Tag Archives: Pinot noir

Destemmer Only?



Last year we were lucky enough to make our wine at EMTU Vineyards with our friends Chris and John Mason.  They are about 7 miles away so it was difficult to punch down 3 times per day for 10 days and do all the work necessary to make wine.  So this year we decided to invest in some equipment and make the wine at our house.

A few weeks ago I posted a picture of the 160 L bladder press that will handle about 1/2 ton of fermented grapes.  Our latest investment is a destemmer, it separates the berries from the stem by use of an auger and paddles.  We went the Beverage People in Santa Rosa.  They brought these in special just for Pinot Noir home winemakers.  They only had three in stock as they didn’t know who would buy these…they said only winemakers who had French friends that had tasted Burgundy would do it.  But wouldn’t you know, the three all were sold in one week, and one was to us!

Normally for whites and many reds you crush and destem at the same time.  However for Pinot Noir the idea is to destem only and ferment with whole berries.  This is gentler on the berry and will prolong the fermentation since the grape is whole and it will take longer for the yeast to penetrate the berry.  The goal is a more complex flavor profile by retaining the aromatics in the grape longer, or so I have read.  Actually, most of the commercial wineries only destem and then do an inspection on a sorter table to take out any bad berries.

Will have to see how it turns out!


When is Harvest?

Great vine 6-14-13

This is one of the nicer looking vines right now in the vineyard.  Below I put a close-up of the bunches.  You can see in the picture the berries have swelled and the bunch has almost closed up.  Very exciting!  What does this mean for harvest and how can we predict it?

In 2012 we harvested on September 23rd at a bris (sugar content) of 22.8.  This year I would like to be at 23.5 to give an alcohol content of a little under 14% but add more flavor. – add 5 days
– For 2013 our bud break and bloom were 3 weeks early – I don’t have enough information on our vines to tell.
– Our Growing Degree Days are a week ahead of last year – subtract 7 days
– We have 4 times the grapes, but also more than 4 times the foliage as 2012 – subtract 7 days
– We had a dry spring, only 25″ of rain this season vs 45″ last year

So…our new estimate is September 14!!!


bunch 6-14-13

What are Growing Degree Days and why do I care?

top view 6-14-13
Above is a picture of the closest part of the vineyard to the house. This year the vine canopy is at least 80% filled in this area…next year it will be completely full. The 667 which is away from the house is about 40% full. It is amazing to me when I look back at pictures from 2010 to now and see the difference.

What are Growing Degree Days (GDD)?

It is a measure of the amount of warmth needed to grow plants and if you know what your area is rated for you can determine what to plant and specifically what kind of grapes are suitable for your area.

Easy math…GDD = (high temperature plus low temperature)/2 minus 50. An example…here in Sebastopol the normal for this time of year is 80 for a high, 45 for a low. So…((80+45)/2) – 50 = 12.5 You then add those up for each day during the growing season and you get a calculation for your area.  So for our area when you add the days between April 1 and November 1 you get 2350.  Here is how we compare to other areas.

Williamette Valley = 2150 (Pinot contender)
Burgundy France = 2400 (home of great Pinot)
Sonoma = 2350 (we think the best Pinot in the United States)
Napa = 3280 (good for Cabernet)
St. Helena = 2900 (good for Cabernet)
Olympia, WA = 1595 (good for Geoduck clams but on the borderline low for Pinot, perhaps a colder varietal)
Phoenix, AZ – >7500 (good for cactus)
So if you want to grow grapes, find out your average GDD and then see which grape will grow in that climate.

Lastly…how are we doing this year on GDD’s vs the last few years from April 1 to June 15th…or year to date?
2010 564 (very late harvest)
2011 505 (very late harvest)
2012 713 (normal harvest, great grapes)
2013 787 (looks to be an early harvest)



2013 Crop Estimate

morning side


In 2012 I estimated 1300 lbs of Pinot and we picked 1190 on our first harvest!  This year the vines are more mature and we should get roughly 60% of our eventual total, which would be 3 tons.  However, in walking the vineyard the east end is not as vigorous as the west end, so my guess is 2.75 tons.  This will make 193 cases of wine.

Let’s not forget our Sauvignon Blanc which has been getting rave reviews but is very limited.  My guess is we will get 4 cases of “Nonna’s Vineyard”

Lastly, given the warm spring with lack of rain, we will harvest early to mid-September.  I’m hoping September 21st as this is when our friends and relatives said they could come help!

Finding A Winery Partner Since the County won’t let us be One!

JC Winery


This was taken last fall as we were helping our dear friends Bill and Lauren make their Chardonnay at Santa Rosa Junior College.

What does it take to become a winery?  In Sonoma County you have to be zoned correctly and then for a small winery comply with regulations and pay around $6,000, mostly to the county.  Last month we started paperwork to be a winery but found out we are in the wrong zone.  Back to square one.

In order to sell the wine you do make, it has to be made at a bonded and permitted winery.  (Of course, anyone can make 100 gallons per person of wine a year, a law leftover from prohibition, and drink it or give it away to friends.)  So, we are in search of a good match for our organic grapes that can be hand crafted to make the best Pinot Noir possible.

We would like to find a winery that has the following traits:
– is close by
– we like the wine they make
– will give us a good price for our grapes
– will help us make wine  to sell, either as “Custom Crush” or “Alternating Proprietorship”
– values organic grapes
– is fun to work with

Yes, this is a lot to ask, and it is only 3 months until harvest…but once they taste the wine we made last year, all will be good.

And if this does not work…will sell some of these high quality grapes to some nice folks and make more wine on the side for us to enjoy!  Either way is OK…

Stay tuned to see where we end up this year.

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.

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…..so 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!