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.


Veraison in the Grenache

August 9, 2012

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More suckering

May 9, 2012




Today we finished suckering the upper part of the property, including the Foxtrot Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Syrah and Grencahe in Bobcat Run. We also suckered the Petit Verdot in Bobcat Run, but this variety has to be suckered a little differently than most other varieties.

Petit Verdot has relatively weak cane attachments, which means that the shoots can break off fairly easily. We are expecting to lose a few shoots to wind later in the season, and a few more will probably come off during cane positioning, so at this point we only sucker the shoots that are sprouting out of the trunk, leaving vines that have a bushy canopy on top of a cleared stalk.

One of the next big physiological stages that the vines are going to go through is flowering. The closed flowers emerge along with the shoot during budbreak. At first they are pretty small, but flowering is likely only a few weeks away and so they are starting to swell up.

Grenache has the largest clusters out of any of our varieties, and so it also has the largest bunches of flowers. Each tiny bump in this picture is a flower bud. Imagine that every bud on this stalk will turn into a single grape, and you will see where the characteristic shape of grape clusters comes from.

Things are moving fast for us, be sure to check back and see what’s going on!

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 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.


March 26, 2012




This past weekend we observed our first budbreak of 2012! Budbreak is when the buds finally burst open and the young shoots start to emerge.

Budbreak marks the start of the growing season in the vineyard, and so it also signifies the unofficial beginning of Spring.

While February was relatively warm, March has largely been cool and wet. As a result, budbreak has been slightly delayed. The first block to go through budbreak this year is our Grenache in the Bobcat Run vineyard. This is typical, as Grenache is a relatively ‘early’ variety, meaning that it tends to do everything, budbreak, flower, ripen, etc., a little bit ahead of our other varieties.

As you can see, when the shoots first emerge they tend to have a slightly pinkish-yellow color.

After a day or two, the yellow color is replaced by green. The shoots are still very compact right now, but soon they will begin to grow rapidly. This will be especially true this year because of all the water in the soil.

We’re starting to see hints of budbreak on other parts of the property, be sure to check back to see what’s happening later this week!

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




This is still a relatively dry winter, but we’ve been getting intermittent rain over the last few weeks that has finally kicked our cover crops into growing a little faster.

The mustard is growing the fastest at the moment, with the oats close behind. These plants are still not quite as large as they would normally be this time of year, but they should be caught up in another few weeks.

The plants in the vineyard rows are not limited to the ones we planted there, we are also getting occasional wild carpets of tiny orange calendulas all over the property.

There are a number of wildflowers to be found in our vineyards, but at the moment these are the most charismatic.

Another interesting thing to note is a change we’ve made to the way we prune our Grenache in the Bobcat Run block. You may recall that we generally prune our vines following the Guyot method, where two canes are left after pruning which are tied down to the trellis wires in an arc. On the advice of our vineyard consultant Phil Coturri, we are switching these vines over to what is known a ‘spur-pruned’ style.

With spur-pruning, a number of very short canes (the eponymous spurs) are left on the vine. The canes that the spurs are attached to are now known as 'arms' or 'cordons'. Each spur has two buds, each of which will put out a shoot in the spring which will be attached to the trellis wire above.

Since we are switching these vines over from the Guyot system, not every one of them has two canes strong enough to support the spurs, so in some cases we are leaving a cane behind that will be grown into an arm over the next year, after which it will be spur pruned.

This vine is about to make a right turn.

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

More T-budding prep work

February 10, 2012




As you may remember, we are planning to T-bud some of our Cabernet Sauvignon vines over to other varieties in the Spring. T-budding requires some living budwood (dormant canes from the variety of vine we are switching over to). Some of our budwood will be purchased from a grapevine vendor, but the rest will come from our own Grenache vines in the Bobcat Run vineyard.

The process starts with gathering some of the canes left over from pruning.

Once we had gathered enough canes to produce the amount of budwood we will need, we started to sort and clip the canes.

The canes selected need to be a little larger than average, ideally about as thick around as an adults' pinky finger.

Not every cane is alive at this time of year, so it’s important to clip the canes and make sure the tissue inside them is still alive.

A cane that is still in good condition will have a cross-section like this, fully green all the way around the margin. You will also frequently see a trickle of sap coming from the cuts.

Once all of the canes are trimmed to the right size they are bundled together for storage.

Bundling them tightly is important. It makes them easier to move and store, and it keeps the canes from abrading each other and killing the buds.

Once they are bundled, we seal them in garbage bags filled with sawdust and a little damp newspaper, to keep them from drying out and dying. Once they are packaged, they are placed in a refrigerated room. Keeping the canes cool is important, because it ensures that the buds will not try to push before we are ready to use them.

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

We have been busy indeed here at Amapola Creek! Harvest is almost done, there is only one more block of Estate Cabernet Sauvignon left to pick (more on this block tomorrow), and then all of the grapes will be in for the year.

Last Saturday, we picked what was left of the Cabernet Sauvignon in the Montana Vista block. Since there has been a lot of dew in the mornings, we had our fruit scheduled to pick in the afternoon, so that the fruit would have a chance to dry off a little. This threatened to be a very difficult pick, because the botrytis rot had really gotten worse in the previous few days, and we knew the picking crew was going to have a rough time sorting out the good fruit.

The picking crew in Montana Vista.

Very fortunately, the botrytis had only advanced to the point where it appears like a thin, gray fuzz on the outside of the grapes. When it is in this early stage of growth, it is possible for the pickers to use an old trick from the vineyards of St. Emilion; they grasp each vine and shake it vigorously, and all of the rotten grapes pop off and fall to the ground!

Botrytis infection significantly weakens the connection of the berry to the stem. When the fruit is still dry (the botrytis has not broken it open yet), vigorous shaking will detach infected berries and let them fall to the ground.

This allowed us to greatly speed up the process of picking, we got just under five tons of clean fruit from this vineyard on Saturday, which happily was a better yield than we had expected.

After Montana Vista was done, we moved down the hill to the Petite Verdot in Bobcat Run. This block actually had very little rot in it, and so the pickers were able to move through it very quickly. We got just under three tons of Petite Verdot.

Petite Verdot is a Bordeaux variety that is frequently blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. As you can see, it has slightly smaller, tighter clusters than most of our Cabernet Sauvignon clones. This variety typically adds a deep, fresh fruit character to Cabernet Sauvignon, its' aroma by itself is sometimes described as 'berry pie'.

Since we’re close to the end of the season, we are getting a little bit tight on tank space. So, we took all of the fruit we picked on Saturday and crushed it into a single tank and inoculated it with K1. Today this lot is fermenting very strongly, and the berry pie character of the Petite Verdot is quite evident in the top of the tank.

Many of our fermentations are drawing to a close, be sure to check back and see what comes next!

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

Meet Bobcat Run!

October 20, 2011



Yesterday we picked the Syrah and Grenache from Bobcat Run. This vineyard gets its’ name from a bobcat that lives in the adjacent grove of trees. Because of the surrounding forest, this is a relatively cool site, which is ideal for producing Rhone reds with strong camphor and charcuterie characters.

It was very cool and foggy this morning, so it’s good that we picked this block yesterday before the botrytis took our yield down even further. The Grenache is on the right in this picture, and the Syrah is on the left.

Only about half of this vineyard is planted to Rhone reds. If you walk straight back along the rows in the picture above, you will come to a second block that is planted to Petite Verdot, which is destined to become a component in our Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

This area is a little more exposed and therefore a little warmer than the area that is planted to Syrah and Grenache, which makes it suitable for this Bordeaux variety. If you were to walk through the trees on the right, you would head up a steep hill that would eventually take you to the Montana Vista block.

Be sure to check back tomorrow to find out more about how we are processing all of the tiny lots of grapes we’ve just brought in!

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