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Here we are at the start of 2013, with dormant vines, the chill of winter days, and the discussion of what is in store for the year. With new Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub at the helm, we will be sharing his philosophy as he hears the "voice of the Adelaida vineyards."
We will also feature posts, musings, recipes, and vintage updates from production, wine club, national sales, and hospitality too.
Welcome to Adelaida-
As of June 28, a high pressure system has settled on the entire West Coast, and weather experts are forecasting several days of high heat and possibly record-breaking temperatures. With that projection in mind, and with seeds beginning to harden and veraison on the near horizon, we decided to give the plants some water.
While we employ a technique known as deficit irrigation to control shoot growth and increase grape quality, we want to keep the plants alive. Over the next several days we’ll continue to feed the plants enough water to counterbalance evaporative losses.
These early-season high temps are preferable to those that occur late in the season, as the intense heat induces the green grapes to make sunscreen in the skins, which will provide protection throughout the summer.
When the heat recedes we’ll finish our cluster thinning pass, which we began several weeks ago. This involves culling excessive clusters and those on weak shoots with an aim to balance the fruit load to the age of the vine, its size, the size of the canopy, and the size of the shoots.
With the strong belief that the best wines come from the best fruit, we have begun making a series of major investments in all of our vineyards (HMR, Anna’s, Viking, Michael’s and our newly planted vineyard.) Our two key goals are that every bottle of Adelaida wine represents our vineyards and that our farming practices ensure the long-term vitality of the vineyards.
For starters, we are doing away with herbicides. While convenient, cheap, and certainly effective in the short term, herbicides are unnecessary at best and at worst they disturb the natural habitat of beneficial insects, among other things. To combat weeds, we have purchased a cultivator that cuts weeds in the vine rows without harming the plants.
Next, we are looking to build up the soil health by choosing cover crops that match each ranch and each soil type within each ranch. The cover crops will provide nutrients, erosion resistance, and a home for beneficial insects. As part of this program we will introduce organic compost into the vineyard in the winter.
We are taking a closer look at vine nutrition. As the saying goes--and with some caveats--struggling vines make great wine. This adage has its limits, of course. We don’t want to kill the vines, but we also don’t want them fat and happy. So, we will be measuring the vines’ uptake of nutrients at critical points during the growing season—bloom and veraison—to determine whether they require supplemental micronutrients. And we will also be measuring how much water the vines are seeing by using a pressure bomb.
In the spring of 2013 we planted 23 acres of new vines comprising Zinfandel, Alicante Bouchet, Grenache and Carignan. They are on a steep hillside facing south. We will head-train these plants—that is, they will grow up without a trellis-- and we will farm this area without irrigation.
Finally, we have retained Daniel Fischl of Eartrumpet Consulting to help guide us to reach our goals. Daniel is an experienced viticulturist with clients in Australia, China, Italy, Israel and Napa. His current and former clients include Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Bond, Aubert, Peter Michael, and David Abreu.
We’re excited about the way the 2012 wines are developing. While their baby fat is still very much present, the wines reflect in their underlying richness and precision the nearly perfect growing season of the vintage. Not only did warm temperatures return after two consecutively cool years, but yields were up, too.
Rainfall between November and April (when the bulk of the annual precipitation occurs) was slight, especially in contrast to the previous two years, but not critically so, and there was rain into May. We saw budbreak first in our Upper West Block of Pinot noir, followed closely by Syrah and Grenache in Anna’s Vineyard. Budbreak finished in the Lower Viking vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon.
From the end of May into June daytime temperatures were in the 80s and 90s, with occasional spells of heat, which led to even and successful flowering. July temperatures were unusually erratic, with some days in the 70s followed by days that eclipsed 100. Fortunately, the nights were largely cool, which allowed the vines to recover.
The return of seasonably warm days (compared to 2010 and 2011) snapped veraison—the period when the skins soften, sugars accumulate and, in the case of red varietals, color pigments known as anthocyanins are synthesized-- back to its normal schedule.
The heat continued into August, in which we recorded two weeks over 100, but our top-notch vineyard crew stayed on top of thing and metered out enough water to keep the plants transpiring. September was virtually perfect, with warm days and cool nights and only a handful of hot days.
On August 29 we harvested Syrah from Viking Ranch vineyard as our first pick of the year off the estate. From that point on, the action was non-stop for six weeks, as the vineyard and production crews worked tirelessly to bring in fruit at its optimum and process it in time for the next pick. By the time we finished our last estate pick—Picpoul blanc, on October 18—and our last off-site pick—Carignane from Camp 4 in Santa Ynez Valley--we were exhausted but also elated by the vintage’s prospects.