Petite Sirah!

October 16, 2012

We know we’re almost done with grapes for the year when the Petite Sirah shows up from Monte Rosso Vineyards!

Every year we pick just a couple of bins of Petite Sirah to make a small amount of wine for our club members. This block from Monte Rosso makes a lovely, dense wine, rich with fruit characters and exhibiting a strong backbone of tannins.

Petite Sirah clusters have a very distinctive look.

While Cabernet tends to have loose clusters with lots of space between the berries, Petite Sirah is very tight, with almost no space between the grapes.

This tight formation can make Petite Sirah vulnerable to Fall rains, if water gets inside the cluster it can promote the growth of rot. This threat is compounded by the fact that Petite Sirah is relatively late-ripening, meaning that we have to chance leaving it out in the vineyard longer. Fortunately the weather has held back and allowed us to bring this fruit in in pristine condition.

We picked first thing in the morning, so the fruit was ice-cold when we processed it. As a result,  it took a few days for the yeast to take hold and start fermenting, but now we are finally seeing a solid cap form in the fermentors. The fruit tasted fantastic, and the fermentations smell divine. All of our wines this year are turning out delicious, but we have especially high hopes for this one.

Be sure to check back soon 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.


Draining and Pressing

October 2, 2012

We’ve just completed our first red fermentation for the year, which means that it’s time to drain and press the Monte Rosso Zinfandel!

The purpose of draining and pressing the must is to separate the wine from the skins. During fermentation, carbon dioxide produced by the yeast floats the skins to the top of the tank, forming a mass of grape solids called a ‘cap’. Since most of the skins are in the top of the tank, the bottom of the tank is mostly wine.

Since the bottom of the tank is mostly wine, we begin by draining the wine out from under the cap. There are still some skins that come out with draining, so we pass the wine through a screen before we pump the wine to its receiving tank.

Once the tank is drained, we start digging out the skins and loading them into macro bins.

The bins we shovel the skins into are the same ones we use to pick grapes. We do this because these bins are easy to lift with the forklift, in turn making it easy to get the skins into the press. We got six bins of grape solids out of the Zinfandel this year, which was exactly enough for two press-loads.

As you can see, the skins are still pretty wet when they come out of the tank. Pressing gets the last bit of wine out of the skins.

It is possible to press the skins too hard, extracting harsh, bitter tannins into the wine. We use a very gentle pressing regime that extracts all of the best wine, while leaving the undesirable components behind.

We will be picking again soon, be sure to come back and 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.


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.



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.




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.




This wine sure has garnered a lot of attention! Here’s what Rich Mauro of The Gazette had to say about it;

“2009 Amapola Creek Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vineyard Viñas Antiguas ($42). After 15 years at Chateau St. Jean and 25 years at his own Arrowood Winery, Richard Arrowood, with his wife, Alis, established a vineyard on the western side of the Mayacamas Mountains and began producing estate wines under the Amapola Creek label. This wine shows the pedigree of its mountain source and 118-year-old vines. It is dense, with oak touches, mineral and spice notes, sleek texture and noticeable but soft tannins.”

Thank you for the kind words Rich! Click here to read the full article.

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





Well, it just keeps on happening, here’s another great review for our 2009 Monte Rosso Zinfandel!

“SRP: $36. A beautiful Zinfandel. Fresh-from-the-farm cherries, perfume, wild blackberries, and sweet Asian spices. While proudly ripe, this wine isn’t in your face. The palate is lush and balanced. (91 pts.)”

Thanks for the accolades!

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






This really has been a fantastic couple of weeks for us in terms of reviews! This time, our 2009 Monte Rosso Zinfandel was listed as the Wine of the Week by  Brian Freedman of The Goodlife Report;

” This boasts a rich cherry liqueur and wild-berry cobbler nose, with warm Tahitian vanilla, caramel, flowers, black peppercorns, and exotic spices, cardamom chief among them. On the palate, this remarkably elegant wine sings of red cherry and black and red raspberry, summertime blueberry, pie crust, toast, vanilla, spice, and cedar, with a hint of sandalwood on the finish. Complex and rich yet never ponderous, it’s an exceptionally lively bottling with elegance and depth to spare, and promises to drink very well through 2022. Not that you’ll be able to wait that long. ”

You can read the full article here, we would also recommend browsing through the rest of The Goodlife Report, as it has a number of interesting articles and reviews.

It’s great to hear so many nice things about our wines, we work very hard on them and so the validation is music to our ears!

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




Here’s another of the great reviews our wines have gotten in the last few days! This one is from Hayley Hamilton of Side Dish magazine;

“Iconic California winemaker Richard Arrowood just released his 2009 Amapola Creek Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel made from 100+year old Zinfandel vines grown in the mineral rich, mountainous vineyard. This is a soft and supple wine filled with freshly cracked black pepper, ripe red cherries, dried berries and toffee with lingering aromas of violets and wild flowers on the finish.”

This has been a great week for us, it’s fantastic to hear such wonderful things about our wines!

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