Thursday, January 24, 2008

Snow on the Foothills!

Oh yes, snow! Have I taken any photos yet? No, but I've been waiting for the clouds to lift high enough to get a good shot. It's just about the same as the photo on our main page of the website, so you get the idea.

Anyway, we were up at Chaine d'Or last Saturday and Sunday pruning. I'm still passionate about this part of grapegrowing and call tell you for certain that pruning these old boys was much different than young vines. (I'll leave out the part about wearing a wrist brace all week and the blisters -- shhh, you're ruining the romance).

It was interesting to go through each plant, see where it was doing very well and where it needed to be retrained or cut so as to inspire new growth. Overall I would say we did great in the ten hours that we put in.

On Saturday we had morning fog which was nice because it can get very hot when you're out there with full exposure and little shade. The sun peeked out around 11:30, then by noon I was cursing it for being so hot and then glad toward the end of the afternoon when we made the lower section and got some shade.

Sunday morning, when we got up, I begged the weather gods for lingering fog so that we weren't working in the heat of the day again at noon with the sun on us. I even dressed in fewer layers anticipating another warm day (no thanks to yahoo or the newspaper on the weather forecast by the way). We got up there and it was foggy alright, but it was also misting, and cold, and a biting wind that kept whipping up the rows.

The sun peeked out for a scant total of about ten minutes over the course of the five hour day, barely enough to warm the surface layer of my thin fleece pullover. It must have been right around 3:15 when I finally yelled at the boss and said we have to stop, it's just too cold to be out here any longer. The wind was whipping up even harder and it was sprinkling on us off and on.

I kept saying it felt and smelled like snow. Like when you're on the lift at the ski resort and the next storm is about to hit, you can smell it. The air has that crisp edge to it. I felt it, in my bones.

On Monday we headed "over the hill" to Boulder Creek and got bits of hail and heavy downpours of rain. By the time we got to Highway 9 it was a full snow storm at the summit. I knew it!

We got home, Paul got a roaring toasty fire going for us and we spent some time chatting about the next round of vines to prune. I'll be sure to dress more appropriately and keep my mouth shut since I'm certain now the weather gods were listening.


Friday, January 18, 2008

A Passion for Pruning

My favorite job in the vineyard happens but once per year - pruning. And let me tell you what, with the new vineyards we've agreed to manage this year, I'm up to my eyeballs in pruning. I may have to reassess how I really feel about pruning after this January.

This kind of ties in to the initial romance of being winemakers and grapegrowers. Picture if you will a quiet tranquil morning, walking row after row of vines across from the love of your life, chattering all along the way, discussing each plant and how to shape it for optimal fruiting, all at a leisurely pace. Then you stop for lunch, a picnic in the vineyard, with nothing but the birds chirping and a light breeze rustling the tree branches overhead. That was Year One.

Fast forward to last weekend: Crazy madness, six of us this time, no leisurely walks through the rows, no chatter or banter or lingering over the plants. It's quick faced paced decision making because this is just one acre and there are 13 more to go, all before the end of the month. Oh yeah, and that picnic, a thing of the past, it was more like burgers and fries horked down well past lunchtime because we were so hungry!

Regardless of the pace and the fact that I no longer get to greet each plant anymore, I'm still very much enamored with this part of being a grapegrower.

I'm taking the camera with us this weekend and will get some photos posted up shortly.

Vineyards that we've already pruned:
Crimson Clover (cabernet in Morgan Hill)
Harrison (syrah Los Altos)
Elandrich (various, Portola Valley)

Upcoming vineyards:
Chaine d'Or (chardonnay and cabernet, Woodside)
Woodruff (chardonnay and pinot noir, Corralitos)
Llama Vnyd (merlot, Bonny Doon)
Ottigurr (various, Santa Clara County)

Monday, January 14, 2008

How many hours do you work?

I read an interesting little quote in Rolling Stone. A scientist was asked the question: "How many hours do you work?" His answer: "All of them".

I've stolen that quote and I'm using it now when people ask how we get everything done we need to get done. Even working 'all of them' I get behind in things I need to do. Documents that need to get written, updates to our website, and writing blogs.

I was really encouraged though this past weekend in getting caught up a bit more. Daniel and Jerry who have proven so helpful in the vineyards and winery, got their first exposure to pruning this past weekend. They did an amazing job, and we're now a week ahead of schedule. I feel like I've got a top flight crew now, and their growing experience in the vineyards should make it easier to shift some of those work hours to other work tasks.

Not that Stefania and I didn't spend many hours pruning vines this weekend, we did. And I replaced broken trellis and made repairs, but we don't have to spend all the working time doing that. There should be more time for other tasks now.