Cuvee Alis is here!

October 8, 2012

We’re deep in the heart of harvest, and so we’ve been very busy this week. One of the most exciting things to happen this week; we’ve picked the grapes for the 2012 Cuvee Alis!

The Cuvee Alis is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and, this year, Mourvedre! The Mourvedre from the recently grafted vines in China Bowl isn’t quite ready to go yet, but the Syrah and Grenache ripened up very rapidly in the last few days because of the warm weather we had towards the beginning of the week.

As soon as we had the fruit in from the field, we set about destemming it and getting it into fermentors. We don’t make a huge amount of this product, so we ended up splitting it into several small containers that we will blend back together after fermentation.

Small fermentors mean punchdowns! Here’s Richards’ daughter Kerry Arrowood helping out in the cellar.

All of the punchdowns mean a fair amount of manual labor, but they are necessary to fully extract all of the color and flavor that this delicious fruit has to offer.

As soon as we had the fruit in the bins, we inoculated with a yeast called Rhone 4600.

This is the same yeast we used on the Rose. It is a quick fermenting yeast isolated from wines in the Rhone Valley in France. It is especially well suited to aromatic Rhone varieties, as it produces a high concentration of fruity smelling compounds known as esters. The Grenache especially has a strong tropical aroma of bananas at the moment. After fermentation, the aroma of bananas will fade, and leave behind aromas of red fruit and berries.

There is still a lot going on here, and we expect to be able to post more frequently over the course of this week. Stay tuned 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.


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.

Veraison in the Grenache

August 9, 2012

Read the rest of this entry »




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 nice reviews!

June 18, 2012




We’ve had a flurry of exciting reviews of our wines recently, here’s what David White of the Terroirist wine blog had to say about our 2009 Cuvee Alis;

SRP: $48. On the nose, a dark and brooding Rhone blend. Dark soil and earth, followed by layer after layer of blackberries and black cherries, followed by bittersweet chocolate, chili paste, and some graphite. On the palate, lots of black pepper comes out. The wine has gentle tannins and juicy acidity, but some astringency shows itself at the finish. A big wine that’ll likely take a few years to settle down – and will likely mature into something delicious. (91 pts.)

You can actually find a second excellent review of this wine by clicking through the Terroirist link above, and then clicking the link ‘2009 Amapola Creek Cuvee Alis Estate’, which is just above the text of David’s review.

This wine has been beautifully received by critics, we are very proud of it and hope you all get a chance to enjoy it!

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




Another great review from Josh Raynolds of the International Wine Cellar, this time for our 2009 Cuvee Alis, a Rhone red blend.

2009 Amapola Creek Cuvee Alis, 90 points

“Opaque ruby. Smoky, highly perfumed bouquet evokes black raspberry, cherry-cola, dried flowers and anise, with a peppery topnote. Weighty dark berry flavors become livelier with air and pick up an element of spiciness. Finishes tangy and long, with lingering smoke and vanilla qualities.”

Thanks again for the kind words, Josh!

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.

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.

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.




Today we were able to finish planting all of the Grenache benchgrafts in the China Bowl vineyard.

The Grenache is going to extend from the bottom of this picture to just past the point where the slope starts to rise up in the distance. As you can see, the mustard in our cover crop is doing very well in this section, thanks to the warm weather coupled with intermittent rain we've recently experienced. At the moment it looks like the weather is starting to wake the vines up, we will probably see budbreak within the next two weeks.

Once the buds on our vines start to grow, there will be one more step to take with our newly planted benchgrafts.

The benchgraft is buried under the small pile of soil in this picture. After budbreak we will push the soil away, and then slide the cardboard carton down over the benchgraft to protect the young vine from small herbivores like rabbits and voles.

It will still be a few years before these vines are ready to produce fruit, making fine wine is a game of waiting!

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