Posts tagged ‘Lightner Vineyard’

Vine/Wine Friday

Changing leaves identify the Mourvedre which is still hanging, guarded by a scarecrow

An interesting week.  After returning from Fleet Week, I got a call telling me they were going to harvest the Syrah first thing Monday morning.  It is ready, is at about 24 Brix with good nutty seeds and mild skins (tannins ripe).  But I was surprised about the haste on Monday morning.  I should not have been.  Just as they were getting in the last of the Syrah, the sky broke open and we got about an inch and a half of rain that lasted until the next morning.  So I was relieved that the Syrah was gone (and with it the Viognier), but I was concerned about the Grenache, Counoise, and Mourvedre that was left.  This was the second significant rainfall in October and this is early rain for us.  The danger is mildew and a ruined harvest.  But Tuesday and Wednesday were warm, sunny, and windy (drying the grapes) so I was hopeful.

Syrah Harvest Before the Rain on Monday

The Rain Monday












I know Jared Brandt from Donkey and Goat was up this weekend so he must have arrived at the same conclusion I did about the Syrah, thus the rush to get it in before the rain.  Then on Thursday we picked the Grenache.  I say we figuratively because Sophie, my trusty golden retriever, and I supervised from the house as I was in the middle of a conference call.  So what is left is the Mourvedre and the Counoise.  Normally we would harvest the Counoise with the Grenache, but it just wasn’t ready yet.  So now we wait on the Mourvedre, which if last year is any indication, it hung until 10 November before we picked it.  For the Mourvedre, it is all about the tannins and right now they are bitter (mouth test).  The Mourvedre is a hardy grape so I have less fear about potential rain although the 10 day forecast doesn’t show any with temperatures in the mid to low 70’s and some 80’s.  Good hanging weather.  The issue now will be birds.  There is only the Mourvedre left so they will focus on them.  I am moving all my scarecrows down there, but it is probably futile.

Starting the Grenache Harvest on Thursday

Grenache Harvest in full swing

Normally after the harvest in each block I give them a good watering, but with the rains, that is not necessary.  It is amazing to see the fall cycle begin in the cover crop as the clover is already pushing up and replacing the dead grass.  It was two years ago last week that I was out in the vineyard restoring some badly eroded areas with seed when I fell and ruptured my patella tendon.  That for me marked the end of my days as a runner.  I guess at my age (almost 66) there will be more milestones like that, but then again, I have so many things to be thankful for (family, friends, and good wine), that I should just feel lucky I have had the life I have had.  Now as fall sets in, we get ready for another rebirth next spring.  Carpe Diem.  Oh one note, Hollys Hill’s Mourvedre Classique 2009 got a 91 in the Wine Spectator.  It has my Mourvedre in it.

Still hanging Counise

New clover pushing up after the rains as we begin another cycle.


Vine/Wine Friday (Saturday Again)

Cover Crop Growth in the Vineyard and Red Clover in the Rows. You can also see the young shoots on the vines. Note if you click on the picture you get a HD photo you can then zoom on.


Vine: We now enter a very fragile time in the vineyard.  Most of the buds are swelling, we have had some bud burst, and leaf out.  And this is when this early growth and the basis for fall’s harvest are are their most fragile state.  Damage can come from two primary factors, bad weather, and bad weather.  These buds and shoots are fragile (am I using this adjective too much?).  You can brush them off.  So they are susceptible to wind and heavy rain/hail damage.  They are also susceptible to frost which is the biggest fear.  My fellow growers at lower elevations have already had some damage due to freezing and damaging of the early shoots.  Because of my elevation and the later budding and leaf out, I escaped that earlier threat, but now I am in the thick of it.

Bud Break on the Syrah

Grape vines push out many buds whose shoots you will have to remove later (thinning) to focus growth and plant nutrients on the best situated shoots.  Now would be the easiest time to start doing that, but you don’t dare because if we do get damage, you want some options.  It would be nice if everything leafed out during one period, but the different varietals have different schedules.  Right now the Syrah is pushing hard (leafing out), along with some of the Grenache.  The Counoise, Viognier, and Mourvedre will push in about a week.  So your vulnerability extends over about a 3-week period.  Right now the 10-day forecast doesn’t indicate a problem, but last year it snowed in late May and damaged some of the shoots.  You worry about it, but there is not a damn thing you can do.  You try to live by the age old wisdom that you should not worry about what you can not control, but you start to understand how the primitives starting believing in gods that controlled their fate.  At least in that leap of faith, there was some measure of perceived control.

One last thing.  As noted in the photo, this is chaos time in the vineyard.  You are just along for the ride.  The grass (cover crop to prevent soil erosion, encourage healthy predators (bugs), and replenish nutrients (clover)) is out of control, and will not be mowed until the seed heads are ready to spread next years seeds for the cover crop which is early June.  The rows (that area directly around the base of the plants along a row) were not sprayed out this year to reduce my use of a herbicide.  So there will be a major job of weed eating each area under and between the plants and around the roses at the end of each row after I mow.  As noted, none of this will be done until the dry season gets in full force and the grass matures and dies.  In the interim it looks like a jungle.  This is hard for a type-A anal retentive farmer.  It increases my intake earlier year’s bounty to establish a “What Me Worry” state.

Leafing out. Note the other buds leafing out also (Syrah)

Wine: Saturday went to Holly’s Hill for their Paella lunch paired with Patriarche, a Grenache Rosé, and nice Mourvedre.  Later we moved over to Sierra Vista for a delightful bottle of Syrah and their magnificent view of the snow capped Sierras.  What amazes me is that with all this wonderful wine and food, so many people who live up here are oblivious to it.  I was getting my haircut and a conversation about wine tasting ensued with the stylist explaining how she and her husband taste in Napa or Sonoma, and have just discovered Amador, yet have never tasted around their home.

It also gave me an insight into how little people know about the wine they drink, so based upon that conversation I am going to leave you with a primer on wine:

  • Color in wine is from the skins.  White wine can be red grapes, but not fermented on their skins.  The best example is Pinot Noir, a favorite red wine, yet the main grape in Champagne
  • Dryness in wine is a reflection of how much sugar is left in a wine.  A dry wine is without any sugar.  Present day rosé is a very dry wine and quite refreshing (acid), but not with the sweetness we associate with sugar of yesterday’s rosé
  • Many people are fooled by the fruitiness of a wine and confuse it with sugar which many fruity wines do not have and yet are described as sweet
  • Rosé is only lightly fermented on their skins to extract only a light color
  • White wines are generally crushed and pressed (removing the skins and seeds, and squeezing the juices out) prior to fermentation and then temperature controlled usually in stainless steel to maintain the fruit flavor and acid
  • Red wines are crushed and fermented with their skins and seeds, and then pressed off for aging in oak.  Some whites are also aged in new oak to impart that oaky flavor some prefer
  • Depending on your taste, oak barrels are used new to impart heavy oak flavors, and older barrels are used to impart much less flavor.  The oak allows the wine to oxidate slightly to improve flavors and mellow tannins.  Note how your big red wine changes in a glass if you let it breath prior to drinking (oxidation)

Last, I want to leave you with the road to Lightner Vineyards and my walk while rehabilitating from hernia surgery.  At the top is a lovely house, where the wine is excellent, the beer is cold, and my slut of a golden retriever will lick you to death.  Carpe Diem

Lower Driveway going up to Lightner Vineyards and another maintenance headache



WTF Friday

Late Spring Again - Friday 8 April 2011 - Another WTF Moment

Well it is still cold, there is snow on the ground, and work is at a virtual stop in the vineyard so I thought I would start a new post, WTF Fridays.  This will not replace Vine/Wine Fridays, but in addition to.  There is just so much material….

  • People are mad as hell that Congress cannot resolve the budget issue.  “Why can’t they just compromise.”  Well if you are paying attention, compromise means the Democrats cave in after already giving away $33 billion in sorely needed spending and abandon woman’s rights.  What did you expect when you elected the neanderthals from the Tea Party who are not about to compromise?  You want compromise don’t elect people who campaign on being radicals and no compromise.  WTF
  • The Beltway media is tripping all over themselves to anoint Paul Ryan and his attack on Medicare as brave.  Of course none of them actually read it or as James Kwak said (The Baseline Scenario). “Gag me.”  The plan is a disaster and the numbers don’t add up.  So, it is brave to show that you will throw out any pile garbage to see if it will stick?  It solves nothing and makes the problem worse and the media is tripping over themselves to kiss Paul Ryan’s ass?  WTF
  • To show how stupid the Beltway media is, if the Democrats agree to a $38 billion cut in programs that benefit the working middle class and poor, they think this is compromise.  Actually it is capitulation.  Compromise would have been getting some new revenue from taxing corporations (reducing loop holes) or the wealthy along with some cuts.  The Tea Party is on its way to defining government for all of us.  This small minority is now in charge of the government.  WTF

Note:  The capitulation of the Democratic Party and President Obama was when they folded on the Bush Tax Cuts.  They opened up the door to all that we are now seeing.  Just another WTF moment from the spineless Democrats.

  • The Tea Party likes to say that the people spoke in 2010 and they are only carrying out their mandate to gut government.   That is not what the people really said.  They said make it better because Obama has not.  When the economy gets much worse due to all these cuts, it will be the Democrats fault right?  WTF
  • Obama and the Democrats are just amazed at the intransigence of the Republicans.  Let’s see, they gave away the farm on every issue they took on, their starting negotiating position was what the Republicans wanted, and the economy did not get better.  Now they are surprised that the Republicans won’t budge.  They created this monster.  WTF
  • The media keeps covering Donald Trump’s birther binge.  What should concern you is that this is nothing but entertainment.  Trump is courting know-nothings in a bid to keep his face on People magazine.  He is a cartoon character out of loony tunes.  But with four-fifths of Republicans now doubting the President’s pedigree, this is really an act of terrorism.  How can people be so unbelievably stupid.  WTF
  • I guess the most telling thing about our media is that they are now all about entertainment, and in that pursuit are dumbing down America.  Prime example is that when they interview, say Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, or some Tea Party Fruit Loop, they don’t challenge the absolute nonsense and misinfornation that is being put out there.  They treat it as though it is serious discourse.  No wonder Americans are so dumb.  Real stories are coming from media sources that are outside the Beltway and have not been co-opted by their own incest with the politicians they are covering.  WTF
  • And for my finale, did you know that if we paid what other industrialized countries pay for health care, which might I add is full coverage for everyone and better results, there would not be a deficit.  But we have to wipe out Medicare and turn everything over to the private sector right?  WTF

When you really look at what the Republicans want to do, and you think it through (a leap of faith assumption for most Americans), it is lunacy, from the birthers, to flow down, to defunding government and transferring wealth to the rich, to expecting things to get better.  You really have to think, WTF.

Wine/Vine Friday (Sunday)

A rainy Sunday Morning in Lightner Vineyards

Vine/Wine: It is raining this morning.  Not a good sign.  Hopefully it will clear up and dry up quickly or we are going to be having a mildew problem.  This is such a difficult year with the long cool/hot cycles and then early rain.  The Syrah with the Viognier was picked last Thursday.  Only got about half of the lower vineyard Syrah (see picture) since the other half was damaged by sunburn (see earlier Wine/Vine Friday).  I actually thought it was too early and the sugars were low at Brix 22.  But the wine makers, Jared and Tracey Brandt from Donkey and Goat, found flavors they liked and felt they were ready. The Grenache and Counoise was decidedly not ready as well as the Mourvedre.

There are tangibles and intangibles in when to harvest.  There is the balance of sugars and acid that are a tangible that you can easily test for.  Then there are the intangibles, intensity of flavors along with the ripeness of the tannins (how bitter they are).   The only way to test for these is by taste. Actually, with a little experience you can do the whole thing by mouth feel, but most vintners like to have the exact numbers.  I can always guess the Brix within a half of a degree (checked with a refractometer), although I have no way to gauge acid in the field to calibrate my mouth.  It’s just a guess.

Abundant Grenache not ready for prime time

Testing for flavors is just a function of how well developed your palate is, and tannins are easy since all you have to do chew the seeds and skins for bitterness.  We all know bitterness when we taste it.

I have heard around the county that many wine makers are finding interesting and well developed flavors in grapes with much lower Brix (sugars) this year, with good acid so they are picking them at these low Brix numbers for this time of year.  Usually we would see Brix around 26-28 at this time of year.  The trend, which I heartily approve, is to reduce the jammy, out of balance flavors of long hanging fruit, and to reduce the alcohol to make the wine more about flavor and complexity than a fruit bomb.  For those of you who love fruit bombs, well to each his own.  I think as your palate matures, one begins to appreciate the complexity of the flavors over giant amounts of fruit and oak.  A rough rule of thumb is to divide the Brix by two to get the alcohol content of the resulting wine.    So we are going to get some lower alcohol wines, which is good because you can drink more, with very good flavors, and probably much more in balance than the fruit bombs.  At least that is the hope.

My concern will be the tannins.  Tannins are those astringent to bitter flavors carried primarily in the seeds and skins.  That is why you don’t taste much in the way of tannins in whites since they are pressed immediately (separated from their skins and seeds) and not fermented with them.  Reds are crushed to release the juices, then fermented on the skins (to extract color, flavor, and tannins), and then pressed.

Well formed bunch of Mourvedre

Tannins add important flavors to wine including structure.  But we have all had a wine that could be referred to as rough where the tannins are just too pronounced and not properly aged.  Great tannins are what I called rounded.  Their flavors are there, but they don’t bite you.  There are many ways of taming tannins.  The age old way in great Cabs was to age them.  French wines were traditionally picked (due to climate) with rough tannins (or unripe tannins) and the best way to handle that was to age to mellow.  As a side benefit, the tannins added in the ability of a wine to age.  Now-a-days there are several techniques to reduce the extraction of tannins including little or no crush and gentle handling of the grapes during harvest, the crush, and fermentation.  Many wines that would not be drinkable early, are today because we grow grapes in climates that allows us to ripen the tannins by a longer hang time.  This longer hang time is possible because we grow them in regions that are cooler and dry so the alcohol (Brix) doesn’t get out of hand until the tannins are nutty and more mellow.  This year is not one of those years so the wine makers are going to have to take this into account. Syrah ready for Harvest

As I mentioned earlier, the Mourvedre and Grenache are still hanging.  The Grenache will be more susceptible to the rain and the resulting mildew.  It just depends on how quickly it dries out.  The Mourvedre is coming along nicely, but their tannins are still quite bitter and it will be several more weeks before they are ready.  So with that I will leave you with my pictures.  Every year is different and every year is an adventure.  Kind of like life in general.

Carpe Diem.

Upper Vineyard Syrah harvested with the Viognier (Rhone Tradition)

Approaching the end of another harvest and another year

So You Want to Grow Grapes Part II – Construction

The End State

In my continuing vacation from politics I will continue my narrative on what it takes to become a grape grower.  I feel in good hands as Frank Rich (After the Massachusetts Massacre)  continued the pressure on the Obama administration to get a spine this Sunday morning.  With mainstream columnists taking up the mantra maybe I can take an extended vacation. Finally!

So on to what it takes to establish a vineyard.  Now you have your piece of property and you know your varietal or varietals, clone or clones, and rootstock.  You should also know your trellis system choice.  This will be based upon your varietal selection and what your area and years of experience tells you what is best for that varietal.  That will impact your construction costs since wire trellis systems (and there are many) are more expensive than simple head training (simple stake). The whole idea of a trellis system is to give the plant the optimal exposure for growing grapes.

There is one more choice you need to make before you start construction and that is your irrigation system.  There are really only two choices, overhead sprinklers, and drip.  This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is more complicated than just picking the most economical system.  Some growers think that sprinklers are better than drip because it gives a larger water pattern and allows better root formation.  They also use overhead water for year round cover crop (grasses between the rows) and frost protection.  The decision about all of this is based upon what you want to accomplish in the field and your budget.  I think sprinklers are grossly wasteful, require expensive water delivery pressure systems, and drip works fine for root development.  I live in California where it rains all the winter and is dry in the summer so I plant an annual cover crop and only have to mow twice a year.  It dies out in the summer and reseeds itself for next fall when the rains come back.

Let the construction begin. Over the last winter is when you were deciding on the varietal, you were also laying out your vineyard.  This means deciding how the rows will run, spacing of the rows, spacing of the plants, designing the zones for watering, and deciding where you will have to terrace in the steep areas.  Once again you need an expert.  Row spacing and clearance at the end of the rows is based upon clearance for your equipment to operate (tractor, forklift, spray equipment, mowing equipment). Don’t kid yourself.  You will at least have a tractor and forklift in the vineyard at harvest. A ton of grapes does weigh a ton.  Spacing of the plants is based upon what has been learned in your area about what is optimal for your varietal in your terroir.  It’s a guess.  Qualitatively what you are looking for is a spacing that stresses the plant to produce quality grapes, but not so close as to weaken the plant through over competition.  But through an advisor or your own wild ass guess, you have a layout plan.

You are going to construct all summer.  First you must clear the property of trees shrubs brush, everything.  In my case that was to clear-cut a forest, use a big Caterpillar to push out the stumps and rough grade the area, ship the logs, and burn the slash.  The last part of this is that once the land is cleared you are going to rip it at least down to 3’.  That means plowing up and turning over 3’ of the topsoil.  Then you will spend endless fun hours moving rocks out of the vineyard or saving them to put in the rows later.

Next is the final grading and contouring, cutting terraces where necessary.  Then a survey crew will come out and layout the rows marking the position of every plant (usually with a plastic straw pushed into the ground).  Once the rows are laid out you can then dig and install your main irrigation piping to supply each row and zone.  Last is to install your deer fence and plant a cover crop to control erosion over the winter.  Then you let the land rest till next year.  In the fall you order your plants because they will be grafted and grown over the winter so they are ready next year.  Having fun yet?  You should have seen the dust clouds.

Okay, year two is when the fun does begin because you will eventually plant real grape plants.  Your cover crop is out of control and you will have to mow and spray out the lines where the plants are to be planted. Now you will install your trellis/stake system. Some growers wait until the plants are in to install their trellis, but I prefer to have everything done so when the plants go in, there are no further disturbances in the vineyard. Once the trellis system is in, you can run all the support wires and string your irrigation lines and install the drips.  Now it is really starting to look like a vineyard, just sans the grape plants.

Finally the great day arrives when the nursery tells you your plants are ready.  This usually happens in early July, when the plants are delivered, inspected by the county, and planted with some fertilizers by a large crew of guys so they can all go in together.  Then you do nothing but water and watch your little bushes grow, until the fall arrives, the plants become dormant, and winter sets in.  By the way this cost between $15,000 to $20,000 and acre.  Are you still there?  Tomorrow, the final step:  Farming big time.

Vine/Wine Friday

VerasionVine: Well the weather has been all over the place with cool almost rainy days last week in the 60s and mid to high 90s this week.  Not exactly an even growing season so this years vintage is going to be very interesting.  Still a lot can happen between now and October, but the fruit is definitely behind with verasion just starting.  Verasion is the turning of the green grapes to red.  See picture.  This in my mind is about two to three weeks late and could portend disaster if we have an early rain or rains.  But that is the dice you roll when you grow up here.  Some years are good, some are spectacular, and some will be washouts.

Verasion, by the way, is nature way of starting the reproduction process.  As the grapes mature they are green and tart (high acid).  The green hides them within the foliage and the tartness (and bitterness from unripe tannins) makes them unpalatable to the birds.  When the seeds within the grape mature to the point where they are ready to be spread, the grape turns nice and deep purple, with the acid decreasing and the sugars increasing.  Then it is bird banquet.  I lose about 10% of my crop to birds.  Of course the birds eat the grapes fly away and leave little droppings here and there, which contain the seeds of a new generation.  As a grape grower, my aim is to disrupt this cycle as best I can.  I use kite birds (kites that fly over the vineyard and look like hawks) and streamers to little effect.

I have been through one cycle of irrigation, using drip lines and leaving them running for about 96 hours to ensure full saturation down to four feet (I use moisture sensors buried at one foot intervals down to four feet in three places in my vineyard).  It is amazing to me how just moving down a couple of rows, the soil characteristics change and the moisture profile is completely different.  I have my vineyard segregated into five watering blocks, but I may have to add a six or seventh block to further micromanage the water to some of my plants.  For those of you who don’t follow my Vine/Wine blog, I use an irrigation technique that allows the soil to almost reach its maximum depletion of moisture before the plant shuts down, and then saturate and repeat.  Studies have shown that the plant gets a little stressed in these cycles and it pushes more flavoids and other good stuff into the berry sensing it may be shutting down.  It decreases production, but increases quality of the grape.

The work in the vineyard, which I have been putting off, is to remove any secondary growth of berries which will not get ripe and just sap the plant of nutrients it could be pushing to the first tier crop.  I will also do some cover (leaf) management to remove some of the cover to expose the berries to the sun.  Other than that, a little hand week control, and as always, gopher patrol, that is about it until harvest.  Right now I am thinking late October, early November, but then maybe I will be surprised.

Wine: Let’s see.  Since I last wrote my brother came to visit and then we went to a wedding.  Since the wedding are more about dancing and joy than food and wine, although both necessary to the joy and dancing (Beer! Helping white boys have rhythm since the Dark Ages), I will describe a very simple but excellent meal I fixed for my brother.

Understand, of course, that he is from Colorado and he thinks they have good food out there, so he was easy to please.  I did have “fresh oysters” out there on my last trip and I almost died.  Fresh out there except for iceberg lettuce, beef (and the really good stuff comes from Nebraska), and cantaloupes, refers to the flying time from the coast.  Okay, I hyperbolize, but except for a few rare surprises, the quality of food is not the same as it is here in California and I am not a bit biased.  Had a great Colorado wine lately?

What I fixed for dinner is immensely simple, but very good.  I went to Whole Foods to find a medium sized sirloin roast that was grass feed.  Getting good flavorful beef is half the battle.  I then marinated it in some Syrah, garlic, Lea and Perrin sauce, and shallot salt.  I cranked up the barbeque and then cooked the meat at the other end of the grill away from the charcoal for about two hours at 275-300° until medium rare.  It does not require watching and that frees you to prepare the other stuff.  For potatoes, I got some small red tomatoes from the farmer’s market and boiled them until they were about half done and still a little hard.  Then you drain the water, cut them in half add a little bit of butter and a lot of olive oil, mix thoroughly with salt and pepper, put them on an aluminum foil tray, and then on the grill off the heat for about 45 minutes to finish cooking and soak up that smoky flavor.

The sauce for the meat (which is cut thin after it comes off the grill) is quite simple and is from the William-Sonoma Sauce Book.  Saute some shallots in a sauce pan in a little butter, add 4 cups meat stock, 1 and 1/2 cup good Syrah, a tablespoon of soy, and about a teaspoon of tomato paste, 1/4 teaspoon of dried Thyme, 1 tablespoon of either beef or veal demi-glaze and then reduce down to about 2 cups (45 minutes).  Thicken with cornstarch/water slurry, and mount with two tablespoons of butter.  It is wonderful.

For a vegetable (fruit, I know), my tomatoes are just getting ripe so there was a plate of fresh sliced tomatoes with a hint of olive oil, salt and pepper.  The salad was a mix of fresh greens including a little arugula, tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with sliced fresh peaches, bleu cheese, and toasted walnuts.  For wine, and there were several, I went with a Rhone blend from Holly’s Hill (2005 Patriarche).  There were others, but that went best with this dinner.  Carpe Diem

Vine/Wine Friday

Vine:   Another week of thinning, now mostly in the Grenache.  I finished these rows which is a relief because the Grenache is a very thick and hearty plant and you really have to dig your way in to see each spur and remove the unwanted shoots.  I am now in the final block of thinning, the Mourvedre, which is considerably easier because the plant is not as thick and it is easier to see what needs to be removed.  The picture above shows the lower vineyard before mowing and final thinning.  Once in a while you break off a keeper and it breaks your heart, but that is life.  I have also been back in the Syrah because it is growing so fast trying to push new growth up through the wires so you don’t end up with a jumbled mess or horizontal growth.  The lower vineyard is more challenging than the upper vineyard because you are always standing on a 45° slope and it just wears you out.  Some of my work was slowed down last week as I really started to feel punk.  I thought it was just old age and too much sun, which is always a possibility, but it turned out to be a tick bite or spider bite which my wife discovered (on my back) which was a little infected.  Once it was cleaned and treated with an antibiotic I started feeling much better. It just goes with the territory of working with nature.  At any rate, I will only have one more week of getting up at 5 am so I can be out by 9am and then it will be manageable.

The other major chore is to mow down the grass/clover in the vineyard and then do a massive weed-eating job to tidy up the vineyard.  The picture on the left shows the upper vineyard after I mowed it.  Most of the grasses and clovers have gown to seed and dried out so it is a good time to cut them down before I am dragging my spraying gear through the vineyard.  It is always a chore to drag out my tow behind deck mower and then get it running since I only use it once a year.  After much cussing and pouring gasoline directing into the air intake of the carburetor, I got it running although in fits and starts, and got the upper vineyard mowed.  This weekend I will tackle the lower vineyard in the evenings when it is not so hot.  Mowing the lower vineyard is a somewhat daunting task as the terraced lower vineyard is very steep so there is a distinct pattern to stay safe.  With 500 #s of mower behind you, you never turn downhill or you may see the mower go by you as you swing around and start down the hill backwards.  More than once, before I learned how to manage the turns and hills, I ended up tittering on the brink of disaster having to gingerly climb off the machine in a precarious position and then use the winch on my ATV to pull into a safe position.  This week, like every week, I think just one more week and then I will be able to relax.  The reality is about June 30 everything is really done and then you just coast to harvest, with some minor thinning and other maintenance.  The picture below shows my trusty ATV with tow behind mower.

Wine:   Last week was our Rock and Rhones event in which four of our wineries in Pleasant Valley (south of HW 50) that grow Rhone Varietals have a pairing of food and wine.  I have written about it in my last several Vine/Wines so I won’t bore you here except to say that the wines were excellent and I now have a good supply for the summer.  Believe it or not, one of my favorite pairings was an El Dorado honey, fennel, ginger & viognier marinated salmon cooked in parchment with a Roussanne/Viognier blend at Narrow Gate, and some goat cheese with a lemon olive oil paired with a Viognier at Miraflores.  I know, I know, whites.  What was I thinking?  There was also a Forest King Boletes Mushroom Tart with spring onions at Sierra Vista with their Mourvedre which was excellent (see a red).  If any of the wineries had live music I would have stayed all day.  The Grenache with a La Clarine Roussette cheese pizza at Holly’s Hill was also excellent.

Tomorrow night, my vineyard advisor and good friend Ron Mansfield is coming over to dinner and I am grilling a leg of lamb.  That will force him to bring over a good Rhone from his cellar and we shall sit on the patio and indulge in slow cooked leg of lamb, roasted potatoes, a nice garden salad with some fresh arugula out of my garden, some artisan bread and olive oil, and a nice southern Rhone, watch the stars come out, and talk vineyard stuff.  Could life be any better.  Carpe Diem.