From the Ground Up
Happy New Year! Being a busy young man, I’m only starting my 44th year of growing grapes in Santa Barbara County. I am more excited today than I was back then. Tomorrow we have our pruning party. It looks like 33 people have signed up. We expect many good pruners along with a few hackers! The vines forgive easily.
We started pruning on the 6th of December and finished the month with 100 acres pruned. We still have 75% to go. I won’t say that pruning is an art. It’s a job that requires a lot of logic and common sense. If the vines are strong, you leave more buds. If the vines are weak, you leave less. Quality canes and spurs is a must, and they have to fit your trellis system. Vines need to be reduced to 20-50 buds depending on the variety. Most vines now have last year’s growth, which is about 300-500 buds, so you can see it is a selection process. Good pruning = good quality, quantity, and maturity.
2012 Chardonnay: Our Santa Barbara County Chardonnay is our marketplace Chardonnay which complements the Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir. In our 2012 vintage, we changed the flavor profile. It is still stainless steel tank fermented but, in the winemaking process, our goal was to achieve more secondary fermentation, which converts malic acid to lactic acid. The wine went from a crisper style to a softer style by retaining and controlling diacetyl to give more butteriness without the aid of oak. We have introduced this wine into the marketplace, and into a prominent spot on our Tasting Room tasting list. Andy says it’s going over very well and it’s one of his personal favorites. Those great buttery flavors make this style so distinct that it makes me want to add some oak! But we didn’t this time. A very appealing wine at a reasonable price.
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 6: One of my pet wines from my pet vineyard. I remember when Clone 6 was only in my imagination and carried a BV label that sold for $120 when we got the bright idea of having our own Clone 6. That was already 14 years ago! This wine recently received a Gold Medal in the Cabernet Shoot-Out in San Francisco out of 332 wines. Our 2008 won a Gold Medal at the 2013 San Francisco Wine Competition and then promptly sold out. The Clone 6 grapes grow in small bunches with smaller berries that hang sparsely on the stem. A large crop is 2 tons per acre. What helps make this wine so special is that it matures so evenly that there is hardly any variation in the vineyard when we test the fruit. The vines want to mature early and we generally pick it three weeks before our other Cabernets. Future vintages are being aged in new French oak barrels which will add to making this one of the finer Cabernets anywhere.
2009 Queen of Hearts Syrah: With Valentines Day on the horizon, we’ve sent a little something to share with your queen. Our 2009 Syrah was produced from our Syrah Noir and Estrella clones at Los Alamos, and some select Syrah from the Valley View Vineyard. It was aged in oak for 18 months. Remember to share.
Hope there’s a cruise in your future. The wines of vintage 2013 look really spectacular, with some thanks to the weather. But we need a rain dance.