into the variety it was originally planted to. Through a process known as ‘T-budding’, you can actually transform a grapevine, causing it to produce a different variety of grape than it was originally planted to.

Here at Amapola Creek, demand for our Cuvee Alis (a blend of Syrah and Grenache) has actually started to outstrip our supply. This, of course, is the right side of the coin to be on.

In order to keep up with the demand for Cuvee Alis, we are planning to T-bud some of the Cabernet Sauvignon vines from the China Bowl vineyard over to Grenache and Mouvedre (Mouvedre is another red variety that is commonly blended with Syrah and Grenache). It will take a few years for these vines to start producing at their full capacity, but once they do they should almost double the amount of Cuvee Alis we are able to make.

This is one of the Cabernet Sauvignon vines that we are going to bud over. Now that we are well into winter, all of the leaves are gone and the vine is completely dormant.

T-budding involves grafting new tissue onto the old grapevine. This  will happen in late Spring, once the vines are growing vigorously. This is so that the grafts will be able to bind quickly to the vine and begin to grow right away, before any fungi or bacteria are able to infect the site of the graft.

This time of year, we are getting ready for T-budding by pruning the vines in a special way that will allow them to grow very vigorously in the Spring.

Here is a vine that has just been pruned in expectation of T-budding. Note how each of the canes left is fairly long, maybe eight inches to a foot. Normal winter pruning would leave each one only a few inches long, which would reduce the potential size of the plant during the growing season and keep it appropriately balanced to produce fruit of the quality we want. In the case of the vines we are going to T-bud, we actually want the plant to get very large so that it will be as strong as possible and the grafts will have an easy time taking hold.

It was something of a tough call to decide that we were going to graft over some of our Cabernet Sauvignon vines, because in our opinion the wine they were producing was really lovely. The Cuvee Alis, however, is unique to us, and so we ultimately decided that it was worth a small sacrifice to the Cab program to keep such an interesting wine in supply.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery website, please click  here.