Cabernet Sauvignon is here!

September 28, 2012

We’ve finally started crushing our flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, and we are looking at a real bumper crop this year! Not only is there a lot of fruit coming in, but it is of a quality that doesn’t come around very often. The flavors present in this this fruit are simply outstanding, we are very, very proud to be able to make wine out of these beautiful grapes.

All of our Cabernet Sauvignon is grown organically here on the property, and it is planted to a variety of Entav clones. Entav clones are known for their tiny berries and deeply concentrated flavors and tannins. This cluster is typical, small berries that are loosely packed, which allows for the penetration of sunlight and air into the cluster to aid the ripening process.

We started off this week by bringing in the very ripest spots, which were on the steepest hillsides of the China Bowl vineyard.

The weather has been so perfect of late that all the steepest sections in China Bowl managed to ripen their fruit at the same time. The areas that we brought in first are the areas that showed the most promise earlier in the year in terms of developing quality, they tended to be more stressed, lower yielding vines and so they were the first to achieve maturity.

The maturity of the grapes we are bringing in is literally visible, if you look at the stems you can see that have begun to ‘lignify’, or turn into wood, giving them a brown color.

Lignification is a sign that the vine has cut off the flow of sap to the fruit. To us, it means that the fruit has developed to its’ peak and is ready to come in.

We crushed the China Bowl Cabernet into two tanks, each from a physically distinct part of the block. We will keep these two wines separate so that we can see what each part of the vineyard brings to the final blend.

Once we were done with the ripest sections of China Bowl, we moved on to Montana Vista at the top of the property. It’s rare for us, but this year we were actually able to harvest the entire block at one time and keep it separate from everything else in it’s own tank. Again, this will allow us to see directly what this block brings to the final product.

We always wait to start processing the fruit until all of it has arrived at the winery and we know that our tank choices are correct. Once it’s all in, however, we work as fast as we can to get it processed and into the tanks to keep it from getting too warm. 

These are very exciting times for us, this is clearly going to be an exceptional vintage and we cannot wait to see how the wines turn out. Please come back again soon and see how it’s going!

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



Introducing our first Rose!

September 24, 2012

As was promised last week, we have exciting news, we have just crushed the grapes for our first ever Rose! This crisp, fruity wine will be a blend of four Rhone varieties; Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Viognier!

The first grapes to pick were Mourvedre, which were just grafted over in the Spring in our China Bowl block. The fact that we were able to get crop off of vines that were grafted so recently is a tribute to this remarkably bountiful year. These grapes were low in sugar, but very intensely flavored and with a very deep color.

Harvesting grapes for Rose is a little tricky. We are making a low alcohol style, so we don’t want to bring in grapes that are fully ripened, but we do need them to have ripened enough that they taste fruity instead of green.

This is the Grenache we picked for the Rose, note how the berries are a little bit variable in their color. The darker berries will lend more fruit character to the wine, while the lighter colored berries will grant the wine a delicious crispness. Sorting out and picking the right clusters for this wine is a labor intensive process, but that is what it takes to make our special style!

We were also excited this year to see an increase in productivity from our Viognier vines.

We don’t have too many Viognier vines, and most of them are fairly young and haven’t produced much fruit in the past. We are quite pleased to see that this year we got a pretty good yield, which will help us make this wine in a more authentic Rhone style.

To process Rose, we destem the grapes directly into bins where we let them sit for awhile to soak up some color.

Destemming breaks up the berries just enough to let a little juice out, the goal at this stage is to extract just exactly the right amount of color from the fruit to give the finished product the hue that we want.

Once the berries are in bins, we punch them down a few times to help the extraction along.

Punching down is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, we take a stainless steel paddle and use it to punch the grapes down into the juice. This helps speed up color extraction, so you have to be careful not to overdo it or the wine will be too dark.

We left the grapes to soak overnight, and in the morning we decided that the juice had exactly the right amount of color, so we loaded it into the press to extract the ruby juice which we put down to tank to ferment. Richards’ daughter Kerry helped us out today, transferring the last bit of grapes into the press by hand after the pump had gotten all it could.

We can already tell that this is going to be a truly superb wine, please check back with us to see how it’s coming along!

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

Monitoring our fermentations

September 21, 2012

Since we had the Zinfandel chilled down to such a low temperature for cold-soaking (~50F), it took a couple of days for the must to warm up and for the fermentation to start in earnest. Now that it is starting to take off, we have started monitoring the sugar content of the must daily, so that we can track how healthy and active the fermentation is.

We monitor our fermentations using a device called a ‘hydrometer’. It is used to measure the density of a liquid, from which we can infer the liquids’ sugar content. If you look carefully, you can see that there are numbers printed on the stem of the device.

To use the hydrometer, we simply place it in a tube filled with juice from the fermentation.

The hydrometer has a very carefully calibrated mass, so when it is placed in a liquid the stem of the hydrometer sticks up a given distance which is determined by the liquids’ density. The denser the liquid (the sweeter the juice), the further the hydrometer pokes up. You read the hydrometer by looking at where the stem breaks the surface of the liquid, and the number printed there will give you the sugar content of the juice.

Be sure to check back in next week, we will have an exciting new project to share with you!

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






September 20, 2012

Several exciting things are happening now in the cellar. For one, we have inoculated the 2012 Belli Chardonnay with yeast and put it down to barrel to ferment.

Fermenting Chardonnay in barrels gives the wine much greater body and depth, as well as adding nuances of butterscotch and toast, which are derived from contact with the oak itself.

The little devices sticking out of the tops of the barrels are ‘fermentation bungs’. These allow carbon dioxide, a by-product of the alcoholic fermentation, to leave the barrel while preventing air from getting in.

One of the little pleasures of making Chardonnay this way is getting to hear the little ‘blip blip blip’ of gas escaping out through the fermentation bungs. It’s always nice to hear them going in the mornings, it’s a sign that the fermentation is healthy and strong!

Additionally, we have ended the cold-soak on the Monte Rosso Zinfandel, and inoculated it with yeast as well.

To inoculate the crushed grapes, or ‘must’, we add a little bit of juice and a little bit of hot water to a bucket. We then add the freeze-dried yeast culture to the bucket and gently mix it until it has a smooth consistency. Almost immediately, the yeast wake up and begin to ferment, forming the cake of foam you can see in this picture. Once the yeast are rehydrated and happy, we pitch them over the top of the tank and let them go to work!

We estimate that this wine will have just around 15% alcohol when it’s done, so we chose a strong fermenting yeast that can handle alcohol in that range known as K1. This yeast is known for its’ clean character, and for its’ ability to suppress wild yeasts that can cause off-characters during fermentation.

Everything is looking great so far, and we’ve only just begun! Be sure to check back to see how we’re doing!

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



While we’ve been busy gearing up for the bulk of harvest, we managed to garner a nice little piece about our 2009 Cuvee Alis by Virginia Miller of The Perfect Spot.

Amapola Creek’s 2009 Cuvee Alis, Sonoma Valley
“Glen Ellen’s Amapola Creek, from Richard Arrowood (who founded Arrowood Winery), is a small, boutique winery. Cuvee Alis ($48) is named after Richard’s wife, a hand-harvested, unfined and unfiltered blend of 55% Syrah, 45% Grenache, organically grown on a slope of the Mayacamas Mountains on the Arrowood’s 100-acre ranch. The wine gives of a nose of cherry pie, gentle pepper, smoke, tasting of dark berries, spicy meat, with silky tannins and acidic balance.”

Thanks for the kind words Virginia!

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

Monte Rosso Zinfandel is here!

September 17, 2012

These are exciting times, we’ve just received our first reds for the year! As usual, the first red grapes to make it to us were the Old-Vine Zinfandel from the neighboring Monte Rosso vineyard.

The fruit came in looking spotless, just a little past noon.

Zinfandel is a very interesting variety, in that it tends to ripen a little bit unevenly. It takes a lot of experience to know when it has hit exactly the right point, with all of the fruit adequately ripened, but none of it too far gone.

As you can see, some of the berries on this cluster have started to show a little ‘shrivel’. A little bit of shrivelling is actually highly beneficial to Zinfandel, adding to the many layers of fruit character present in the finished wine.

Once we had all the fruit off of the truck, we immediately began crushing it.

We actually start with the reds similarly to how we start with the Chardonnay, by dumping the grapes into the hopper.

From there, however, the process drastically changes. Instead of going directly into the press, we convey the grapes into a machine called a ‘destemmer’. The destemmer does pretty much what it sounds like; it takes the berries off of the stems.

Once the fruit is removed, the stems are ejected into a bin, which will be hauled away and composted.

The fruit drops out of the destemmer and is collected and pumped into a tank, where it will eventually be fermented.

We say that it will ‘eventually’ be fermented because we like to use a technique with Zin known as ‘cold-soaking’. Since this Zin has a fair amount of shrivel, we’re letting the skins soak in the tank at a low temperature for a few days, to let the sugar from the shrivelled grapes dissolve into the juice. This lets us know the true concentration of sugar in the juice before fermentation, which gives us an idea what the final alcohol will be. This in turn will inform some of the choices that we make during fermentation, so we consider it a vital step.

It’s good to be crushing reds again! Be sure to check back soon 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.




Done receiving Chardonnay

September 12, 2012

Today was our last shipment of Belli Chardonnay. We took just over two and a half tons today, bringing our total for the season to just over seven and a half. The fruit looked and tasted great, lots of flavor without an excess of sugar.

We’ve always found that the Belli Chardonnay attains flavor-ripeness at a relatively low sugar, which means that we can make a wine with intensity of flavor that we want in a lower-alcohol, more Burgundian style. If you look closely in this picture, you can see some small brown regions on several of the clusters. This is a phenomenon known as ‘sunburn’. In large quantities sunburn can cause off flavors in the wine, but at a very low rate such as this it can actually contribute delicate caramel nuances to the finished product.

Now that Chardonnay is done for the year, we will move on to the Zinfandel. We’re letting the hang for a few more days to let the acid drop a little bit, but we still have plenty to do in the meantime, be sure to check back and follow along!

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

Here we go…

September 11, 2012

Today we continued receiving Chardonnay from the Belli ranch in the Russian River. We finished out the Rued clone from block 3 yeasterday, and today we had the pickers move in to block 5, which is planted to Dijon clone 76.

Dijon clone 76 is a classic French selection of Chardonnay, which grants acidity and structure to the final blend, along with characters of pear, stone fruit, and minerality. Rued clone has small, loose clusters, while clone 76 tends to have larger clusters that are relatively tight.

Our day began when Joe Belli rolled in with his load of grapes.

We received just slightly more today than we did yesterday. It looks and tastes beautiful, the sugars are not too high, which will allow us to make a very elegant, Burgundian style white.

Once the grapes were off the truck, we immediately loaded them into the hopper so we could get them into the press.

We received an odd number of bins, so to split the day into two even press loads we had to carefully dump only half of the fruit out of one of them into the hopper.

From the hopper it went to the press.

Dijon clone 76 is a little bit juicier than Rued, which made loading the press a little bit easier. By the time it was full, we had a steady flow of juice into the juice tray.

While the press was running, we ran over to our neighbor Monte Rosso and grabbed a sample of the Old Vine Zinfandel. Happily enough, we found that it will be ready to harvest this week!

As you can see, the juice from the Zin already has a deep, dark color to it. The flavors are already very characteristically Zinfandel, with layer upon layer of luscious red and black fruit. We are very excited to have access to these special grapes!

We will continue tomorrow with the last bit of the Belli Chardonnay. Be sure to check back to check it out!

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

Harvest 2012 has begun!

September 10, 2012

Last Friday we finally received our first load of grapes for the 2012 season!

To keep the grapes as cool as possible, the pickers started working at dawn. Joe Belli rolled in with his beautiful Chardonnay at around 10:30 Friday morning.

The fruit looks fantastic, and it tastes great as well.

These grapes are from block 3, which is planted to the Rued clone of Chardonnay. Rued is a musque selection of Chardonnay, meaning that it has just a touch of Muscat character. For those of you not familiar, Muscat is a very fruity, tropical flavor, reminiscent of pineapples and papaya. Eating some of the Rued Chardonnay grapes every year is a treat we all look forward to!

Once the grapes were off the truck, we took a brief pause to bless the grapes.


This is a tradition that Richard started back in the first days of Arrowood Winery. Richard, his wife Alis, and his daughter Kerry pour just a little bit of the prvious vintage of Chardonnay over the grapes as a way of wishing for another great harvest!

Once the grapes were blessed, we took them and loaded them into the hopper, which in turn moved them into the press.

We ‘whole-cluster press’ our Chardonnay, meaning that we do not remove the grapes from the stems before we load them into the press. This is a gentler way of processing Chardonnay, which means that we will avoid extracting harsh tasting tannins into the juice.

We received just under two and a half tons today. We have a very small press, so two and a half tons means that we have to load it twice over the course of the day.

Whole cluster pressing means you can fit fewer grapes in the press at a time, so we really had to be careful to use all of the space in the press to make sure we could fit it all in two loads.

Once the press was loaded we sat back and watched the pristine Chardonnay juice run out into the juice tray.

The juice has a slight brownish color now because it is high in grape solids (the pulp of the grapes). We immediately pumped it to small holding tanks where we chilled it down to allow the solids to settle out before fermentation.

This is a very exciting time for us here at Amapola Creek, harvest is always busy and full of beauty. We will be harvesting more grapes this week, 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.

Receiving barrels

September 6, 2012

Today we received twenty-five brand new oak barrels from the cooperage Seguin Moreau!

Seguin Moreau barrels are very well suited to powerful reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, they impart a wealth of oak related characters, such as coffee and spice, without ever tasting directly of wood (a character that is sometimes known as ‘planky’).

Richard has worked with barrels from Seguin Moreau for many years, they are consistently well-made and deliver the characters that suit our wines, and so we rely almost entirely on them for ageing both our Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Twenty of the new barrels are made of French oak, and five are made of American oak. French oak generally delivers a more subtle flavor profile and tannin structure than American oak, and so it makes up the bulk of our barrel selection. The American oak is used as an accent, providing an intense note of toastiness and vanilla.

Walking through the estate vineyards and tasting the grapes in the last few days is revealing an excellent potential for the 2012 vintage, the flavors are extremely concentrated and the color is intense, even several weeks before they are ready to harvest. Be sure to check back with us here on the blog 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.