More lateral pulling

June 28, 2012




As you may recall from earlier this week, we are currently in the process of pulling laterals off of our vines. Laterals are secondary shoots that sprout from this years new shoots, instead of from the woody sections of the vine. Left unchecked, laterals can make the canopy enormous, which creates grapes that taste vegetal and lack depth of flavor.

Yesterday we finished Montana Vista at the top of the property. That site is vigorous, so we usually start there. After finishing Montana Vista, we moved into the Foxtrot block further down the hill.

So far we’ve gotten about half of this block of Cabernet Sauvignon finished, we will likely complete the rest today.

This process takes a fair amount of expertise and a lot of time to do correctly. The workers have to carefully select out only the lateral shoots for removal, taking out a fruit-bearing shoot by accident would mean losing crop and upsetting the overall balance of the canopy. Every cut has to be deliberate and well thought out, the crew has to know what they are doing or the resulting quality of the grapes and wine could be adversely effected.

This is just another example of how much effort it takes to produce excellent wines!

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.


May 7, 2012




Today we began the process of ‘suckering’ in our vineyards. Suckering is a process where any unwanted shoots, or ‘suckers’, that have sprouted from the vine are removed. This is our first step towards shaping the canopy of the vine; suckering lets us leave the correct number of shoots, and allows us to choose their placement, so that the canopy is not too dense or too open.

An overly dense canopy will put too much shade on the fruit, resulting in vegetal flavors and a heightened risk of bunch rot during harvest. Alternatively, too much sun will leave the fruit exposed, possibly resulting in ‘sunburn’ (dry, hard, brown patches of skin), which can also have an adverse effect on wine quality.

The idea is to keep the canopy sized just right, open and airy with plenty of dappled sunlight over the fruit. Here is an example of what a vine looks like before suckering.

This is a Cabernet Sauvignon vine from the Foxtrot block. Note its bushy appearance, this is the result of an excess of buds pushing.

And here is what the same vine looks like after suckering is done.

See how the canopy is a little less dense, a little more open than it was before. We will still probably thin the canopy out a few more times over the course of the season, once the canopy has filled back in a little, but for now this vine is shaped just right.

It’s a lot of work to tend each vine by hand like this, but it’s a necessary part of making excellent fruit, which is in turn a necessary part of making outstanding wines.

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


January 19, 2012




After a morning of low clouds and cold wind, we finally got the rain we’ve been waiting for!

The winery has a metal roof, so it was pretty obvious from the sound when the rain started falling in earnest.

This is a very welcome development, even though it interrupts our pruning. The rain will give our cover crops a much needed boost, not to mention recharging the water table that our well draws from.  Since the rains didn’t actually start until the early afternoon, we were able to make a little bit more progress pruning the Foxtrot block.

If you look closely in the upper right hand corner, you can see the little section that still needs to be pruned.

Now we’ll begin working indoors a little bit more. Be sure to check back to follow what’s going on.

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

More Pruning

January 18, 2012




We finished up pruning in the Montana Vista block yesterday afternoon, and this morning we moved on into the Foxtrot block.

We managed to get a little less than half the block done today.

This is the oldest block on the property, and so the vines here are the largest and most vigorous. Pruning these vines is a little bit more difficult than pruning the slightly younger vines in up in Montana Vista, because there are more canes to remove, and because care needs to be taken to make sure that the vines will not get too tall for the trellis wires in the next growing season. We are also having to adjust our pruning slightly because of the rain we are expecting.

There are two things to see in this picture. First, note that we chose to keep canes that start below the trellis wires. This will keep the vine from getting too tall next year. Second, note that we left a pretty good sized piece of the vine still attached above the cane on the right. The vine can tolerate little cuts without a problem, but large cuts coupled with damp weather can stress the vines immune system and lead to disease. Since it is going to rain soon, we don't want to leave any really large pruning wounds on the vine, so we will wait until the weather clears up and then go back through to remove any excess tissue.

Check back tomorrow to see how we’re dealing with the weather.

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




Today we are putting our 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon down to barrel. We ended up with three different lots of Cab this year, each of which is going to contribute some volume to the final blend.

This has been a very unusual year, the timing of harvest coupled with the volumes of fruit we received meant that we had to organize the lots of Cabs in a slightly different way than usual. Generally we try to keep the wines from every vineyard block separate before going to barrel to maximize our flexibility at blending later on. This year, in order to keep topped tanks, it worked out that we had to do a little bit of blending beforehand. For instance, we found it convenient to crush the Petit Verdot directly to tank with the Cabernet, while in previous years we have kept it separate until the final blending. The result is three distinctive lots of Cabernet Sauvignon that, taken together, make a gorgeous example of what our estate vineyards have to offer.

Since this year was very cool, the wines are slightly more delicate than usual, so we’ve decided to pull back just a little on the American oak in our barrel profile for the Cab, from about 20% American oak to about 15%. American oak adds strong flavors of vanilla and butterscotch, so a lighter handed approach will better suit the elegant profile of our 2011 Cab.

The largest lot, 12 barrels that will likely form the base of the final blend, is a mixture of China Bowl, Montana Vista, and approximately 8% Petit Verdot. The second lot, 7 barrels of pure Cab, is comprised mostly of the Foxtrot block with a little bit of China Bowl blended in. The third lot, also 7 barrels, is a mixture of China Bowl, Montana Vista, and close to 20% Petit Verdot from Bobcat Run.

It’s hard to know exactly what these wines will taste like when we pump them out to prep them for bottling two years from now, so we will refrain from any further blending until then.

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


November 3, 2011



As you may recall, we spent some time over the last few days discing our rows in preparation for seeding our cover crops. It looks like it will probably start raining here again in the next day or two, so we’re pushing to get as much of the seeding done as we can before the rain makes the rows difficult to get the tractor down.

We seed our cover crops by hand, workers walk down the rows with buckets of the seeds we want plant and toss them onto the ground.

Pictured here are some of the seeds we use for our cover crops. On the left is a Bell Bean, which will form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in the soil that will help to fix nitrogen out of the air, enriching the soil. Additionally, this plant will draw beneficial insects like ladybugs. Bell beans are not particularly good at suppressing weeds, so we plant Cayuse Oats (pictured on the right) along with them. Cayuse Oats help with weed suppression, and they produce a relatively high amount of biomass, so they will contribute plenty of decomposing green matter to the soil once they eventually get tilled under. Cover crops that get tilled into the soil are known as ‘green manure’.
Once the seeds are sown, we send a tractor down the row with an attachment that drags the soil flat, burying the seeds an inch or two below the surface so they can germinate.
Leveling out the soil in the Foxtrot block.

 It’s a fair amount of labor to get it done, but the quality of the organically farmed grapes we produce is worth it. Be sure to check back next week to see what we’re up to!

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

Second crop

November 1, 2011



It turns out we have one more little push to get through before harvest is finally, completely done. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we have been picking our ‘second crop’. Second crop is composed of clusters that set later in the season, usually outside of the fruiting zone. They tend to be very small, and ripen much later than the first crop.

This is a typical second crop cluster. The flavor from these grapes will usually not quite be on par with the rest of the fruit that came off the vine. The wine made from these grapes will most likely be added into the press fraction, which will be sold to another brand somewhere down the line.
The second crop is spread out very thinly over all of our Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, so it takes a couple of days to get it all picked even though it will probably come out to less than two tons of fruit. The China Bowl block had the most second crop in it, while Montana Vista and Foxtrot seem to have comparatively little.
Even though the likelihood of this fruit making it into the final blend is low, it’s still worthwhile to harvest it. The little bit of wine that we make out of it will still make us a small profit when we sell it off. Waste not want not!
To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.



Harvest is over! At least as far as receiving fruit goes. Yesterday our last lot of grapes came in from the Foxtrot block. Foxtrot is our oldest block of vines, planted ten years ago to Cabernet Sauvignon just after the Arrowoods bought the property. It was originally known as the Photovoltaic block, because of a large solar array that sits adjacent to it that powers Richards’ house.

This block is directly across the road from the Bobcat Run Syrah and Grenache.
This block is planted to clone 337 (one of the same clones we have planted down in the China Bowl), which has tiny berries and very open clusters. We were grateful for those open clusters this year because it meant we actually had very little botrytis to deal with in this block. Foxtrot was especially worrisome for us because, as our oldest block, it takes the longest to ripen and was likely to face the longest exposure to the cool, wet weather.
Fortunately, it really didn’t have too much rot in it, probably due to the clear, warm weather we’ve had over the last few days. What little rot there was had not reached an advanced stage, so we were able to use the old-school vine shaking technique to sort out the bad fruit. We got in just under six tons of Cab from this block (more than we expected, which was nice), all of which tasted great. We crushed it all to a single tank and inoculated it with K1, and today it is already fermenting happily away. Overall, this year we brought in just under forty six tons of grapes. To put that in perspective, a large winery in Northern California might crush something like three thousand.
So now it’s down to pressing and racking for the 2011 vintage, there’s still a lot of work to do so be sure to check back!
To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.