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Showing posts from 2012

"He that has a good harvest must be content with a few thistles." ~ Spanish Proverb

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A quarter ton of Zinfandel grapes were harvested on Monday. It was a very long, hot day, which included a few thistles in the form of bee stings, cuts, and possible heat exhaustion, and despite all the torment the vines suffered throughout the season from the locust and the well break-down, it rallied enough to produce some gorgeous grapes. True, we might have had a half ton or more, had there been enough leaves and canopy left to shelter the grapes from the eight-week heatwave, but the vineyard manager is already out providing them the nutrition they will need to stage a comeback next spring. Until then, it is on its way to becoming wine. The Cab appears to be the next variety that will be picked. The Petite Sirah should be fully ready, but it, too, suffered tremendous leaf loss due tot he locust, and as we all know from our high school chemistry, the photosynthesis, sugar production, and ripening occur because of the leaves. Without them, we're left with sunburned fruit --…

"It is very strange that the years teach us patience - that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting." ~ Elizabeth Taylor

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Harvest is drawing very near. The preparatory "To Do" lists are growing shorter. True, the thought of all the amazing fruit that could have been (had it not been for the locust, the well going out, etc.) continues to reverberate in our heads, so the attempt is made to cancel that long-running tune with reminders to stay focused and get it right with the estimated thousand pounds of fruit we do have.

Aside from an odd-sized barrel or two still to pick up, some Cornelius kegs, barrel racks, etc., a casual observer may wonder what our goals are for this harvest season.

The first goal is to pick at the right numbers. Our new-found chemistry skills should assist in that regard. The second goal is to get all the math and chemistry right during primary fermentation and to let the fermentation take its own course and run until dry. With the gift of early harvest, it is hoped to possibly finish MLF on all wines by the time the cold sets in. These barrels will be topped eac…

"Life was always a matter of waiting for the right moment to act." ~ Paulo Coelho

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9-3-12:  A year of hard work, study, research, persevering through pestilence, and equipment failures will soon come to a conclusion at harvest, but until then, we wait. We wait for the grapes to ripen. We busy ourselves with checking our harvest supply lists, checking our procedures and calculations for harvest, checking the irrigation once more, with berry sampling, taking brix, TA and pH measurements, and yet, the grapes will ripen when they are meant to ripen. A component of success in winemaking is learning when, truly, they are ripe and when nothing more can be accomplished by letting them continue to hang.

A successful winemaker speaking on the subject commented, "You don't pick the grapes when they look pretty; you pick them when they look ugly." Since our grapes passed by the optimal stage of beauty and are well on their way toward ugly, we're assuming that we're inching closer, and yet, the wine with the most developed brix is the Zin, and it'…

"To succeed you must first improve, to improve you must first practice, to practice you must first learn, and to learn you must first fail." ~ William Woo

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8-17-12:  After a year of what seems to be significant setbacks and harvest projections predicting harvest possibly as much as a month early, these ranchers need to dust off their behinds and focus solidly on what's on the horizon. It would be very easy to dwell on the hundreds of pounds of grapes that had to be dropped due to the locust swarm eating all the leaves or the three rows of Zinfandel grapes we may possibly have to drop due to an electrical failure in the well during a heat wave, which saw temperatures rise above 110 for over three weeks.

However, Robert Mondavi's mantra was that the art of winemaking is to be able to make a good wine from the hand you are dealt, whether that be bad weather, no water, electrical failures, pests -- the list is endless. So it is to these greats we look for inspiration when the going gets tough. Also recalled to our mind is the story of Warren Winiarski, the pioneering winemaker at Stag's Leap, who grafted all of his own grapevin…

"It is impossible to win the race unless you venture to run, impossible to win the victory unless you dare to battle.” ~ Richard M. DeVos

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July 5, 2012:  As Gilda Radnor used it say, "It just goes to show, it's always something."

We got past the challenge of winter frosts, snow, hail, etc. We had gorgeous fruit set. This was going to be THE YEAR. The fruit looked gorgeous. We've exponentially improved our winemaking skills -- even have lab equipment and started doing chemistry, for God's sake.

And what happens? Locust. The casual reader may be thinking, "Seriously, are there still locust? Isn't that a bible kind of thing?" Well, this tired rancher is here to tell you that the swarm was either locust or really mean, irked, but well-organized grasshoppers.

We've seen one or two for the last three weeks and were spraying the recommended "friendly" sprays, so as not to disrupt the friendly flora and fauna. That's like treating sepsis with Bactine. When the damage, such as that which occurred in the photo began appearing rapidly yesterday, we got out the bi…

"You can always tell who the pioneers are because they have arrows in their back and are lying face down in the dirt.”

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6-7-12:  The photo really says it all. In this episode, we find the ever-optimistic ranchers driving up the hill, only to wonder why the lawn looked so brown. The Chief had worked so long and hard on the sprinklers last visit. Better get out and look at them ASAP, figure out what the issue is -- ah, but wait, we have our little bag of pinga-pinga fish to put in the trough to eat thousands of pounds of algae. Take a quick detour to the trough, pop those in, and head to the irrigation box. Focus is an amazing thing. When one focuses so intently on one thing, let alone several things simultaneously, the proverbial forrest can be lost due to the trees, which is the way it was explained as to how an experienced rancher, threatened in every coneivable way by rattlesnakes this season, could have nearly stepped on one in the middle of the driveway, but my guess is the pinga-pinga fish distracted him.

Once he assessed the situation, he was quite pleased that an earlier near disaster ha…

"All of the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of yesterday." ~ Proverb

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Everything is in full bloom at the ranch and the year is filled with promise. The vines are bursting forth with growth and getting ready to flower. The olive trees are nearly groaning with the weight of the flowers. For now, the lavender is quiet, but that can only last so long.

While all that is planted is doing its part for this year's harvest, the ranchers are already looking toward harvest and attempting to devise some better grinding appartus to eliminate the nights in blinding rainstorms kicking the olive crushing equipment across the driveway; shoring up winemaking equations that vexed us in the prior year; researching better yeasts; tasting and racking last year's wine and standing watch over it, vowing that it will continue forward on a successfu path.

Along with springtime comes a crush of work -- excuse the pun -- in the vineyard. The Zinyard was rototilled and weeding was done between all vines and all lower shoots were removed. Some clusters were also remov…

An optimist is the human personification of spring ~ Susan J. Bissonette

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When last the ranchers drove off into the sunset, the native grasses were still gray in color and dormancy still dominated the landscape. A mere two weeks later and the temperatures have soared into the 80s, and upon arising yesterday, the occupants were greeted with bud break on the table grapes and on the olive trees. While it gladdens one's heart to see such demonstrations of the resiliency of Springtime, it also recalls to mind last year, when bud break occurred on the table grapes and olives at the end of March, and on April 8th and 9th, snow and hail decimated the newly budded plants and the crop for the year. The joyous weather and hopeful optimism of Spring could cause one to skip happily down the sidewalk, but history reminds one that happily skipping must be tempered with caution, since Mother Nature appears to be the world's great mischief maker.

Be that as it may, after all the skipping down the sidewalk was completed, these ranchers got down to business to co…

"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun." ~ Pablo Picasso"

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The rancho is going solar and will be home of 39 solar panels.   This author has wondered aloud how all those panels will mesh with the quiet majesty of nature at the rancho, but will apparently find out soon, because the engineers will be out to stake out the site over President's Weekend and then the engineering and permitting will begin, with some estimates placing installation as early as March 23rd.  Some coordination and inspection with PG & E will be necessary in order for their approval of said project, at which time, the rancho will be given the go ahead to flip said switch. 

While the ultimate goal was clean energy independence and self-sufficiency, the basic hope is that when we flip a light switch, the lights go on and the well continues to pump water to the house.   Air conditioning in summer would be a close runner up. 

It would be a happy day, indeed, to be able to report that this phase of planning and building at the rancho will conclude the numerous projects …