Sugar Testing – Wednesday, September 4, 2013

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38+00:00September 5th, 2013|Grapegrowing, Harvest|

September 4, 2013 – Tzabaco Rancho red grape sugar sampling results:

Merlot – 23.4 B (update: 24.2 B on Saturday – winery test)
Malbec – 19.5 B
Cabernet (winery test) – 20.0 B

We have finished our white grapes…nicely complete before this current heat wave. We are going to see a sugar bump from the heat in our red varieties but I am hoping that we can keep the later varieties Cabernet, Malbec and Petit Verdot on the vine for about another two weeks. The Merlot though is quite close with phenologically ready shoots and seeds…so it will probably be ready sometime this coming week.

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Harvest – 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38+00:00September 4th, 2013|Grapegrowing, Harvest|

Well…what a week!  We started harvesting for our wineries Tuesday, August 27th and harvested almost every morning for our four wineries and home winemakers until the following Tuesday, September 3rd. The fruit looked great and the wineries reported great flavors, sugar and acid levels.

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Sugar Testing – Tuesday, August 20, 2013

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38+00:00August 20th, 2013|Grapegrowing|

August 20, 2013 – Tzabaco Rancho white grape sugar sampling results:

Chardonnay – 23.2 B
Sauvignon blanc – 23.0 B
Viognier – 20.0 B

Nice increase in sugar content over a very hot week last week that could have seen abnormal heat driven sugar increases but didn’t. The weather should be closer to normal average temps this week…so sugar accumulation may slow a bit…not a problem as we have lots of good weather ahead!

Flavors are great…Chardonnay is again smelling like fresh, crisp new apples while the Sauvignon blanc is showing classic Sauv blanc characters. The Viognier is progressing well….the spicy floral notes will start to shine closer to 24 Brix.

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Sugar Testing – Tuesday, August 13, 2013

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38+00:00August 13th, 2013|Grapegrowing|

Today’s white grape sugar sampling results:Chardonnay Cluster

Chardonnay – 21.5 B
Sauvignon blanc – 19.5 B
Viognier – 18.0 B

The weather is warming up this week…so we may see better sugar accumulation as we return to more normal temperatures after the very cool temperatures over the last two weeks.

The picture of the white grape cluster is from our Chardonnay block!

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Pre-Harvest 2013

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38+00:00August 10th, 2013|Grapegrowing|

Welcome to our Pre-Harvest Planning blog post for 2013!

Brian and I look forward to meeting you and sharing our winegrapes with you! To get you ready to experience the vineyard during harvest, we have included a list of links on our website that should help you navigate around the process of getting to Healdsburg, preparing for your visit, crushing and pressing and beginning the process of fermenting these grapes into award winning wine!

Let’s start by reviewing the growing season. This year we had great weather this Spring, during those important days of flowering and fruit development and have a slightly larger than normal crop of winegrapes. With little rain falling during this period, we started our reduced deficit irrigation schedule a bit earlier than normal. Our crew was able to get into the vineyard early to begin shoot thinning and canopy management. We then moved into leaf removal to increase light exposure on just the morning side of the vine rows and are now finishing up final shoot positioning while working to remove errant green clusters as we are at the end of veraison for our red varieties and beyond veraison and into berry softening for our white varieties. Sugar sampling will start next week.

We do have all of our winegrapes available, though some are limited to small amounts for blending.

Chardonnay (very limited)
Sauvignon blanc
Viognier (limited)
Malbec (somewhat limited – just for blending)
Petit Verdot (somewhat limited – just for blending)
Zinfandel (very limited – small amounts only)
Petite Sirah (very limited – very small blending amounts only)

European Grapevine Moth Update: We are OUT of the QUARANTINE ZONE!!! Due to extensive governmental efforts to control the spread of these serious pest, no new insects were found in Sonoma County last year. Only a few zones contiguous to Napa County are still in quarantine.

This means that you may transport our grapes to your own crushing/pressing facility with NO permits or other regulatory issues within California. Federal regulations still exist for sales outside of California which we will address on a case by case basis.


Things to Know Before You Arrive!

Driving Directions

Making Wine – Where Do You Start?

More later! Brian & Janice

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Water Concerns

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38+00:00January 11th, 2013|Grapegrowing|

New Year Vineyard Update: Our crew has been pruning since November and has finished about 85% of our 75 acres of winegrapes. This is definitely earlier than normal due to the lack of rain days that normally stop work in the vineyard. But for those who haven’t heard…we are definitely watching our weather forecasts closely….looking for rain…with 2013 now named the “driest calendar year on record”.

lakesonoma1Check out the Sonoma County Water Agency webpage for more information!

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By |2017-05-19T21:03:38+00:00August 1st, 2012|Grapegrowing|

I can’t believe how long it has been since I last posted! With our wine project, Estate 1856 Wines, rolling along and accumulating gold medals since the wines were released in late 2011, we have been busy making more wine, marketing wine and selling wine. Time just seems to fly when we’re having so much fun!

In the vineyards we had much better weather this Spring when compared to the last couple of years, bloom occurred successfully during great weather and set was closer to normal. The weather pattern in June and July seemed full of warm days and cool nights, with some temperature swings moving from 95 to 55 in just a few hours allowing the vines to rehydrate during the cooler nights.

Merlot at VeraisonThe crew has worked in the vineyard consistently since after budbreak working to guide the canes into our VSP canopies. Luckily, we got an early start with shoot thinning and suckering, so those tasks were completed earlier than normal so that leaf thinning could be started early. The crew is now working their third pass through the vineyard lifting canes that the wind has shifted, removing persistent rootstock suckers, and monitoring our drip emitters for plugs and leakers.

We are now into the second week of veraison with our white grapes beginning to soften and our red grapes beginning to turn color. Wineries are beginning to call with their sampling schedules and we are beginning to bring out our harvest equipment to clean and repair for Harvest 2012!

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Set and Bad Weather

By |2011-07-21T20:05:12+00:00July 21st, 2011|Uncategorized|

The normal process of flowering, set (I’m a berry!) and shatter (Oops! I’m not a berry, I’m falling off now!) can be short and sweet if the weather cooperates or long and frustrating if the weather is excessively cold, excessively hot or excessively wet.

It was excessively wet weather during bloom this year which has affected set which affects yield which affects the amount of fruit that we can sell. It has taken us until now to begin to determine the final tally of losses because it is just too hard to find clusters without having the leaves removed first which we are now doing as part of our efforts to increase light exposure on just the morning side of the vine rows through leaf removal.

Early Assessment Results:

Cabernet – down 25-35%
Zinfandel – down 25% (this may have also been an issue of damaged fruiting buds during the heat wave that specifically damaged Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel vines last year)
Sauvignon blanc – down 25-45%
Sauvignon musque – down 25-45%
Viognier – down 25-45%

Other Varieties (normal or slightly below normal):

Petit verdot
Petite sirah

Unfortunately, I just will not have the abundance of Cabernet to sell that I normally do but there should be enough of other varieties to make everyone happy!

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Passive Frost Protection

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38+00:00April 9th, 2011|Grapegrowing|

I had a great email conversation with our county viticultural advisor, Rhonda Smith, this week about passive frost protection. She is a co-author on a narrated slide presentation called “Passive Frost Protection“. The University of California Cooperative Extension also has several other slide shows on Active Frost Protection, but I was more interested in the passive methods as we live in the Dry Creek Valley “banana belt” and have never used active frost protection methods.

Due to the frost losses that we, along with so many others, experienced in 2008 due to freaky La Nina related Spring frosts, I thought I would revisit this topic as we are in another La Nina weather pattern.

The most intriguing aspect of freezing events is the way air flows from higher to lower areas just like a stream of water. This river of air will flow down hills into valleys, moving around slightly higher valley floor areas, pooling in lower valley floor basins and stopping if impeded by a row of trees, a raised berm, levee or fence. (Image courtesy of Mercy Olmstead, PhD, University of Florida-IFAS)

So, what can one do passively to decrease the chance of freezing injury?

1) Mow the cover crop as low as possible to allow sunlight to reach the ground and warm it during the day. That warmth will be released back into the air at night.

2) Provide as much undisturbed bare earth around the vines as possible. Do not cultivate or disc just before a potential frost. If cultivation is needed follow the disc with a roller then wet thoroughly. No sprinkler system? Then do this when rain is forecast so that the large air spaces that are formed during cultivation are reduced. No compaction (large air spaces) or dry soil decreases the ability of the soil to hold the warmth of the sun.

3) The most interesting thing that I learned this Spring is that 99% of ice nucleation between 23-32F is, in fact, facilitated by bacteria! One could possibly reduce the population of ice-nucleating bacteria before a freeze and reduce the formation of frost and accompanying frost damage by using copper or zinc. It is also possible to introduce a non-ice-nucleating bacteria to out compete the ice-nucleating bacteria. Cover crops are often reservoirs of ice-nucleating bacteria so mowing the cover crop and reducing the vegetation can be helpful.

I will update this blog entry as we move through April to see how our passive frost efforts work!


Week of April 3-9 – Possible cold weather forecasted for the end of the week so all cover crops are mown. Chard, Petite sirah and Petit verdot given their first fungicide application that includes the micronutrient zinc on Friday, the day before a significant frost is forecast.

Week of April 10-16 – a few days in the high 30’s but no frost here!

Week of April 17-23 – no frost forecast due to unsettled, cloudy weather.

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Stop HR 1161!

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38+00:00March 29th, 2011|Current Events|

H.R. 5034 from last year, mockingly called the “Wholesaler Protection Act”, has morphed into H.R. 1161 this year. This bill would restrict the right of the consumer to purchase wine out-of-state and have it shipped to their home. The wholesalers would rather that you purchase your limited wine selections directly from them so that they get a cut of the profits from the sale.

If you would prefer to select your own wine and have the privilege of having it sent directly to your home, write your elected representatives and express your concerns!

Here are a few blogs that have written about this issue and links to their thoughts!

Tom Wark – “The Lies and Fallacies Behind the Wine Bill HR 1161”

Dr. Vino – “HR 1161: The Threat to Wine Shipping, Part II”

Vinography – “Why Every Wine Lover Needs to Call Their Representative in Congress”


ShipCompliant BLOG (Guest Post by Wendell Lee of the Wine Institute)
HR 1161: The Great Constitutional Head Fake

ShipCompliant BLOG (Guest Post by Cary Greene of WineAmerica)
What Scholars Have to Say About the CARE Bill

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