Monthly Archive for July, 2009

Netting the Pinot Noir at Lafond Vineyards

The Pinot Noir has reached 50% veraison, that is, half have turned from green to purple and will begin to sweeten. This will, of course, attract ravenous birds who can very quickly decimate your crop and Pinot Noir attracts them more than any other variety.

Vineyards have tried all sorts of things to discourage or frighten away birds. Canons, propelled by natural gas that make loud noises, not particularly appreciated by neighbors. Bright metal strips, tied to the vines, that flutter in the wind and more recently falcons. The first two, canons and metal strips, are an insult to the birds intelligence, they soon become accustomed and after initially staying away return with a vengeance.

The falcons will scare the birds away but require a handler 24/7 which makes ti very expensive and justifiable only in larger vineyards. The method we use is to cover the vineyard with nets, this is the gold standard, but it requires a lot of man-hours to install and remove.

New Release Santa Barbara Winery

2008 ZCS

Our first ZCS was created in 1998 when Winemaker Bruce McGuire called the staff together to taste red wine blends centered around a Zinfandel from vines that were more than 40 years old. Everyone’s favorite was a blend of that Zinfandel with a Carignane and a Sangiovese.

Bruce fine tuned the percentages and released 800 cases of this new wine in 1999 for sale in Santa Barbara. Soon, we were receiving calls from all over the country looking for this obscure blend; a happy occurence that has led to this tenth vintage of ZCS.

In this synergistic blend, the Zinfandel from 50 year old vines lends the jammy fruit quality to the wine, the Carignane adds density and finish, and the Sangiovese shows off the cherry aromatics and flavors. Bruce purchased all of the fruit for this vintage from Wild Rose Vineyard in Lodi, which farms to his standards.

A small crop led to intense concentration and full flavors in the finished wine. Oak aging takes place in neutral puncheons so as not to disturb the full fruit quality of ZCS. This is a very versatile, food friendly wine made to match a wide range of occasions and meals.
Suggested Retail: 13.00/750ml
To Order: Santa Barbara Winery

Weed Abatement Lafond Vineyards

Weeds miraculously grow even when there is no rain. You can disc the rows but in between the vines it is more difficult. There are three ways to control the weeds. You can hoe by hand, which is incredibly expensive, and we sometimes have to resort to this if the weeds are large and out of control. The second is herbicide, similar to what many people use on their lawns, but you can only do it when plants are dormant, and it is not in keeping with our goal of sustainable farming.

The third is mechanical. The photo shows a new machine, we are testing, which consists of blades on both sides which shear the weeds just below ground and retract when passing a vine. Many of the machines we have tried and used in the past took out the weeds but they also took out the vine. This machine looks very promising and we plan on using it next spring.

The driver is working a Chardonnay block we planted last year. Weeds are always more difficult the first two years because of the need to water more frequently, as the plant matures and develops its root system there is much less need to irrigate.

Véraison at Lafond Vineyards

 Véraison is defined by Wikipedia as

Véraison is a French term, but has been adopted into the English literature on viticulture. The official definition of véraison is “change of color of the grape berries.” Véraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur at véraison.

The image of our Pinot Noir was taken July 24, 2009. According to Winemaker, Bruce McGuire, when 50% of the grapes have changed color the harvest is six weeks away. This is a selected vine and one of the most advanced, the rest of the vineyard has some catching up to do.

We will probably reach the 50% threshold by August 1 and by that time we will need to cover the vines with netting to protect them from our local bird population who seem to prefer Pinot Noir above all other varieties.

Lafond Vineyards, Santa Rita Hills


Hedging is an important part of canopy management. As the season progresses the canes outgrow their retaining wires and fall over the lower leaves, covering the fruit as well. This is very inefficient from the photosynthesis standpoint — leaves in the shade do not contribute — and as they cover the fruit they reduce the benefit of exposure and air movement.

The image is of the hedger, which trims both top and sides of two rows simultaneously. The rows are only six feet wide and with a tractor that allows less than one foot on each side the driver must be attentive.

Pinot Noir cane growth is relatively modest and hedging may be repeated two or thee times during the growing season. Other varieties, such as Syrah, are much more vigorous and may require hedging more frequently.

Santa Barbara Winery New Release

2006 Grenache Syrah

After three decades of wine growing in the Santa Rita Hills, Pierre Lafond and winemaker Bruce McGuire are still experimenting with unconventional varieties in this very cool growing region. Following their successful introduction of Syrah to Santa Rita Hills in the early 1990’s, they are now onto their second vintage of this Grenache/Syrah blend.

Utilizing Syrah from neighbor vineyard, Hilltop Ranch (right across the dirt road) and Grenache that Bruce sourced from the Byron Vineyard up in Santa Maria, Bruce has crafted a wine showing the cool climate spiciness of Syrah and the bright red fruit flavors of Grenache.

The Grenache dominates the blend and helps to tame the Syrah making this middle weight wine more approachable than straight Syrah, and thus easier to pair with a wider range of foods. A delightful wine to have with Spanish tapas, lighter meats, or an afternoon repast of olives, cow’s milk cheeses and fresh bread. This wine should show complete flavor development by the end of 2008 and be quite enjoyable through 2010.

Suggested Retail 22.00
To Order: Santa Barbara Winery

Santa Barbara Winery New Release

2008 Sauvignon Blanc
Stainless Steel Fermentation

Our second Stainless Steel Sauvignon Blanc is sourced entirely from La Presa Vineyard on the warm edges of the Santa Ynez River between Solvang and Santa Ynez.

Winemaker Bruce McGuire chose a small lot to ferment and age entirely in Stainless Steel, thus creating a wine showing exactly the bright fruit expression produced in the vineyard without the spice and rich nuances imparted by oak barrels.

Bruce’s success with this technique, which he last produced from our Lafond Vineyard in 2006, is immediately evident in the lively varietal aromas of yellow tropical fruits, Meyer lemons and citrus blossoms. Firm acidity tightens up the wine in the back of the mouth carrying on succulent notes of citrus and spice.

This is an ideal wine to pair with seafood made with a Pacific Rim mentality, from sushi to spicy Thai or Vietnamese to ceviche and grilled seabass. It will also complement higher-acid dishes including light summer salads and vinaigrette dressings.This highest quality small lot is hand crafted from a self rooted 35 year old block of Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard.

Suggested retail: 19.00/750ml
To order: