Monthly Archive for May, 2011


The Pinot Noir is beginning to flower. So far the weather has been on the cool side and our foreman, Enrique, says that, judging by the shoot lengths, we are about 10 days behind schedule. Last year harvest was late but mostly because of a cool summer. This year we are hoping for a warmer summer in which case we may catch up.

Flowering is a critical time in cluster forming – ideally the temperature is moderately warm, no strong wind, rain or hail – it takes about two weeks and then we can worry about something else.

David and Enrique testing the new Night Harvest Lighting System

We began night harvesting quite a few years ago, before anyone in the valley, today many are doing it as well. Lighting is the key – it is difficult picking grapes in the dark. Up until now we have relied on gas powered generators pulled directly behind the bin trailer. The generator is loud and smelly and needs gas constantly.

David came up with the idea of using the PTO from the tractor to turn the generator – the tractor is idling or moving slowly, anyway, as it keeps abreast of the pickers – so why not use this energy. This is the prototype – so far the lights work fine, although the PTO revolutions have to run higher than idling speed to keep the lights on bright.

Next, Enrique will drive the tractor through the vineyard pulling a trailer with two bins filled with dirt to simulate the grape weight. The test is to see if the the structure is strong enough and if the lights remain bright. If all systems are go we will need two more light units to work with our three picking crews during harvest. Stay tuned.

Santa Barbara Winery Wine Club Pick-Up Party Saturday May 14

This is our last Wine Club Shipment and Pick-Up Party until the fall. Summer heat and the fact that our members are all over the country make it impossible for us to monitor the weather everywhere.

We can ship to individuals by carefully monitoring the weather in transit and at its destination. It is also possible, at extra cost, to ship overnight.

Something we have not done before, but because of the response to the Pick-up Parties, we may initiate a mid-summer wine club shipment for those who live nearby and can pick up their wine. There is, in addition, our summer BBQ party at the vineyard for members.

New Release Santa Barbara Winery Rosé of Syrah

When Bruce first identified a section of Hilltop Ranch Vineyard as being particularly well suited to making rosé, we were becoming
aware of a re-energized interest in these wines produced in a dry style with serious winemaking techniques.

A dry rose is a prized complement to food and company, particularly well suited for warm summer days outside as an apertif or to accompany a meal.The 2010 Rosé of Syrah is composed of Syrah fruit from Hilltop Ranch Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, on an adjoining property to Lafond Vineyard.

The grapes were destemmed and hand sorted, followed by an overnight cold soak on the skins prior to pressing for proper color intensity. A cool fermentation took place entirely in stainless steel tanks. This process preserves the electric color and the bright fruit flavors and aromas nicely balanced by firm acidity courtesy of the cool climate of Santa Rita Hills.

A terrific wine with ample weight to enjoy with all but the heartiest of foods. Delightfully refreshing with a simple lunch of cheese, cured meats, olives and bread on a warm day.

Suggested Retail: 15.00
To Order: Santa Barbara Winery

Shoot Thinning

Click images to enlarge:

The Pinot Noir canopy is growing rapidly and we need to do shoot thinning before flowering begins. Looking at the clusters they appear ready to burst and open up. Flowering is critical in ‘setting’. A good ‘set’ and the clusters will be full and ripen evenly, a bad set can reduce the harvest and the quality.

Shoot thinning requires the removal of extra canes. It opens up the vine to the sun and allows air to circulate. The goal is to have 12 canes on each vine, 6 on each side, putting the canes at about 4″ apart. Later, after flowering, we will need to reduce the clusters to balance the vine so that a more even ripening will occur.


We are back bottling after a lapse of several months. We were delayed by our capsule supplier. Today we are bottling 2010 Sauvignon Blanc – we will be filling kegs for the Wine Bistro as well as bottles. We have a lot of wines in the pipeline and the trick is to get it done before the end of August and the beginning of harvest.

The image is of our bottling machine. Going from left to right the bottle is vacuumed clean, sparged with neutral nitrogen gas, filled and then corked. The capsule is applied by hand.
Click images to enlarge:

New Release Santa Barbara Winery 2009 Late Harvest Riesling (375ml)

Lafond Vineyard’s Riesling vines were originally planted in 1972. Our long, cool growing season enables firm acids to develop which highlight the flavor intensity that makes this a wonderful full bodied example of a noble grape we feel is under appreciated in the world. After rain in mid- October, our 36 year old bench block was left to develop Botrytis.

After a month of concentration on the vines, the grapes were picked and pressed. Riesling is a popular late harvest dessert wine when grown in the right conditions that will allow sugars to develop, while also maintaining the necessary acidity, very low pH, to keep the resulting wine fresh.

Alcohol is kept low to showcase the purity of fruit courtesy of the Sta. Rita Hills’ long growing season. In its youth, the 09 Late Harvest Riesling showcases aromas of orange blossom, honeyed pear, and burnt sugar.

On the palate, stone fruits intermingle and rich viscosity is balanced by crisp acidity. The finish is long and mouth coating, leaving behind a clean feeling that is far from cloying. Serve slightly chilled in small glasses with a Rustic Peach or Pear Tart.
Suggested Retail: 38.00 (375ml)
To Purchase: Santa Barbara Winery

Summer Shipments

With summer shipping becomes a problem. Wine in delivery trucks, when the temperature rises over 80F, can be quickly damaged. Shipping overnight priority pretty much eliminates the problem but it is very expensive.

We do a lot of weather tracking and if you order during the summer we will watch the weather in your area and in transit before sending it on its way. Individual orders can be filled.

We do not ship Wine Club during the summer because it would be almost impossible to track shipments all over the country. Suzanne is investigating other ways of shipping, other than overnight, that don’t break the bank – climate controlled trucks are obviously the answer – not only the delivery truck but the cross country truck as well.

Hopefully, someone will develop what could be a niche market.

Sampling Chardonnay

Bruce and Shane are sampling Chardonnay, barrel by barrel, to determine blends. Blends for the Lafond SRH Chardonnay, the Santa Barbara Winery Reserve Chardonnay and our Lafond Vineyard Designated Chardonnay.

Bruce is guided first by the blocks from the vineyard – each block has its unique characteristics, and generally there are no surprises. The goal is to maintain the style of previous bottlings and this is where the art begins.

Each barrel has been marked for the blend it will be part of and in a few weeks the wine will be pulled, cold stabilized and bottled.