Friday, August 29, 2008

Making Big in Sebastopol Hills

I remember not so long ago landing at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, with my 3 year old daughter in hand wondering what was I getting into now. Shall I say I was reluctantly excited to join Tom in France on his quest to make fine wine or just oblivious. The wintry sky did nothing to enhance my first image of my new temporary home. Our taxi sped through the concrete walls laden heavily with french graffiti through the outskirts of Paris before we boarded the TGV (bullet train) to Dijon.

Our luck and fortune would prevail however and within a year I found myself wishing I wouldn't have to leave the rich traditions of Bourgogne and the gorgeous vineyards of Chambertin for the new world. But westward we traveled to California.

Now some 16 years later, my soul rests in the roots of our beautiful vineyard in Sebastopol. Soon we will experience the 5th harvest of our Pinot Noir. Our journey has hardly ended as we continue to toil away, but we are beginning to truly reap nature's rewards. Recent publication in the San Francisco Chronicle, reveals Tom's dream (now "our" dream) is not so far-fetched. Sebastopol Hills makes the headline in wine news this week with highlights about Maboroshi Vineyard. Like a line lifted from a Hollywood western, Andy Walker as quoted by Greg LaFollette may say it best; "...look to the hills to find your answer".

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

In Memory of March; a Mother's Look Back

I know, I know it's been over a year since I last posted! Each passing day, turns quickly into seven more and before you know it a whole year has passed by before you've had time to assess and reassess the progress in the vineyard. These days you are more likely to find me in the vineyard than sitting at the computer composing our latest events. Tom is much more adept at that, as it has become part of his nightly ritual. For the last year I have dedicated pretty much most of my life working full time as our sole vineyard ranch worker. Despite the never-ending list of things to do or repair, I can't help but enjoy the results of a healthy vineyard located on such a beautiful site.

I never tire of the smell of the soil, or the fragrance of the vines as I hike up the hills of our vineyard everyday. My encouragement comes from the vines themselves, as they grow from tiny shoots and flower bits to pea-sized berries in a matter of a few weeks and eventually develop into palm-sized clusters of opulent pinot noir glory.

Like a proud mother flipping through photos of her grown children, I would like to share the chronicle of our grapes growth so far this year.

Harvest is but a few months away, but still my heart yearns for the burst of life each March brings, as once again Tom & I can experience the rebirth, the renewal of our growing dreams.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Pruning 2007

Great spring like weather urged us to prune a bit earlier this year in mid-February. We began on February 13, 2007 with a crew of 6. Traditional cane pruning; 2 canes left (from last year's growth) with 2 replacement spurs with 2 renewal buds per, was applied to blocks 4 and 5 on the back hillside of our Pinot Noir vineyard. This area is also clone 115 on 101-14 rootstock.

On the rest of the vineyard, 80% clone 667 on 101-14 again, was once again pruned to a modified cane system, with 2 canes and 1 or no replacement spurs. Careful shoot selection will take place in spring to assure renewal growth available for next year.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Canopy Management

Sometimes I wonder why I chose to grow grapes vs. watermelons or tomatoes. Week after week the work never seems to end from April thru June, the vines grow upwards of 4 or more feet after budbreak and we are constantly trying to keep up with thinning the vines, on-going suckering at the base of the trunks, keeping the shoots upright in the vertical trellis with tucking and moving up wires to accomodate this burst of growth. But it all makes it worthwhile when we see the flowers bloom and by the end of June thru July the emergence of the tiny green berries means my favorite time of the year has begun.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sucker Punch

Well Spring has made it's appearance at last. True signs that the vineyard is in full growth mode are the emerging "suckers" found at the base and all along the vine's trunk. These innocent looking leaves will feed off of the vine's energy "sucking" the life from the rest of the buds that we need to produce fruit clusters later in the year. This year's rains will no likely lead to a few million of these fellows springing up everywhere denoting the vigor that can occur with a wet vineyard floor. So what to do?

Get rid of them before they become hardened stems. By just running the palm of your hand down the trunk of the vine at this time, they will easily fall off. We will allow them to grow a bit before removing them just to let the vine blow off a little steam so that the vines will not exert new excessive energy into the upper shoot growth for the rest of spring. It is all a matter of timing and balance. When to slow down the vine and when to knudge the growth in the right direction. This year should be a challenge.

Along with the suckers, it is time to mow the cover crop. We've kept the weedy looking wild radish, clovers and natural cover crop for awhile longer than we'd normally like, just to soak up some of the extra moisture from the unusually wet soil. This too will help us balance the vine growth for a bit. But not for long, although frost is rarely a worry for our hillside vineyard, the high weeds will lower the temperature near the new shoots to that of near ground level temps. So Tom's off to mow this week, still a little tricky to drive the ATV and mowing unit through the soft wet vineyard, but it has to be done and he's the designated driver this time.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Is it Spring yet?

Welcome to my first entry. This is my attempt to provide an up-close look at our vineyard as it progresses each season. We're just a small winery attempting to make the best Pinot Noir our little Maboroshi vineyard can. Now in its 6th year of growth, that has proved a daunting task this year. It appears spring may never come to our region of Sonoma County. Now in our second consecutive month of overwhelmingly rainy weather, we're beginning to think the earth has shifted and Northern California is on the verge of becoming the new Seattle. But at last, the dormant vines are starting to awaken and the first signs of budbreak have appeared. Let's just hope the sun will muster a bit more courage so these little guys will have a chance to grow.
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primary bud

secondary bud emerges

tertiary bud (3 for 1)