Texas Roadtrip Hightlights Wines from Dry Creek Valley

 Nice Review by Andrew Chalk of CRAVEdfw of a Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley roadtrip to Texas that our wine brand Estate 1856 participated in!


As well as Zinfandel, Dry Creek excels at Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. These grape varieties were on show too. The variety of grapes is the product of the diverse terroir in the area. Although only about 16 miles long and two miles wide (anchored by lake Sonoma in the north and and Dry Creek and the Russian River in the south) there are three distinct territorial characters in Dry Creek Valley: the hillsides, benchland, and valley floor. Sauvignon Blanc thrives on the valley floor due to the mineral-rich sandy loam soil. Cabernet Sauvignon is especially suited to the benchlands, due to the clay loam that predominates. Zinfandel, with 2,400 of the 9,000 planted acres of vines, is grown on the hillsides where igneous, gravelly soils are found.

Estate 1856 may be a winery, it may be a skunkworks*, but their 55-case production 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is all dark fruit, spices and 100% French oak. This wine is  97% cabernet Sauvignon……with the rest comprised of Petit Verdot. Likely to age for a decade.

Hopefully one result of their visit will be more retail distribution of their wines. If they are not findable, order direct from the winery web site. Dry Creek makes exceptional wines that will add considerably to your wine enjoyment.

*A skunkworks is a group of people who, in order to achieve unusual results, work on a project in a way that is outside the usual rules. A skunkworks is often a small team that assumes or is given responsibility for developing something in a short time with minimal management constraints. Typically, a skunkworks has a small number of members in order to reduce communications overhead. A skunkworks is sometimes used to spearhead a product design that thereafter will be developed according to the usual process. A skunkworks project may be secret. Definition provided by the online Urban Dictionary!

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38-07:00June 7th, 2014|Wine Tasting & Reviews|Comments Off on Texas Roadtrip Hightlights Wines from Dry Creek Valley

Passive Frost Protection

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.

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38-07:00April 9th, 2011|Grapegrowing|Comments Off on Passive Frost Protection

2011 Grapevine Growth Begins with Budbreak

Budbreak (or budburst), is best described by using the BBCH-scale. This scale, is one of several that defines the phenological development (growth) of winegrapes, has assigned 2 digit codes and descriptions for every growth stage. These begin at 00 (dormancy) to 11 (first leaf unfolded) to 61 (beginning of flowering) to 89 (berries ripe for harvest) and ending at 99 (all leaves have fallen off the vine in late fall).

Budbreak occurs over a number of days – the length of this growth stage is determined by the variety, location and weather. Here are some of our own pictures to explain the stages of budbreak:

Growth Stage – Sprouting – Code 05 – brown “wool” clearly visible
Growth Stage – Sprouting – Code 07 – beginning of budbreak – green shoot tips just visible
Growth Stage – Sprouting – Code 09 – budbreak – green shoot tips clearly visible
Growth Stage – Sprouting – Code 09 – budbreak – green shoot tips slightly opened
Growth Stage – Leaf Development – some leaves unfolded

We will be adding the budbreak information from this year as it happens! Here is the information we have so far:

2009-2011 Budbreak by Variety
Chardonnay Viognier Malbec Cabernet
2009 March 15-21 March 22-28 March 29-April 4 April 5-11
2010 March 7-13 March 21-27 March 28-April 3 April 4-14
2011 March 19-28 March 26-April 2 April 4-11 April 7-16

2011 Order of Budbreak by Varietal:

Petite sirah
Petit verdot
Sauvignon musque
Sauvignon blanc

This Spring has been an interesting mix of really warm and really cold weather that has definitely affected budbreak. It warmed as Chardonnay was in the middle of budbreak hastening that process while also encouraging the Petite sirah, Petit verdot and Viognier. Then it got quite cold and has stalled the rest of the varieties as the buds struggle to open. Another interesting year!

By |2017-05-19T21:03:38-07:00March 28th, 2011|Grapegrowing|Comments Off on 2011 Grapevine Growth Begins with Budbreak
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