Monthly Archive for March, 2010

Emptying and Cleaning Barrels

Spring is when we begin emptying barrels and getting the wine ready for bottling. No pumps are used – the wine is gently removed by using nitrogen gas pressure to push it off its lees into a stainless steel holding tank. The wine is then cold stabilized by dropping the temperature to the mid 30s allowing the tartrates in the wine to settle to the bottom. This usually takes two to three weeks and then after warming to ambient temperature it is bottled.
Click images to enlarge.

After emptying the barrels are cleaned with a combination of hot water and ozone gas. The gas sanitizes the barrels and before putting them away a small amount of sulfur gas is added to further preserve them. Before the barrels are used again they will go through this process at least two more times to make sure the barrels remain sound.

Growth in the Vineyard 3/26/10

Click images to enlarge. The first photo shows the Pinot Noir’s rapid development. Many of the buds have two clusters which is always an encouraging indication for the size of the crop but we need to get past the frost season and flowering before we can celebrate.

The second photo is the inside of a growth tube. This is a vine that was planted last Spring and has been cut back to two buds, this year it will grow rapidly and will produce the following year.
Click images to enlarge.

New Release from Lafond Winery – Lafond Vineyard Syrah Grenache

After three decades of wine growing in the Santa Rita Hills of the western Santa Ynez Valley, Pierre Lafond and winemaker
Bruce McGuire are still experimenting with unconventional grape varieties in our cool climate growing region.

The knowledge gained since the first planting of six varieties in 1972 (one of the early vineyards in Santa Barbara County) has led to a focused approach in which varietals are sought out according to Bruce’s hypothesis on a grape’s potential to exhibit unique character when grown in our area.

This pioneering has paid off with great success such as the introduction of Syrah to the Santa Rita Hills. Grenache intrigued Bruce and Pierre for they thought it had the same potential as Syrah to show off spicy character expressed in a different way than the white pepper spice found in our cool climate Syrah.

The 2.25 acre planting has paid off in a distinctly bright Grenache exhibiting a hint of black pepper with cinnamon spice and dark red fruit flavors with a whisper of menthol. Three separate Syrah lots showcase the overt cool climate Syrah character. Grenache lots included parallel shoot positioning that highlights succulent fruit.

The blend of these two grapes yields a very pleasing full-bodied wine that invites paring with a wide variety of foods. The wine should be fully integrated in 2011 to 2012.
Suggested Retail: 38.00/750ml
To Order: Lafond Winery & Vineyards

Wedding at the Vineyard

Click image to open slideshow.

Night Picking at Lafond Vineyards

Pinot Noir 3/19/10

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View of Vineyard 03.16.10 and Watercolor Artist Jan French’s interpretation for our Santa Barbara Winery Label

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The Bottling Season

Today was the first day of bottling season. About 6 months, not of constant bottling, but 6 months of readying the wine, stabilizing it, filtering it when necessary and bottling. Not very glamorous but as the winemaker says, ‘we need to make room for the 2010 vintage’.

The reality is that this process is very important and the winemaker’s total ability and experience come into play. Winemaker Bruce McGuire has been doing this for 28 years and he has an intuitive feel when the wine is ready or when it needs more time.

The images are of the first day of bottling.  The first wine bottled was the 2009 Riesling made entirely from our Lafond Vineyard vines, sightly over 1000 cases. The wine will not be released for at least 6 months – time needed to recover from bottle shock. The wait is worth it the wine is one of the best Rieslings we have made coming in large part from our new Riesling block in the vineyard.
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Pinot Noir bud 3/12/10 (click image to enlarge)

Pest Contol in the Vineyard

Animal control, protecting the vines, is an ongoing struggle. Deer, especially in dry years, when they come down from higher elevations looking for water can be a serious problem and a 7 foot  fence is the only solution.

It is very costly and we use it only where we know there is recognizable deer traffic. Deer can damage the vines by eating the green growth tips during the summer and at harvest the grapes themselves.

Wild boars are also a problem at harvest, they can go through rows of vines and clean them so thoroughly that you think they have been picked. Fences are not of much use since they can burrow under. We a have built a large steel cage to trap them but with little success so far.

In the Spring it is gophers and here is an Email that David Lafond sent me:

As Part of our sustainable farming practices particularly this time of year .. we use trapping to control of our gopher population. The gophers now are mostly on the outside of our vine rows where we did not till at the end of last season. it is important to trap them before they reach critical mass and move to the interior..We employ two men twice a day, morning and afternoon when the gophers are most active..they maintain about 200 traps..This is a constant effort. So far our best score has been 144 in a 48 hour period..The trapped gophers are left for other predators and scavengers coyotes, hawks, owls, buzzards, a food source .

This is really the most humane way to control the gopher population. We have never used poison or any of the other exotic methods sometimes recommended. There is nothing sadder than to see a mature vine killed by these subterranean villains. In the picture below the flags mark the trap locations. Click image to enlarge.

Pinot Noir first Bud 3/02/10

The Pinot Noir is relatively late this year, and we don’t begrudge it – late budding reduces the danger of frost damage slightly. The reason for the lateness is plenty of rain accompanied with cold. This is the first real bud that we have seen.

The bud has been there since last summer, hidden in the vine, only to emerge cocoon like nine months later. The almost thread like substance that wraps it will become more evident as it develops. Click image to enlarge.