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. http://www.amapolacreek.com”

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

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Most of our grafted Grenache shoots have done pretty well, and now we’re ready to start shaping them for next year.

As you can see, most of these shoots are pretty large. A few of them are still too small to position, we will come back through and get them a little later in the season.

The problem is that all of the shoots are trying to grow vertically, while we need them to grow horizontally along the middle trellis wire.

These vines will be spur-pruned, so we need this years shoots to grow like this, right along the trellis wires, where they will form next years ‘arms’.

We use a special kind of tape to hold the shoots in place.

This tape is not sticky, instead it is very elastic, but it maintains its’ strength as it stretches. This allows the shoots to grow without breaking the tape.

The Grenache and the Mourvedre are both looking great, we’re looking forward to the day we can use these grapes in the Cuvee Alis!

Amapola Creek is Richard Arrowoods’ latest winemaking project, 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.




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.




As you may remember, we are converting some of our Cabernet Sauvignon vines over to Grenache this year. The T-budding process is very close at hand, so we are putting the vines through their final stages of preparation.

This vine has been topped, meaning we cut the 'crown', or upper part of the vine off (you can see it laying on the ground), and stripping the outer layer of bark away from what's left of the trunk. We are planning to splice the Grenache buds in just a few inches down from the cut. If you look carefully, you can see that the loss of the crown of the vine is causing latent buds to push further down the trunk.

It also looks like our Grenache benchgrafts are doing well, all of them are pushing shoots and setting out fully formed leaves.

The cardboard carton around this benchgraft is there to protect the young vine from rodents like voles and rabbits. Once the cover crop has been cleared, unprotected young vines like these become an easy target for small herbivores.

The growing season is really starting to take off, be sure to follow it along with us!

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




The warm weather is drying things out, but the Eastern half of China Bowl is still a little too wet to mow.

Water drains from the soil more efficiently on the slopes, which is why they were dry enough to mow. As you can see, the rain has done wonders for the remaining cover crop.

All of that water in the East end of China Bowl may be slowing down our efforts to flail mow, but it is actually a very good thing. All of that soil moisture has encouraged our Grenache benchgrafts to go through budbreak!

It's a little hard to make out in this photo, but the little round piece of vegetation in the very center of the frame is actually a tiny grapevine shoot poking up through the soil.

This is exciting because it proves that our planting efforts late last Winter were successful. Now that the benchgrafts have started to go through budbreak, we will have to take some special precautions to make sure they grow properly. Be sure to check back tomorrow to see what it is we do!

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




The weather here in Sonoma Valley has been slightly unpredictable for the last couple of days. We’ve been expecting rain, and we’ve been getting it, but mainly in fits and starts amidst a few sunny hours,  instead of a steady downpour. It’s still a little too muddy to get out into the vineyards to mow, so instead we’ve brought things back inside and started working on our monthly barrel maintenance.

The metal box on the cart in the lower right-hand corner of the picture is our ozone generator. It produces water that is saturated with ozone, which is a highly reactive molecule made of three oxygen atoms. Ozone is lethal to every known microbe, and it breaks back down into harmless oxygen molecules in a matter of hours. These qualities make it an ideal substance to use when cleaning the inside of empty barrels, which have a large surface area prone to harboring undesirable microorganisms.

Empty barrels are first rinsed with hot water, followed by ozonated water. Afterwards, we add a little sulfur dioxide gas by burning a sulfur wick inside the barrel. The moisture from the rinsing also keeps the wood from completely drying out, which means these barrels will be less likely to leak when we do eventually fill them again. It’s just another aspect of the cyclical nature of work in a winery!

In other news, we received a very nice review for our 2009 Cuvee Alis from Fredric Koeppel of the Bigger Than Your Head food and wine blog. As always, it is very nice to hear appreciation for our wines!

We make precious little of this amazing wine, be sure to check it out before it's gone!

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