Archive for the ‘Vineyard’ Category


Crush 2011!

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We harvested this last weekend. The birds were causing damage and the fruit flies attacked the damaged fruit, giving sour rot a foothold in the clusters.
Rather than lose all the fruit, I harvested a little early. The sugar was only up to 22.5 Brix for the average, but the berries tasted great, so we picked and crushed.
The net harvest turned out to be much larger than I expected, 625 lbs! This gave us 60 gallons of must (juice and pulp). I let a friend of mine, Ken, have 15 gallons, and I kept the rest. This is the most wine I’ve made at one time, and it’s a bit of a challenge with the small vessels I have.

I’ve been very busy managing the ferment (punch-downs, measurements, additions, etc), so I only had time to add a few photos.
Next weekend, we’ll press the skins and put the wine into the secondary containers. Then, Malo-lactic bacteria is added to reduce the malic acid and stabilize the wine for aging. After that, I’ll put it in the new oak barrel I just bought to finish off.

Just waiting to be picked.

A couple of 22 gallon brutes filled so far.

Dumping into the crusher/destemmer

The numbers came out a little high on acid and pH, but not terrible:


TA=8.2 g/l

Brix = 22.5


Barbera almost ready for harvest

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Here’s some shots of the grapes from this past weekend. The sugar is about 16-18 Brix and the seeds haven’t turned completely brown yet. The acidity is still a bit high also, but they should be ready soon. The birds already thing they’re yummy.



by admin ·

I just noticed the first signs of purple are showing on a few clusters. This means the birds will soon take notice and will start having a picnick. Well, we can’t have that, so tomorrow we put on the bird netting that I bought last year (on special).
I will try to take some photos of the process.


Year 3 in the Vineyard

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The vines are looking good this year and I can see lots of little clusters. I have one vine that’s showing red leaves, which may be due to a phosphorous deficiency.


Pruning Barbera, 2011

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I pruned a little early this year. I wanted to do it before the sap started running, like it did last year. I’ve been told that it doesn’t hurt the vines, but it’s still hard to watch the sap drip on the ground for several days.

This will be the third year of growth for these vines (third leaf). Since I only want to get about half a normal crop, I pruned to 1 bud instead of two.  The hard decision to make was which canes to form spurs from. First, I noticed which canes grew from the bottom of the horizontal arm, or cordon. I wanted to form spurs that were upright, healthy, and spaced approximately 6″ apart. 

The spurs each have one bud, that will each produce 2 or three shoots. In less vigorous varieties, each bud might produce only 1 shoot. Each shoot will produce 2 clusters, so I could potentially get 40 clusters (at .25lb each), or 10lbs per vine. That’s a fairly hefty yield for a 3yrd year vine, so I’ll have to be ready to drop clusters if necessary.

Here’s  a couple of photos showing the end result. The last photo is the mass of canes I removed. Each vine had approximately 2 lbs of canes at the end of the season. I had pruned off maybe a third of this much during the summer, so maybe 3lbs total.

The number of clusters per vine is usually controlled by how many buds are left. If too many buds were allowed to grow, then clusters would have to be dropped later in the year.

According to the 20+20 formula for balanced pruning, I could leave 20 buds for the first lb of canes removed, plus 20 buds for each additional pound. That would say I could leave 60 buds on each vine, but that’s for 4 year old vines and older. A 3 year old vine can support half a normal crop load, but I’m only leaving 10 this year because I’m still learning and following the local wisdom. 4 year old vines are typically left with 2 bud spurs here, which would be 20 buds per vine. This is still low according to the formula, so I may let some extra clusters hang and see how it goes.

Due to our intense sun, not only will 2 shoots grow from each bud, but the buds at the base of the spurs will probably grow also, producing 1-2 shoots. My plan is to let the shoots grow as they may to provide a bit of extra shade, then drop clusters to keep the yield down to around 5 lbs per vine.


Winter in the vineyard

by admin ·

Winter is here in the desert. This means the vines have finally gone dormant and I can rest a bit.
Actually, it means I can get out there and put up the cross-arms and an extra set of catch-wires for next season.
I’ll also add some compost and get the soil ready. Then, I can take a break. In another month or so, I’ll prune and spray some fungicide.
Next year will be the third “leaf” for this vineyard, which means I’ll get a half crop. That’s all I want to burden the vines with this year. The fourth year is when I can let a full crop develop.
What this means in terms of work for me is that I’ll go ahead and let two buds grow from each spur, but I’ll only let one of those produce fruit. This means extra work to go through the vineyard and drop clusters off of half of the shoots, but it also means extra shoots to control some of the vigor and produce a nice thick canopy to help prevent sunburn.
A friend, Chano Aguayo, in California, suggested training the vines to leave lots of shade on the afternoon side, but let the sun in on the morning side. What this means in terms of pruning is that I’ll have to hedge close on the morning side, but let the canes hang over on the afternoon side.


Chano’s Canopy Notes

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I uploaded these for a friend, Chano Aguayo. He runs a vineyard in Sonoma and wanted to share some photo’s with the folks on Winepress.Us and other amateurs. These are photo’s showing different views to help clarify the canopy requirements for shade, dappled light and airflow.
I included Chano’s comments with each photo. Click on each photo to read Chano’s description.


2010 Wine Press

by admin ·

I racked off the two different wines this weekend; here’s the results:

Tempranillo – 13.5 gallon

Carignane – 14 gal

The skins, seeds, etc, all went into the compost heap. We mixed a little straw in with it to keep the smell down ;-).

The Carignane has somewhat of a funky smell. It’s not bad, but it’s very different. The pH is also a bit high. I’ve adjusted it twice, and still can’t get the pH down below 4.1. I think I’ll just have to live with it and the increased sulfite levels. I’m already at 100ppm free SO2, and that could be part of the reason it smells funky.

The Tempranillo is very good. There were lots of small berries this year, giving a high skin/juice ratio. The flavor is already very nice and the acidity is right where it should be. This is a good grape for this area.

I’m hopeful that I’ll have a good crop of my own Barbera next year. It sure will be nice not to have to drive across the state or to a different country to get grapes!


Adventure Harvesting Grapes in Mexico

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My friend, Ken, and I headed down to Mexico to pick up some grapes from a vineyard he knew about down there. He has a beach house in Kino Bay and was very familiar with the area.

Crush season is always hectic, as you just get one variety going in the fermenter, when the next one becomes ready for picking. This was the case for me, as I picked Tempranillo at a vineyard in Vail on Saturday,  brought the grapes home to0 crush and de-stem them,  made the acidity adjustments, sulfite addition, and  the brix and pH measurements. I’m trying to say this was a long day.

Our plan was to head down on Sunday, 8/22, to Ken’s place, where we’d enjoy the ocean and local scenery, get a good night’s sleep,  get up early on Monday to get the grapes, and drive back to Tucson with them to start crushing. Again, it was going to be a long day, but it seemed simple enough.

We had a great trip down and managed to talk to the guy at the vineyard (Cilvano) who was helping us out. Ken said he’d like to get an early start and meet him at around 7. Cilvano had a different idea of “early” and said how about early like 8, or maybe 9, or 10? We agreed to meet at 9:30 the next morning.

Having made the plans, we now were free to enjoy the hot, humid weather. The ocean was as warm as a bath, but at least there was a bit of a breeze late in the evening to make it feel a little cooler.

We got up early the next morning and had a liesurely breakfast,  packed up the car and headed to the vineyard. It was nice and cool in the morning, but I could tell it was going to be a warm one.

On the way out of town, we were stopped by a policeman. He told us the road was out, but we might be able to get around it with our car saying, “posible o posible no”. We drove up and checked it out, and could see that water pooled up on both sides of the road had undercut the road bed, causing it to collapse.  It’s a good thing the first driver to come up on it was able to stop in time. We decided that driving through the deep water was no posible and turned back.

Frustrated, we drove around and tried to find another way around. We followed a thin road out in the soggy desert that returned back to the highway on the same side of the washed out road. We had no choice but to go back into town and wait.

A couple of hours later, we found out that a detour had been made around the damage roadbed, so we headed back and sure enough, there was an off-road detour we could now take that had been cleared out with the help of some heavy equipment. We took the detour and got around the problem area very quickly.

While waiting in town, we had talked to Cilvano to let him know we’d be delayed, but now we were on our way, 2hrs behind schedule and it wasn’t getting any cooler. We saw grapes being loaded into large bins when we arrived, by heavily sweating workers. The Carignane vines there are 40 years old and are heavy producers.

Cilvano and the vineyard manager, Guadalupe, were happy to find us some help to harvest the grapes and we got started. I did notice a pervasive smell of vinegar in the area and asked Guadalupe to let the workers know that we didn’t want any rotten grapes. Vinegar isn’t a problem if you’re making brandy, but it sure matters if you’re making wine.

We asked Guadalupe how late the pickers worked and he told us they would tell him when they were done, saying “no more, because of the heat”!

The grapes were hot and I feared spoiling fast, so we got them loaded quickly and cranked on the AC to try to cool them down. I had an interesting exchange with Guadalupe with my poor Spanish and his slightly better English, but he had no idea that such a thing as frozen carbon dioxide existed.  So, it looked like we were going to have to make a run for the border.

We actually had very little trouble at the inspection stations, but lots of surprised looks. The inspectors would ask where we were from, where we were going, what were we carrying and we’d tell them. Theyd look in a couple of buckets and ask if all the rest were also full of grapes. When we said yes, their eyes would widen and they’d ask whether we wanted them for eating or wine-making. We answered “por Vino”, of course, and they’d smile appreciatively, nod, and tell us to have a nice day. I don’t speak much Spanish, but I know enough to discuss beer and wine.

It took us about 6hrs to make it back to Tucson and we spent the evening sorting, crushing/destemming, and pressing a little to make a rose. It’s all in the fermenters now and working away.  It was a nice weekend adventure, but I am happy we’re done.



2010 Vineyard Photos

by admin ·

This is the second year for the vineyard. I’m very pleased with the way things have turned out so far. The few clusters I harvested have given me an idea on how much I can expect per vine (11-12 lbs) and what kind of acid and sugar levels I might get (24 Brix, 3.7pH, .8TA). This is very good for the low desert. I think Barbera was a good choice in my case.

Here are some photo’s of the vineyard this year. I wish I was a better photographer, but these will have to do :-):



2010 Crush Preparation.

by admin ·

I’m getting everything ready for this year’s crush. I did some work on the old press. The old press pan and basket were in sad shape, so I replaced them. I bought a new basket off e-bay and made a press pan out of a 3″ deep stainless steel pan that I took to a local restaraunt supply store so they could add a spout. This turned out well and I tested the whole thing out last night with the 1/2 gallon of Barbera I got this year from my vines. The press worked fine. The 6-ton jack might be a bit weak, but I don’t have to worry about breaking anything :-).

I’ll post some pictures a little later.

I bought a new crusher/destemmer from St. Pats and am looking forward to using it. It’s all stainless and is supposed to be able to crush 1.5 tons per hour. I’m a little concerned about the large, 1″ diameter holes in the destemmer section, as clusters I get tend to have small berries. I will just have to try it and see how it works.


2009 Wines

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I have three different wines aging currently;  Mourvedre, Tempranillo, and Zinfandel.

The Mourvedre was made from grapes grown by Bob Johnson at Colibri Vineyards. These were plump berries with good flavor and very few blemishes. I  extended maceration on this, pressing after 14 days. I used a combination of D80 and Syrah yeasts, in two batches,  and blended the batches together after completion of malo-lactic fermentation (MLF).  Constant lees stirring helped complete the MLF, and also improved the body. I also added a touch of medium toast French oak from the Barrel Mills infusion spirals. These work great and allow you to easily remove the oak at the exact moment you reach the desired oak level. I may have waited a little long, as the oak is detectable, but the flavors go well with the varietal characteristics  and still allow the wonderful fragrance to come through. I think time will mellow the oak and push it into the background.

The Tempranillo came from Mark Mayberry in Vail, AZ. The berries were a little small, so there was a good skin/juice ratio. I used a D254 yeast on this, and ran it through MLF with a mix of medium toast American and French oak (from infusion spirals). This has good varietal flavor, is beefy and has a good finish. I think this will make a very good wine after aging a bit more to allow the flavors to blend.

The Zinfandel was grown by Peter Lechtenbohmer of Sweet Sunrise Vineyards. This was Peter’s last crop before retiring. The clusters were huge and we got lots of juice from them. I used the same Syrah/D80 batching combination I used on the Mourvedre and innoculated with MLF after pressing.  The infusion spirals seem to help the malo, giving the bacteria a place to hang out, but lees stirring was still necessary. I added Med. American oak spirals to this. The fruitiness still stands out, but there’s a hint of vanilla from the oak.

All together, I’m very happy with the wines this year. I managed to bottle 14 cases this year. They’re currently stacked in my spare bedroom, waiting for shelf space. I need more shelves.

Buying grapes is getting more expensive this year due to frost damage in the Elgin and Willcox vineyards. I look forward to having my own grapes to make wine from. Next year!