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.



Everything is Growing!

July 25, 2012

You may recall that, in addition to the Grenache, we budded over some Mourvedre earlier this year. Mourvedre is a ‘late’ variety, meaning that it generally starts growing a little later in the year than other varieties. While the Grenache (an ‘earlier’ variety) started to grow pretty quickly after budding, the Mourvedre took a long time to really take off. The weather has been very warm and sunny lately (though not overly hot), and so now we’re finding that the Mourvedre has fairly exploded out of the gate.

A few short weeks ago most of these shoots were barely two feet long. This kind of rapid growth seems to be typical of this vintage, which started late but has moved quickly since.

Another indicator of how fast things are developing this year is the rapid onset of veraison.

This cluster is from the China Bowl block at the foot of the property. Most of the grapes in China Bowl are not this far along yet, but we feel it won’t be long before they catche up.

It’s still to early to know for sure, but we may be looking at an early harvest, be sure to check back to see what’s happening!

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

Still pulling laterals

July 6, 2012




This week we’ve been continuing to pull lateral shoots, now that the upper part of the property is done, we’ve moved on to China Bowl.

The vines in China Bowl are not as vigorous as the vines up in Montana Vista, and so thinning out the canopy goes a little bit faster here. Still, this is far and away our largest vineyard, so it does take some time to get the whole thing done, we will probably finish China Bowl around the middle of next week.

Once the vines have been thinned, it is easy to demonstrate how lateral shoot removal improves the disposition of fruit within the canopy.

Note how the clusters are not boxed in by vegetation. They have plenty of access to light, to reduce vegetal flavors, and there is plenty of room for air to flow around them, preventing fungal pathogens from taking hold.

As you can see in the picture above, the berries are getting to be pretty good-sized. We’re still a few months away from harvest, but now we’re far enough past set to know that we are going to have a pretty good- sized crop this year. In fact, it is likely that we will have to remove some fruit from these vines before we pick, to prevent crowding during ripening.

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




As you may recall, this year we have grafted some of our Cabernet Sauvignon vines over to Grenache and Mourvedre in order to boost our production of Cuvee Alis. The grafting itself, or T-budding, happened back around the beginning of May. Since then, we have been letting nature take its’ course. The grafted Grenache and Mourvedre buds have been growing, but so have latent Cabernet Sauvignon buds from all over the trunks of the vines.

Most of the green tissue you can see here is actually Cabernet Sauvignon which we want to remove. We let the Cab shoots continue to grow in the early part of the season so that the Grenache shoots will not get too long and unruly, which would make them hard to work with next year.

This week we have been suckering the grafted vines, which is to say that we have removed all of the green shoots except for those emerging from the grafted buds.

It’s surprising how much smaller the vine looks after the unwanted shoots are stripped away. Now that the vines have been suckered the shoots emerging from the grafted buds will have much less competition, and so they will start to grow much more quickly.

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

More cane positioning

June 8, 2012




We’ve spent all week getting canes positioned in the China Bowl block at the foot of the property. This is our largest block, and so it is taking us some time to get it finished.

The rows in this section of the block are quite long. This is painstaking work, so it takes the crew days to move from one end of the vineyard to the other while cane positioning.

There is still a fair amount to go, but we’re hoping to have it sewn up by the middle of next week.

The weather lately has been warm, but not so warm that the vines are particularly stressed. As a result, the vines are growing very quickly. In this picture you can see how big the shoots are getting on the left, and on the right you can see how much cane positioning does to rein that growth in and properly shape it.

In other news, we are almost all the way through bloom, which means that we are starting to get an idea of what our crop for the year may look like in the near future. Be sure to check back to find out what we’re seeing!

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


May 21, 2012





Our vines have started to flower!

This is a cluster of Cabernet Sauvignon from China Bowl that has started to flower. Grape flowers don’t really have petals. Instead they have a ‘cap’ of green tissue that covers the male reproductive organs of the flower (stamens). When the cap falls off, the stamens pop out, giving the flowering grape cluster its’ fuzzy appearance.

This is a very crucial moment in the vintage. The flowers are extremely delicate at this stage, almost anything could damage them or knock them off of the cluster, reducing the yield at harvest. Rain, for instance, could have a major effect during flowering because the impact of raindrops is enough to knock most of the flowers to the ground.

Fortunately, the weather is clear and dry right now, and should remain so for the foreseeable future. In fact, the conditions at the moment are ideal, it is clear and sunny, but not overly hot. The vines are very active, but not particularly stressed.

Bloom is moving very quickly in certain spots. China Bowl, near the foot of the property, is close to 15% through bloom, as is Montana Vista, near the top of the property. There is a little bit of bloom in the Grenache, and everything else is still waiting to go. Be sure to check back to see how it’s going!

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

T-buds are pushing!

May 15, 2012




This is exciting, the vines that we budded over to Grenache are starting to push shoots! This signals that the T-budding process was a success, and that in a few years we will indeed have some more Grenache to put into our Cuvee Alis.

The white budding tape you see in this picture will help us to identify the Grenache shoots as they grow. Many of these vines are still pushing Cabernet shoots from latent buds in other sections of the trunk, these shoots will need to be removed and so we will need to be able to tell them apart from the Grenache shoots. They may be small right now, but each of these tiny shoots will be trained up onto the trellis wire, and eventually become an arm of the grown vine.

We’ve been preparing for this T-budding project since last Winter, so it’s fantastic to see that the work we’ve put in is paying off. We’re greatly looking forward to the wine we will eventually make from these vines, and we’re sure you will too. There’s still a lot happening in our vineyards, be sure to check back and see!

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

Back to Discing

May 4, 2012




T-budding is over, and now it’s back to our more standard vineyard routine. All of the late rains we got in the Spring meant that we had to hold off on flail mowing the China Bowl until the ground was dry enough to get the tractor down the rows. This in turn meant we had to hold off on discing China Bowl to incorporate all of the mowed cover crop material back into the soil. Now that the ground has dried out somewhat, the mowing is done, and the T-budding crew is out of the way, we have had time to get the tractor out and disc China Bowl.

If you look closely, you can see the brown earth that has been tilled up in the area surrounding the tractor. Individual areas sometimes have to be disced several times in order to get the soil properly tilled, depending on how wet and clumpy the soil is.

Mixing all of this organic matter down into the soil will produce a welcome burst of nutrients to the vines, which are currently growing like crazy. We got a late start to this growing season, and now everything is catching up in a big hurry!

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




Today the crew continued the T-budding project, converting about 700 Cabernet Sauvignon vines over to Mourvedre.

Mourvedre is a Rhone red variety that we will eventually include in our Cuvee Alis, along with the Grenache that we budded over the weekend. Mourvedre is a slightly difficult grape to grow, because it tends to ripen very late in the season. To help it ripen up a little earlier, we are converting vines at the very top of the hill in China Bowl, where it gets very warm and the soils are thin, both of which encourage faster ripening.

The first step in T-budding a vine is to make a cut in the trunk where the budwood will be inserted. It may look simple, but making the cut properly is actually a very precise matter. These workers have been perfecting their technique for years.

Once the cuts are made, the budwood is inserted.

Positioning the bud in the cut is tricky, the vascular tissue of the budwood and the vine have to match up very closely for a graft to form. This process is called T-budding because on bud is grafted onto either side of the vine, and once the shoots push the whole plant will form a “T” shape.

Now we will wait for the new shoots to push, and then we will train them up onto the trellis wires to form the new arms of the vines.

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

T-budding begins!

May 1, 2012




Last weekend we finally began the process of T-budding! As you may be aware, we have been planning to switch over some of our Cabernet Sauvignon vines to Grenache to use in our Cuvee Alis program for the last several months. The process of converting vines from one variety to another is somewhat involved; it requires special pruning during the winter, followed by topping and stripping the bark from the vines in the days leading up to T-budding.

The final step in the process is the T-budding itself. To T-bud, two notches are cut on either side of the trunk of the Cabernet Sauvignon vine. A little piece of Grenache budwood (dormant buds held in cold storage from last year) is inserted into each notch very carefully, so that the vascular tissue from the bud lines up with the vascular tissue of the vine. The whole thing is wrapped in tape, so that it looks like this;

The tape is there to hold the buds in place so that there is time for the graft to form between the buds and the trunk. It also keeps foreign material out of the graft, so that it doesn't become infected.

Once the budwood has finished growing into the trunk, the buds will push and new shoots of Grenache will emerge. Any other shoots that may pop out of dormant buds from other spots on the trunk will still be Cabernet Sauvignon, and so they will be pulled off, leaving only the Grenache to grow. After a few seasons, the entire top of the plant will be only Grenache tissue that will produce Grenache grapes!

This block will look a little bit bare until the new buds push. The three rows in the foreground of this picture have been budded over to the Bien Nacido clone of Grenache, which is the same one that we already have growing up in the Bobcat Run block. The rest of this block has been budded over to Tablas Creek clone D. Since rain during flowering can greatly reduce yield in Grenache, we decided to use two clones that would flower a few days apart, sort of hedging our bets against losing the entire crop to a late spring rain.

The Grenache is finished, but we are still planning to bud over another half acre of Mourvedre tomorrow. Be sure to check back for more detail on how T-budding is done!

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