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Once a year we pick grapes. We call it the harvest. In France it’s the “vendange”, in Italy it’s the “vendemmia”. Every year it’s different, every year it’s the same. The vagaries of weather, rain, drought, hot , cold, wind, hours of sunlight, all change every year. Yet, there’s a sense of repetition, going through the motions. It’s Fall and we’re picking grapes again. Our intrepid crew, armed with pruning shears trudges through the vineyard rows in the darkened early morning hours, lights ablaze and snip, snip, snip, pick off the small compact clusters from our chalk-rock challenged vines. By daybreak yellow picking bins brimming with ripe grapes arrive at the winery and the process continues: hand sorting, destemming, optical sorting of individual berries (1st time this year), and onto tank, yeast innoculation and ultimately finished wines to barrel.
2015 was different in many ways. 4th year of drought, early bud break (vines awaken from dormancy, the beginning of growth), cold snap in May during bloom (which interrupted the delicate flowering phase, greatly reducing yields), earliest harvest on record, small berries (more solids than juice, a great omen for wines of density and full flavor), a 1st time purchase of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from a famous vineyard (to make up for the shortfall of our own reduced crop). This year’s experience reflects the unique micro-climates of our estate mountain vineyards. Bottom line, to be a winemaker you’ve got to love 2 months of sleep deprived babysitting fermenting grapes, stained hands, washing 1000 chemistry beakers, and in general getting down and dirty. Most of us are better off pulling corks and enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Le Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 est arrivé at Adelaida Cellars!
Adelaida Cellars, maker to the only Gamay Beaujolais Nouveau in Paso Robles, is keeping with the French tradition to release the first wine of the 2013 vintage on the 21st, the third Thursday of November. Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine of harvest, drinkable a mere 7-8 weeks after grapes are picked and is a harbinger of the vintage quality. Each year, Adelaida releases the Beaujolais on the third Thursday with a celebratory dinner to follow on Saturday evening.
Nestled in the original HMR Vineyard, Adelaida’s Gamay, is now in its 49th year. True to the nouveau style, this Beaujolais uses a method called carbonic maceration, where grapes are fermented as whole intact berries in a sealed environment and without oxygen. The yeast penetrates the grape skin and acts on the natural sugars in the interior of each grape, producing particularly juicy, exuberant fruity flavors. This year’s vintage exceeds expectations with its focused, crisp-edged strawberry-blueberry notes. Serve slightly chilled and pairs beautifully with Thanksgiving classics of roast turkey and cranberry.
With the Beaujolais release comes the vintage celebration on Saturday, November 23rd at Adelaida Cellars. This year, Guest Chef Donald Wressell will be at the helm. Chef Wressell is the Executive Chef for E. Guittard Chocolates and former Executive Pastry Chef for the Four Seasons, Beverly Hills. He has invited Chef Sherry Yard of Spago fame. He will be presenting his multi-course menu paired with the best of Adelaida wines along with the Beaujolais release. Tickets are $100/ $80 for wine club. 6:00 PM -10:00 PM and available at 805.239.8980. For the menu visit www.adelaida.com/events.
In a continuing effort to enhance the diversity of our existing vineyards, Adelaida has added a new 23 acre parcel this spring. This new planting lies just to the north of our hilltop Anna’s Vineyard on what was fallow land. This new site can be described as 3 distinct fingers radiating in a south facing orientation from a 1900 ft ridge top to a small canyon bottom, at a precarious 25-30 degree angle. In keeping with our sustainable and conservationist approach to farming the new vines are to be dry farmed and head trained.
This planting is divided equally between Grenache, Carignane and a unique intermingling of Zinfandel and Alicante Bouchet. This vine selection is based on our desire to complex our Rhone blend with low yield Carignane, make Grenache a more important player in the winery blends as well as on its own and make a “field blend” of Zinfandel and Alicante Bouchet (a red fleshed grape) a la the pre-prohibition vineyard example. As always, our primary goal as a family winery is to source grapes from our own vineyards, where we can meticulously control all the elements of quality (great grapes equal great wine). We intend to stay small, carefully growing our capacity from the current 15,000 cases to 20,000 cases.
What is involved in planting a new vineyard?
First is site selection. We want south facing, hillside slopes with difficult low yielding soils, all present here. Call your favorite nursery and order 6970 vines, allow 9 months lead time. Next is the hard part, preparing the site. No problem.
Start by building a perimeter deer fence 8 ft. high. Next clear brush from hillside, put in gear our reliable Caterpillar crawler tractors, then grind up organic matter and spread on existing vineyards. Tractors again, pulling 3 ft. shanks “rip” the soil and remove giant limestone boulders, later to be broken with sledge hammers and used for the “Great Wall of Adelaida”.
Dig channels and place irrigation pipelines for each vineyard section (helps with initial watering when vines are just starting and gives us a fallback if soils are too extreme and cannot sustain dry farming approach).
Run temporary lines to each plant location with drip emitters at each vine. With assistance from a surveyor lay out orientation for a dry land vineyard, setting up a 12x12 ft. diagonal grid pattern on an uneven, unlevel piece of ground, 303 vines/acre.
Place stakes every 60 ft. and lay string between to display grid pattern, careful to mark individual vine placements. Dig post holes for each vine, a hand operation, 12-14 inches deep, 6970 times. When vines arrive on the 2nd week in March, place in cold storage. Planting begins in last week of March.
We start by mixing existing soil with compost derived from natural chicken manure, a 75 to 25 ratio, placing vines in pre-prepared holes and gently filling in with soil mixture. Place pressure bombs at various locations within vineyard to monitor soil moisture.
Every day in April recite the “no frost farmer’s” prayer. Again, pray for green shoots to appear in mid April. Maintain adequate moisture throughout summer and remove emitters in fall. Good luck, vines are now on their own, Mother Nature is in charge.