Chardonnay and Cuvee Alis

September 17, 2013

We have been very busy lately here at Amapola Creek! The hot, dry weather brought on some very quick ripening, and quite a few of our grapes were ready to come in over the course of the last week.


This picture is of the last of the Belli Chardonnay to come in for the year. These grapes will be pressed and the juice fermented separately from the Chardonnay we brought in earlier in the season, even though they will ultimately be blended together into a single wine. The second round of Belli Chardonnay is comprised primarily of Dijon clone 76, which is a selection of Chardonnay that has a distinct minerality and a strong backbone of acid, which will nicely balance the tropical Rued and Robert Young clones we brought in earlier this year.


We also recently brought in our Cuvee Alis, which this year will be a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah. The different stacks of bins that you see above are the different varieties, we have to keep them carefully separated so that we know exactly what has been put into which fermentor. This year we were fortunate to be able to bring in all of the Cuvee Alis in a single day. Usually, these varieties of grapes ripen at rates different enough to require separate pick dates. Mourvedre, especially, is generally left out to ripen and brought in much later on its own. This year is very special, though, and we were able to bring in the entire blend at one time.

Things are still moving quickly here at Amapola Creek, don’t forget to check back soon for more updates!



More grapes…

September 5, 2013

The weather has been consistently warm and dry for the last few months, and so the grapes are all starting to ripen up very quickly. This week, we brought in the first of our Chardonnay from Belli vineyards for the year.Image

The Chardonnay we brought in this week is comprised of two different ‘clones’, meaning that they are two different kinds of Chardonnay with slightly different characteristics. The two clones we brought in are called ‘Rued’ and ‘Robert Young’, which are both very aromatic clones that contribute the vibrant fruit character to our Chardonnay. They are also early ripeners, which is why they came in first.

We also brought in our Zinfandel from Monte Rosso vineyards this week.ImageRichard is extremely happy with the quality of the Zinfandel this year, the flavor is outstanding, and the color is exceptionally dark.

Things are really going to pick up in the next week or so. Stay tuned!


Harvest 2013 is here!

August 29, 2013

We began harvest this week by bringing in just a little bit of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Viognier to make our 2013 Rose Cuvee! This is the first time the Rose Cuvee has ever come in before the Chardonnay, which is a testament to the perfection of the weather we’ve been seeing in Sonoma Valley this year.

ImageThe pickers started at daybreak so we could bring the fruit in cold, allowing us to gently extract only a little bit of color from the skins.

We pick the grapes for the Rose from the same blocks that we take our Cuvee Alis from, taking one or two clusters from each vine now and leaving the rest for later. Taking some grapes off the vines to make the Rose allows the remaining grapes to mature more fully, giving the Cuvee Alis darker color and a deeper flavor profile. The grapes taste outstanding, this is going to be a Rose to remember!



Catching up

October 11, 2012

Well, faithful readers, we have been busy indeed these last few days! Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happened over the last few days.

First, the Belli Chardonnay has gotten far enough through its’ fermentation that we’re comfortable putting it back down to barrels to age.

During the initial fermentation we left some headspace in the barrels to keep them from overflowing, but now we have them topped up, to keep out the air. We started with twenty-three barrels, which we have now consolidated down to nineteen.

The Chardonnay is still fermenting just a little, so we left in the fermentation bungs.

These will let the minute amount of carbon dioxide still being generated by the fermentation to escape, if we just put in regular hard bungs then the pressure would make them pop out every couple of days. We are expecting the fermentation to wind down completely early next week.

Another item of interest, we have just pressed out the components of the 2012 Cuvee Alis!

We are still keeping the Syrah and Grenache separate for now, here you can see the brilliant color of the Syrah as it comes out of the press. This wine is still high in solids, as the solids settle out, the color will deepen to a very dark purple.

And finally, this week we have brought in the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Estate.

Actually, technically speaking there is still a little second crop out there, but this is the last of the first crop. This last load came out of the heaviest areas of the China Bowl block, which took the longest to ripen.

This has been an extremely bountiful year for us, our tank space is all but filled to capacity with very high quality fruit. There is still plenty of work to do, be sure to check 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.




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.




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.

Cane Positioning

May 24, 2012




Now that suckering is done for the year, we are starting to position our canes. Cane positioning is done to shape the canopy in such a way that the fruit gets adequate sunlight and exposure to air. The sunlight enhances fruit characters in the finished wine, and the airflow prevents pathogens like mildew and bunch rot from taking hold.

This is how the vines look before cane positioning. Note the somewhat unregulated growth, with many of the canes growing more or less horizontally. Having canes sticking out like this creates too much shade on the fruit, and restricts the flow of air.

The ideal position for the canes is almost vertical.

This is how the vines look after cane positioning. Note how all of the canes have been tucked up under the trellis wire so they stand upright.

This is a very labor intensive process, it takes a crew of four almost two weeks to do the entire property, but it is one of the many steps that simply have to be followed to grow the grapes that make excellent wine. Be sure to check back tomorrow for more on how we sculpt the canopy of our vines!

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




The ground is drying out pretty quickly now, so we’ve been able to get the flail mower down into Bobcat Run. Since we all ready had the weed whacking crew on the property, they were able to follow on the heels of the mower.

Just a week ago the soil here was far too wet to support the weight of the tractor, happily now it's not a problem.

Since the Grenache and the Syrah have already gone through budbreak, it’s imperative that the tractor driver be very careful not to hit the vines while passing down the rows. Hitting the vines at this point could cause ‘tractor blight’, meaning that the young shoots could be knocked off.

Fortunately there is no sign of tractor blight anywhere in Bobcat Run. In fact, as you can see the Grenache is already pushing out little shoots.

China Bowl is still a little too wet to mow, but that will probably change soon.

Getting China Bowl mowed is necessary, but from an aesthetic point of view we're not too disappointed to have all this lush greenery around for a little while longer.

Things are starting to move quickly in the vineyards, be sure to check back soon to see what’s going on!

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

Barrel Maintenance

February 7, 2012




Sometimes it happens that you wind up with empty barrels that need to be stored. If a barrel is new and hasn’t ever been filled, this is not really a problem, you can just leave it inside the winery and wait for next year. However, if the barrel is older and has already been used to store wine, special maintenance is required to keep wine spoilage organisms from taking hold and rendering the barrel useless.

The first step is to set all of the older, empty barrels out and stage them with their bungs facing down. Next you spray their insides with very hot water, followed by ozonated water, which together knock any microbial populations down to negligible levels. The eight barrels that are separated out to the right in this picture are getting sold to another winery.

Once the barrels have been rinsed, we allow them to drain for a few minutes to make sure that most of the water has dripped out. Next, we flip them right-side up and lower a burning a sulfur wick into each of them.

A sulfur wick is a piece of paper that is impregnated with elemental sulfur. When you burn it inside a barrel it releases sulfur dioxide gas, which dissolves into the water clinging to the inside of the barrel and forms sulfurous acid, which has strong antimicrobial effects. This will help keep any microbes from starting to grow in the barrel during storage.

The final step is to insert a paper cup into the bung to keep the sulfur gas from drifting out (it’s pretty irritating to the lungs if you breathe it in). To keep the cups in, we put a strap of packing tape over the bung.

Once the cup is in we flip the barrel back upside down, in case there is any more water to drip out. The cups frequently fall out when the barrels are stored in this position, so we like to use the tape to keep the floors free of litter and to make sure that the inside of the barrel is not exposed to open air.

We repeat this process approximately every month, it’s a lot of work, but that’s what it takes to do it right!

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

Lots of Water

January 23, 2012




We got a pretty good amount of rain over the last few days, so now we’re getting a pretty good amount of runoff.

This is the eponymous Amapola Creek, as seen from about halfway up the property, between the winery and the Bobcat Run vineyard, currently swollen with rainwater.

There are parts of the property that are fairly steep, so we have a number of waterways that are seasonal. We even have a little waterfall at the moment!

All of this water will meet up with the main body of the creek down towards the foot of the property.

The weather looks like it will dry out considerably in the next few days, so we’ll be switching back over to vineyard work soon. In the meantime, we’ve been keeping busy splash-racking the 2011 Cabs that we still have in tank.

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