Joe’s Winemaking Notes: November 2016

2016 Harvest Behind Us

The last of our 2016 vintage grapes were picked in early October. Whew! We made it! Every grape has been crushed, fermented, and pressed. The smells of fermentation are diminishing, as the wines rest in their barrels and we’ve sent the last grape skin to the compost pile. Since the final day of harvest, over eight inches of rain have fallen on our estate vineyard, and every available barrel has been filled with fresh, beautiful wine. It’s been a wonderful harvest season in Green Valley and Russian River Valley, and we’re being reminded of the potential with every wine we taste. I’ll keep you posted on the progress and character of our wines as they age in barrels, but the quality of the 2016 vintage is already apparent!


Compost Tea
Soil health is extremely important for any crop; and, although grapevines are quite scrappy, we still want to make sure they’re living up to their ultimate potential. Advanced Viticulture, one of our grape growing partners, is testing a new concept in our estate vineyard that might provide benefits to the vines, and ultimately result in even better wine.


Advanced Viticulture has a brewing system for producing compost “tea,” which is injected into the soil through our drip irrigation system. (Pretty good match for this winery, as our “sister” company is The Republic of Tea!) As an alternative to spreading large quantities of compost under the vines, our process takes composted manure and brews it in aerated, nutrient laden water for 24 hours. This produces extremely high populations of beneficial microbes. The following day, this water is directly pumped into the root zone of the vines.


We’ll be tracking the soil microbe populations over the next 12 months, to see if the blocks that received the tea addition respond differently than the non-treated blocks. Also, we’ll monitor nutrient levels and water utilization in the vines. If we see important benefits, this will become a standard part of our viticulture program.

Our ultimate goal, as a sustainably certified vineyard and winery, is to produce the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay possible, by using limited and necessary additions in the vineyard. We’ve already made great strides in reducing irrigation and eliminating use of many chemical sprays. It’s exciting to explore the use of natural products, like the compost tea, to regenerate the vineyard. I’ll let you know about the results of our experiment.

Interns Graduate!
Our 2016 harvest employees, the “Interns,” have left the winery to explore other opportunities in the wine industry and beyond. We had a great crew this year, who helped make sure that the grapes and young wines were given the very best care.

Thank you Alvaro, Anna, Nolan, and Megumi, for all the hard work this year!


Next Year’s Grapes
Even though the last 2016 grapes have only been off the vines for a month, we’re looking ahead to 2017.


In addition to ensuring our vines have stored away the needed reserves for spring growth, we also have interest in what our grower partners are doing to improve the potential of their vineyards. We brought in grapes from 40 different vineyards throughout Sonoma County in 2016! This gives us a great opportunity to see the potential of each corner of the county. We’ll be tasting our young wines with each grower over the next two months, to recognize their successes and determine opportunities for improvement. From Green Valley of Russian River Valley, our home appellation, to Alexander Valley in the north, we aim to locate the best vineyards for each wine – whether it’s a cool climate Syrah or an Un-Oaked Chardonnay!