As you may remember, we are converting some of our Cabernet Sauvignon vines over to Grenache this year. The T-budding process is very close at hand, so we are putting the vines through their final stages of preparation.

This vine has been topped, meaning we cut the 'crown', or upper part of the vine off (you can see it laying on the ground), and stripping the outer layer of bark away from what's left of the trunk. We are planning to splice the Grenache buds in just a few inches down from the cut. If you look carefully, you can see that the loss of the crown of the vine is causing latent buds to push further down the trunk.

It also looks like our Grenache benchgrafts are doing well, all of them are pushing shoots and setting out fully formed leaves.

The cardboard carton around this benchgraft is there to protect the young vine from rodents like voles and rabbits. Once the cover crop has been cleared, unprotected young vines like these become an easy target for small herbivores.

The growing season is really starting to take off, be sure to follow it along with us!

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

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For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, tune in to 910 AM tomorrow morning at 11 to hear Richard speak with Joel Riddell on Dining Around! Joel recently sat down to dinner with Richard over the Amapola Creek wines, so there will be a lot to talk about, don’t miss it!

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

 

 

 

The warm weather is drying things out, but the Eastern half of China Bowl is still a little too wet to mow.

Water drains from the soil more efficiently on the slopes, which is why they were dry enough to mow. As you can see, the rain has done wonders for the remaining cover crop.

All of that water in the East end of China Bowl may be slowing down our efforts to flail mow, but it is actually a very good thing. All of that soil moisture has encouraged our Grenache benchgrafts to go through budbreak!

It's a little hard to make out in this photo, but the little round piece of vegetation in the very center of the frame is actually a tiny grapevine shoot poking up through the soil.

This is exciting because it proves that our planting efforts late last Winter were successful. Now that the benchgrafts have started to go through budbreak, we will have to take some special precautions to make sure they grow properly. Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what it is we do!

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

Warm weather!

April 16, 2012

 

 

 

The sun has been shining for the last few days, and we are seeing a significant warming trend (it got over 70 F today), so the vines are catching up in a hurry!

A week ago there was barely any movement in the China Bowl Cabernet Sauvignon, and now just about every bud has broken. All this sunlight, coupled with rising temperatures, signals to the vines that it is time to start growing.

The Grenache in Bobcat Run was already through budbreak before the sun even broke through, and now it is really starting to take off.

As you can see, the Grenache is already putting out fully formed leaves. From this point on, we are expecting the shoots to grow very quickly.

We are looking at temperatures in the low 80’s later this week. This sunnier, warmer weather is exactly what we need after all of the rain. The soil moisture will be high, so the vines are going to have no problem establishing canopies for the Fall. This is a somewhat late year so far, because the early Spring was so cold. Happily, we are still far enough away from harvest that catching up shouldn’t be a problem, especially with weather like this!

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

 

 

 

The weather here in Sonoma Valley has been slightly unpredictable for the last couple of days. We’ve been expecting rain, and we’ve been getting it, but mainly in fits and starts amidst a few sunny hours,  instead of a steady downpour. It’s still a little too muddy to get out into the vineyards to mow, so instead we’ve brought things back inside and started working on our monthly barrel maintenance.

The metal box on the cart in the lower right-hand corner of the picture is our ozone generator. It produces water that is saturated with ozone, which is a highly reactive molecule made of three oxygen atoms. Ozone is lethal to every known microbe, and it breaks back down into harmless oxygen molecules in a matter of hours. These qualities make it an ideal substance to use when cleaning the inside of empty barrels, which have a large surface area prone to harboring undesirable microorganisms.

Empty barrels are first rinsed with hot water, followed by ozonated water. Afterwards, we add a little sulfur dioxide gas by burning a sulfur wick inside the barrel. The moisture from the rinsing also keeps the wood from completely drying out, which means these barrels will be less likely to leak when we do eventually fill them again. It’s just another aspect of the cyclical nature of work in a winery!

In other news, we received a very nice review for our 2009 Cuvee Alis from Fredric Koeppel of the Bigger Than Your Head food and wine blog. As always, it is very nice to hear appreciation for our wines!

We make precious little of this amazing wine, be sure to check it out before it's gone!

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

More Rain

April 10, 2012

 

 

 

It’s raining in Sonoma Valley, which means our vineyard operations will be put on hold again for a few days. Fortunately, China Bowl was dry enough yesterday that we were able to get about three quarters of it mowed.

Mowing here, at a high point in the vineyard, was easy because drainage made the soil drier. We left the softest areas at the bottom of the hill for last, since they are most likely to bog down the tractor. We will come back to them when the soil dries out again, and in the meantime keep ourselves busy weed-eating the parts of the block that have been mowed.

Before the rains came, we also found that the Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the Southwest corner of the Montana Vista block have started pushing shoots (this is the next step following close on the heels of budbreak).

Due to the rain, we are planning to spray this area with a very light dusting of sulfur and copper oxide, to prevent mildew from taking hold.

 

We also noticed that discing made the rocky composition of this section of Montana Vista much more obvious.

All these rocks make for better soil drainage, which in turn makes for smaller vines. Smaller vines tend to break bud and push shoots a little earlier, so this is why this section of the vineyard is a little further along than the rest.

Even though it delays our vineyard work a little, we are very happy to see more rain. This is turning out to be a late year, but it could easily catch up with more warm weather, having a lot of water available to the vines will help with that process, letting the vines grow quickly as we move from Spring towards Summer.

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

Discing

April 9, 2012

 

 

 

As we have waited for the lower reaches of the property to dry out, we have had an opportunity to start ‘discing’ in the upper vineyards. Discing is actually a soil tilling practice, it gets its name from the large steel discs attached to the back of the tractor.

Unlike the flail mower, this is not a powered attachment. It works by using the weight and power of the tractor to force the discs down into the soil, where they cut it up and turn it over as the tractor passes. This is done primarily to take all the mowed vegetation and put it down into the soil where it will decompose more quickly. This causes a sudden increase in nutrients available to the vines and helps them during the early part of the growing season.

When the soil is dry and hard, it can be difficult to get the discs to penetrate the soil properly, and so the driver will have to make numerous passes to get the soil adequately tilled. Fortunately the soil is currently relatively soft from the recent rains, so it’s only taking two passes to get things tilled properly.

Since we've been able to move through quickly, we've managed to get the upper vineyards finished. We may need to disc again at some point during the growing season as grass pushes back up in the rows, but for now we're ready to let the growing season commence!

It’s looking like we may see more rain later this week, so we’re hustling to get as much work done in the lower section of the property as possible before the soil gets wet again. Be sure to keep checking in to see how it’s going!

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

 

 

 

The ground is drying out pretty quickly now, so we’ve been able to get the flail mower down into Bobcat Run. Since we all ready had the weed whacking crew on the property, they were able to follow on the heels of the mower.

Just a week ago the soil here was far too wet to support the weight of the tractor, happily now it's not a problem.

Since the Grenache and the Syrah have already gone through budbreak, it’s imperative that the tractor driver be very careful not to hit the vines while passing down the rows. Hitting the vines at this point could cause ‘tractor blight’, meaning that the young shoots could be knocked off.

Fortunately there is no sign of tractor blight anywhere in Bobcat Run. In fact, as you can see the Grenache is already pushing out little shoots.

China Bowl is still a little too wet to mow, but that will probably change soon.

Getting China Bowl mowed is necessary, but from an aesthetic point of view we're not too disappointed to have all this lush greenery around for a little while longer.

Things are starting to move quickly in the vineyards, be sure to check back soon to see what’s going on!

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

Weed Whacking

April 4, 2012

 

 

 

While the sun has definitely come out here in Sonoma Valley, it’s still a little too wet to get the tractor out into the lower vineyards to keep on flail mowing. Instead, we’re heading out with weed whackers to deal with the cover crop plants that grew on the berms of the vineyard, directly underneath the vines where the flail mower can’t reach.

As you can see, while the rows themselves are mowed, the areas between the rows still have vegetation growing on them. Some of these plants, like oats, can grow tall enough that they will interfere with the fruiting zone of the canopy later in the season, so they still need to be trimmed back.

Since it is done by hand, this is a fairly labor intensive process. There are tractor attachments that can be used to automatically mow the berm, but they only work well on very flat land. Most of our vineyards are very hilly, so mowing by hand is still the best option for us.

We started weed whacking in Montana Vista, at the top of the property. Since we were able to finish flail mowing this block before the last round of rain, it's currently the easiest for the workers to walk through.

It looks like we will be able to resume flail mowing sometime in the next week or so, after which there will be lot of weed whacking to do.

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

More budbreak!

April 3, 2012

 

 

 

The weather is going through a nice warming trend here in Sonoma Valley, and that means that the vines are beginning to wake up faster!

Last week we found a little bit of budbreak up in the hilltop section of China Bowl, and right now we’re seeing more down in the lower section that is being T-budded over into Grenache.

We're happy to see strong growth taking off in this section, because we need it to be as vigorous as possible by the time we start T-budding these Cabernet vines over to Grenache later this Spring.

We’re also seeing continuation of the budbreak we noticed last week in the Montana Vista block.

Last week the only budbreak in this block was in the far Western corner, where the soil is thinnest and the vines smallest. Budbreak is slowly creeping East, with most vines in the rocky, rhyolitic section of the vineyard showing at least some broken buds.

Wit the warm weather on the way we’re expecting to see a lot of activity out in the vineyards this month. Be sure to stop back for more pictures!

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