We have started the final hand pruning. We delayed, after the machine pruning, on the theory that this would buy us a little time during the frost season. The fruit buds near the trunk would be delayed while those at the ends would grow.
We have already had two frost warnings, Friday and Saturday. Enrique has turned on our 9 large fans – these are run by gasoline motors, and unfurled a 2500 foot canvas fence to direct the frost coming down the gully away from the vines.
It takes about 2 hours to do all this. The alarm usually goes off around 1:00am. A great way to start the day. There will, undoubtedly, be several more warnings before spring is over and if not too severe the system should work.
This is a photo taken from the north side of the river. The winery is hidden behind the trees in the background. If you click on the image you can see more clearly one of our fans on the right hand side straddling the road. This vineyard has two more fans, that we hope are strategically placed, as well as a long canvas fence that has yet to be unfurled – all for frost protection.
This is Alan topping at the Lafond Winery. Usually when you top you wear a flashlight on your head so that you can see the level of the wine in the barrel, Alan does it by sound and he never overfills. This man could tune your piano.
We have just started bottling which we will now do, intermittently, for the next 6 months. Bottling mostly wine from the 2012 vintage but also some reds from 2011, wines that have benefited from additional barrel ageing.
The series of images shows first the bottling and corking, putting the capsule on by hand, spinning the metal capsule and finally putting the cases on a pallet. The non-robotic arm in the last image is our answer to sore backs after lifting and stacking cases all day.
We installed it last year but it was never used. This year, with a fresh start, it seems to have caught on. It works on suction lifting two 40 plus pound cases and positioning them on the pallet.
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The day is cold and overcast. This is a view from the picnic area over the Pinot Noir showing the trees by the river and their frosted appearance in the winter light.
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We have begun mowing the ground cover planted last fall. And again this is protect the vines from March and April frost. A smooth surface facilitates air movement. The grasses that have grown between the rows are uneven and when there is a cold spell and the large fans are turned on we want the cold air to move over the surface to be pushed skyward by the fans.
Carlos discovered a 45 year old sign covered by ivy, on one of our buildings, which had long been forgotten. It is quite charming, carved from redwood planks, the gold paint faded and mostly gone. Carlos rejuvenated it without destroying its antique quality.
This block which contains younger and older vines was severely damaged last year. The pruning machine has cut the canes to about 12 inches. We are waiting as long as possible to cut them down to two buds in the hope that this will retard their growth sufficiently to reduce frost damage. The theory is that the budding begins at the tip of the cane and by pruning later we reduce exposure for the buds further down the cane which will carry the fruit. Stay tuned…
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Frost danger is March and April. We were severely damaged in our older vineyard on April 7, 2012. We had our frost consultant with us on Tuesday the 26th. Examining the main location of the damage gives us an indication of cold air flow. This year we have purchased several new large air fans and will be installing a canvas fence to further direct the cold air flow more effectively.
We went on an inspection trip and what is striking is the amount of water in the river despite so little rain. David remarked that once the trees begin leafing they will be quickly sucking up the excess water. At this point we have had just a little over 5 inches and the annual average is close to 18 inches. The other photo is David marking the new placement of a fan, as recommended by our expert.
Pruning will continue, probably, for another 10 days. We are getting close to bud-break and then begins two months of worrying about frost. We have fans in place, motors filled with gas, plastic fence in place, or soon to be, and now we wait for that wake-up ring that tells us the temperature is falling, usually at 2:00am.
The first image shows the first pruning pass with the machine and the second after the hand crew has passed. Each arm of the ‘cordon’ will have 6 to 7 spurs and each spur 2 buds for a total of 6 to 7 fruit canes per vine. In areas more susceptible to frost the spurs will not be cut back to 2 buds until budding is about to begin. This in the hope that it will delay budding closer to the cordon since budding begins at the ends of the spurs.
Well it’s worth a try.
For the weekend Mirella will offer Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (from her favorite stand fresh off a nearby field) and Chocolate Brownies. Wines will be selected for Tasting that compliment these delicious flavors. The Tasting Fee is 10.00 per person and we are open from 10-5.
Mirella has been doing this for so many years that we can safely say it is now a tradition…
This is Pascale’s fifth or sixth Cooking Class at Santa Barbara Winery and they have become increasingly popular. We limit the class to thirty and it usually lasts from 1:00 to 3:00.
Endive, Apple and Roquefort
with a warm nut Vinaigrette.
Paired to our Orange Muscat Wine
Salmon Coulibiac with a Herb and Chive Coulis.
Paired with our Reserve Chardonnay
Paired with Late Harvest Riesling
Pascale is best known for her popular Seasonal Cookbooks adopting her recipes to match the available local fruit and produce. These beautifully illustrated Cookbooks are available at the Santa Barbara Winery.
At her class the only item she prepared earlier was the Apple Crumble everything else was prepared at the winery.
The Santa Rita Hills is a small appellation at the western end of the Santa Ynez Valley that has gained national recognition for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The Valley runs west to east permitting the late afternoon ocean fog to roll into the Santa Rita Hills, where it lingers until early morning. The surrounding hills trap the fog before it is dissipated in the wider Santa Ynez Valley.
In the summer the fog moderates the normally warm days of the valley, cooling the grapes at night. Warm days and cool nights are essential to the developement of a balanced acid/sugar ratio. In the winter when frost is our biggest concern, a layer of fog over the vineyard can provide protection.
We have a small block of Grenache, 2.25 acres. We planted it several years ago as a test, at the time only 1 acre, but we were so pleased with the results that we extended it to its present size.
We plan on adding several more acres. Grenache in this cool zone produces a wine that is different from the warmer areas – fruitier and spicier with a hint of white pepper – more nuanced.
Winemaker’s comment: Now eight years old this block is showing increasing depth and richness. Aromatic red fruit and spice accentuated by the cool climate of Santa Rita Hills.
The general consensus is that we need to plant more. We have obtained cuttings, for two additional acres, which will be grafted to root stock by a nursery this winter and planted in the spring of 2014.
Suggested retail: 28.00
To order: www.sbwinery.com
Pruning is in full swing. First the pre-pruner which cuts the canes to about 12 inches in length and then the pruning crew comes in to cut them back to the desired buds.
Not so long ago this was all done by hand and required quite a bit of strength to pull the canes apart. During the growing season they become entwined as well as attached to the retaining wires. Pictures of the pruner and the result.
Double Gold means that all the judges in the panel have awarded a Gold Medal to a specific wine, an infrequent occurrence.
The grapes for this wine come from one of our oldest blocks which has consistently produced our best Chardonnay.
The wine is fermented in 160 gal. puncheons, goes through malolactic (secondary) fermentation, allowed to sit on its lies (sediments), and regularly topped and stirred.
Winemaker Bruce McGuire uses a proven combination of new and old puncheons to produce a perfect complexity.
Click image to enlarge.
To order: www.lafondwinery.com