Monthly Archives: September 2009

Pressing Grapes at EMTU with john and chris mason

IMG_5231Last week we helped our friends John and Chris Mason at EMTU pick Pinot noir at their vineyard in Forestville. Today they were kind enough to let us help them with the pressing of 1/2 ton of grapes and barrel them. We all did 2 barrels, or enough for around 550 bottles.

They are doing their wine in small lots so this is a process they will do a few more times in the next couple of weeks. I hope you can see from the pictures that the wine has a wonderful color and I’m sure will make great wine… should get some of their 2007 Pinot noir when it comes out in a few months as it is very special.IMG_5233

End posts and vine count

IMG_5131What a job! We are almost done having the end posts installed. We had originally planned on having 88 diagonal rows but as it came out we have 84. The others would have been to small for the expense. There is a little tractor that basically pounds the end posts into the ground. I swear you can hear the pounding all the way to downtown Sebastopol. We are hoping we did not get them to close to the fence. 10 feet to turn around on the diagonal and around 15 feet when the row is vertical to a fence or a tree. It will not make much difference in the first few years, but if we decide to have a small tractor, it might be a problem.

Last week we decided to count all of the knives in the ground and see how many plants we will need for the vineyard. Joey and I went up and down every row and found out we had 3138 vines before the end posts went in, hundreds more than we had planned. When the end posts went in we lost a few so I think we will have more than 3100 vines. Anything over 2916 (again, our lucky numbers) will be planted in Chardonnay for our own consumption. With only 200-250 vines we will probably have to go in with one of our neighbors to get a barrel…but it should be enough for 20 cases of good Chardonnay. I just met a couple who are recommending Clones 76 and 96, so have to do more drinking, I mean research, to see what to order.IMG_5163

EMTU Harvest – they seem to have the recipe to grow Pinot

IMG_5231We spent Tuesday morning with John and Chris Mason at their vineyard, EMTU. They grow organic Pinot noir (clones 115 and Pommard) as well as some Merlot. I am now getting information from my class and friends on the Harvest and most places seem to be down 20-40% from last year. But not at EMTU from what we can tell. The fruit was fully formed and has a wonderful taste. They are experimenting this year doing a little at home so we picked about 1/2 a ton with them. Nothing like being out in the vineyard with good friends picking grapes. I’m sure if we had to do it for 8 hours/day for $2/tub we would not have the same feeling.IMG_5233

Highway Stakes

Highway stakesToday we put in the main body of the highway stakes for the vineyard. Because we put the vineyard at an angle, we have to adjust where to put the posts near the edge of the vineyard to get the support the vines need. I have found out that normally the posts are put 18 to 21 feet apart, so in our case with 3.33’ spacing, we put the highway stakes every 6 vines. In the old days you had a large metal can with handles and pounded them in the ground. Now as you can see there is a small tractor that pushes them in and all we have to do is hold them straight and then adjust them later. It took us about 4.5 hours this morning to put in about 500 stakes. The remaining 160 I will put in by hand. Probably a lot more work than the 500 today. Yes, we bent a few. The they guys knew how to straighten most of them out. Oh, the funny picture below was a little adjustment needed on the tractor.

I’ll put a picture in this weekend with all of the posts in the ground. The amazing thing is they all line up in any direction……so cool.

I forgot to mention…as you can see below we took them from the pile near our garage and arranged them in the vineyard. Imagine trying to carry them (10 pounds each, doing 6 at a time) from one end of the land and fill in 1.3 acres and then line them up so the tractor does not run them over, no need to go to the gym.

Friday I’m going to lay out the rest of the highway stakes and start on the 2200 rebar stakes….can’t wait!

Time for Stakes and Posts

steel on truckTomorrow we start putting in the vine stakes, 3” pipe end posts and the rebar for the grape vines. Sounds pretty simple but we have to put in 662 stakes, 176 end posts and 2295 pieces of rebar for the 2916 vines. In addition we are going to start to put in 1200’ of 4 foot deep gopher wire around the vineyard next week. One of the local vineyard managers laughed at us saying gophers will go 7 feet deep.

I found it interesting that the truck load just backed up into the proposed vineyard and dumped it all on the ground. I guess it does not really matter since we are going to be moving it all in the next few days. Amazing how much steel you get for $11K.

steel on land

Who cares about clones, just pick two?

IMG_5048If you have been following the blog you probably realize that Joey and I were trying to be very scientific about picking our Pinot Clones for our vineyard. We will plant these in the spring of 2010 at bare root vines. Here is our funny but true story:

1. We spent an afternoon tasting clones at Lynmar Winery in Graton. Probably tasted 25 different clones in different barrels. A lot of fun and we picked two intense clones that winemakers love…..Swan and Calera.
2. Found out that Swan and Calera are prone to viruses, so we contacted Merry Edwards who is the closest to us and she suggested Mt Eden to go with 667 that was our backup clone.
3. We ordered these in May. Found out last week the nursery forgot to order them and now they are not available from them or another nursery.
4. Called six other nurseries for available rootstock.
5. Talked to the winemaker at Graton Ridge who said clones are over-rated. He was more concerned with sugar content, vine yields, temperature during fermentation and pH. He said to plant what you want and make the best wine you can.
6. Picked another nursery to purchase vines from.
8. Found out today that 115 from this nursery is not certified clean, so we asked our Viticulturist and he said to put Pommard with 667.
9. We are now checking this out and putting in an order next week. Hope it all works out.

Oh…..I won’t go into this but we had also picked different rootstocks….but what comes with these was not what we wanted originally but should work fine. Just have to make sure I don’t water them to much.

So the moral of the story is to just pick clones that grow well in your area and are in wines you like.
Let us know in 4 years if you think we made the right decision.

Harvest Time in Sonoma

IMG_5034What fun we had this weekend. On Sunday we had a little dinner with our neighbors Brian and Anna and some new friends who own small Wineries/Vineyards here in town. John from EMTU and Barbara/Art/Greg and Pat from Graton Ridge. After a nice dinner at our place and a few bottles of wine, we volunteered to help pick grapes. On Monday 9/7 we went to Graton Ridge and spent 3 hours picking the 2009 Pinot noir right next to the winery and tasting room. They had 6 “real” pickers and a few of us volunteers. We harvested 4 tons on 2 acres……not a very good yield and about 1/2 of last year. Next Monday we are going to EMTU for their harvest. He wants us there around 5 am so we can start picking and finish by 11 am before it gets warm. He also said it is incredible to be picking and see the sunrise in the vineyard. I’m going to miss by golf for this, but should be a lot of fun.

Plan B on our vines…..ours will not be available!

IMG_5058I wish this was a picture of our vines growing in a nursery….but we had a disturbing call. On Thursday we found out that the 3000 Pinot Noir vines we were going to plant in the spring are not going to be available from Nova Vines. The graft did not take well on one of the clones and the other clone DID NOT get ordered. OOPS!!! Needless to say, we were not very happy since they already took 2 payments from us. We have three options: find the same vines from another nursery (tried, but one of the clones we wanted is not readily available), change our clone selection to one that is available, or just plant rootstock and hope the grafts in the field work in a year. The only good news is we have now decided to add a few hundred Chardonnay for one barrel… that is easy to get.

Don’t know what we are going to do yet but we don’t have to make a decision immediately, probably have a month or so.

Stay tuned for another round of clone selections. I hope we get to do more barrel tasting!

Laying out the Vineyard – Joey sets the starting place

Layout vineyardOn Thursday we started to lay out the vineyard. It would have been so easy had we put in the vines going east-west….we could have started by the fence and done this ourselves. (OK, maybe not after having seen a crew of 5 spend almost 3 days here on our land and they are not done yet.) Greg wanted to make sure the sunshine was equal on both sides of the row and we wanted a good view from our Dining Room and Deck…..both of these coincidentally made the orientation 40 degrees from north-south. As you can imagine that makes laying out 3000 vines at a spacing of 5 foot rows by 3 1/3 foot vine spacing a little more difficult. Try to imagine a wire with markings at the vine spacings and geometry to get row spacings and you can see this would take a long time. We are hoping that in the next few days they will have it all done and we can count the little plastic knives in the ground to make sure we have enough plants in the spring. We were both a little freaked out now that they have most of them in……it looks like a lot of plants spaced very close together. The picture on the bottom is the first row of knives in the ground.