Wine Country

Grafting Pinot Noir

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

A fascinating thing happened in our backyard last week – at least it was fascinating for us.  Matt and I have a hobby vineyard on our back hill that we’ve mentioned before – those 100 vines can produce up to 25 cases of wine.  We’ve experienced two unfortunate harvest years in a row so we decided to make a change to the varietal of wine that we grow.  Here’s why.       

The sugar content of grapes determine their ripeness and it is the key component that influences the future wine.  Weather is the primary factor in growing grapes, we always hope for wet winters, hot summer days with cool evenings, and a dry fall before the grapes are harvested.  For the last two years, we’ve been unable to get the Petite Syrah’s sugar levels high enough to make wine because the varietal doesn’t ripen until late October.  We’ve also been savaged by critters who raid the fruit in October as a source of food, recalled by Matt’s woeful harvest story of 2010.  

After consulting with local experts and winemakers, we came to the conclusion we’d be better off if those 100 vines were Pinot Noir grapes (most commonly grown in our terroir) and not the Petite Syrah we planted twelve years ago because they ripen an entire month earlier, and are also the most commonly grown grape within 25 miles. 

So what’s a winemaker to do to solve this agricultural dilemma?  It’s a process called grafting, and it’s an old technique that allows us to change the variety of the grapes without the expense of replanting, and a loss of only one year’s crop.  Grafting only costs $1 per plant (plus labor) and at such an affordable rate, it was worth the process.  It takes someone with knowledge to do it, so we hired Miguel with his 12 years of grafting experience who came highly recommended.     

The first step was hard to take, he cut down all our green grapevine leaves within an hour leaving big piles of beautiful branches down the rows and across the yard, and then cut the trunks down to 3’ tall, leaving the scene feeling rather naked, for lack of a better word.

trim all vines

  

The next step was the actual grafting process which requires what’s called “scion” wood, that comes from the mother Pinot Noir canes that are collected for this purpose the season before.  We’ve been planning this transformation since our disappointing lack of a harvest last fall, so we planned ahead with a winemaker we consult with every year during the crush, and secured some healthy Pinot Noir stems which were kept in cold storage for many months in anticipation of grafting.     

Scion canes are dormant branches that are kept in cold refrigeration after they’re cut in winter.  Each piece of scion wood provides several buds for grafting, here’s a look at one used by Miguel – he looks for the buds that will successfully become new branches.

pinot noir scion cane

 

All canes are kept moist in a carpenter’s box as the grafter moves from vine to vine grafting the new variety. 

keep vines moist in carpenter box

 

Here is how this is done up close.  First he trims back the bark in the section where the vine will be grafted. 

strip bark

 

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Wine Country Gourmet Giveaway

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Hi friends, happy only one week till Christmas!!  I’m feeling the spirit of giving, so it’s time for my annual WC giveaway, this one includes some gourmet treats from the region, plus something special (and handmade) from me!  The following goodies have all been carefully wrapped and packaged and they’re awaiting shipment via USPS to the address of one lucky winner. 

I pick up these gourmet treats when we tour the local wineries, and today I’m giving away a box of some of my favorites. We love nearby Viansa (mentioned here) in Sonoma which specializes in Italian varietal and blends. Truffle honey and lemon vinaigrette plus chardonnay strawberry peach preserve are included in the box.

My most favorite balsamic vinegar on the planet comes from the famous girl & the fig, and it’s paired with the apricot fig chutney, delicious as a spread.  For your summer BBQ, also included are both a spicy zinfandel and herbed cabernet marinades. And yes, I’m parting with my baby cutting board (full deets here) which is the perfect size for presenting a mini wheel of brie or a favorite artisan cheese, and also this great 2011 Food & Wine guide to the wine scene ~ it will tip you off on all the best wines to buy plus offers some basic things to know about different grapes, blends, and varietals. 

wine country giveaway

Eligibility to win the Wine Country Gourmet gift box . . .

1) Leave one comment telling me your favorite gift to give this season. That’s it!

One winner, US only, chosen at random.  Giveaway ends Sunday December 18, 2011 at 8 p.m PST.  By entering this giveaway you agree to this site’s giveaway policy and Official Rules of Entry.

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

Congratulations to:  #409 BJ at Sweet Nothings!

Cong.

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Perfect Country Days

Monday, October 17th, 2011

The in-laws came for a visit this past weekend. My MIL brought her homemade lasagna which was the beginning for me. The beginning of a two day relaxation coma which I just awoke from this very morning. 

The thing I love the most about having out of town visitors is how they force me to get out of my paint splattered yoga pants and head out into the nearby countryside to adventure and explore. Our visitors couldn’t have come at a better time, October in this region is simply divine. 

pumpkins on table cg

 

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