Posts Categorized: Meet Your Grower

Veraison – The Final Haul to Harvest

Veraison: the onset of ripening and the change of color of the grape berries. The term is originally French (véraison), but has been adopted into English use.


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We’ve reached a beautiful turning point here in Dry Creek Valley – veraison. With this change in color, eager winegrowers and winemakers can see the culmination of the previous 9-months transform into the 2016 vintage. Excited to sneak a peek, we asked our vineyard members, Bob & Joyce Littell of Treborce Vineyards if we could come learn more about the process. Treborce Vineyards is home to beautiful gardens, 2 German Shorthaired Pointers (Woody & Dee Dee) and acres of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah that are used in many highly regarded and award winning wines in the industry. To learn more about Treborce Vineyards, you can visit our past interview with them from 2014.

On the tour Bob Littell first stops in his Petite Sirah vineyard, which boasts nearly purple bunches. In comparison to his Zinfandel grapes, they are further ahead in this transformation. More typically, Sauvignon Blanc is the first to greet veraison and the first to be harvested, while Zinfandel takes more time on the vine to develop its rich and deep flavors. In this case, Petite Sirah falls somewhere in the middle.

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Interesting to note though is that some of Littell’s Zinfandel vines, in the same block, for that matter, aren’t all at the same veraison point yet. Some vines are 12% changing and others are well over 75%. There are many factors that contribute to this and growers like Littell go through many tests to see what the vines may be lacking or getting too much of and how to adjust accordingly. Vines seem to have their own unique personality just like the growers and winemakers of Dry Creek Valley.

Veraison doesn’t just affect the color of the grapes, but also the texture and taste. The grapes will get juicier and more voluptuous. And the fruit will get sweeter and more complex. In the vineyard we sampled some grapes, still sour but getting closer to world class wines and worlds different from the green grapes yet to begin the veraison process.

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Littell hopes for a more bountiful harvest this year than last which was about 30% lower than average. The increase in rain was great for vine growth. The 2016 Vintage has so far been a great growing year and has many winemaker’s mouths watering with anticipation. And the winegrowers are gearing up for harvest just around the corner. You can find Treborce Vineyard grapes in many recognized Dry Creek Valley labels such as Wilson Winery and Mauritson Family Vineyards.

Stay tuned. Our next stop – harvest!

Thanks and gratitude to Bob and Joyce Littell for welcoming us into their vineyards and for always being  a wealth of knowledge on all things wine and Dry Creek Valley.

 


In the Vineyard with Richard Rued

In honor of upcoming Father’s Day, we decided to focus our In the Vineyard on a man with deep Dry Creek Valley roots, Richard Rued. On a perfectly sunny and breezy morning in June, we sat down with both him and his wife, Dee, at Rued Winery for an update on their vineyards and a deeper dive into his family’s history.


All About the Family: The Rueds

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Steve (left), Paul (on tractor), Richard (back right), Tom (center) & Tyler (lab) Rued

Richard’s great-grandfather, Henry, first came to Northern California in the late 1800s from Switzerland, and planted grapes in Russian River Valley. Henry moved his entire family here in 1890 to a property in Alexander Valley. Both of these locations had vineyards, but were uprooted during Prohibition to plant mostly apples and prunes. The Alexander Valley property was also a small working dairy ranch and the perfect place to raise the Rued family.

It wasn’t until 1957 that the Rueds bought their first Dry Creek Valley property. Richard had taken this new property as a venture for FFA (Future Farmers of America) in High School by growing the family’s first Dry Creek Valley grapes.

Richard remembers getting off the bus from school and going straight to work on their ranch. It was his responsibility to bring in the sheep – a task that his father, Paul, would help him with in a slightly unconventional way. You see, on their property was a small airport. Paul would take Richard up in a plane to search for wherever the sheep were that day so that Richard could ride his horse directly to the flock and not have to spend hours searching. Richard still remembers the steep ascent fondly as time well spent with his dad.

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Both Richard and his wife, Dee, still live in Dry Creek Valley. They have two sons – Steve & Tom, who were both raised in the Valley and now work in the wine business. Tom works in the vineyards with Richard and Steve is the winemaker for the Rueds’ family label – Rued Winery. The label is relatively new with their first vintage in 2000 with their winery and tasting room opening just 10-years ago in 2006. Their wine is a testament to the family’s history of working the ground for many years and are true to the vineyard the grapes were grown in.

In a world of corporate wine – Richard and Dee believe that it’s just as important as ever to keep family wineries around. They both feel pressure as land values increase. The Rueds feel that small production, family style wine has a better value and tastes more authentic. Dee feels that it’s important for guests to see families with a deep history, someone who is living their passion as a way of means, and has been for years. “Most wineries in Dry Creek, when visitors show up, they can almost always talk to an owner, compared to Napa, where you’ll hardly ever see it,” says Richard. “People seem to enjoy talking to us.”

For more Dry Creek Dad’s – check out our Father’s Day blog!


In the Vineyard

In the Vineyard April to June

In Dry Creek Valley, the Rueds have 70 acres including: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel which according to Richard are seeing a great year so far. This year the vines are really growing due to the increase of water they received during winter and the spring rains. The previous drought years were a means for concern, but this year’s growth is a great sign and gives Richard hope for the 2016 vintage.
“Vines are doing good. They look good!” states Richard. Blooms came a little quick this year, but Rued feels that the timing standard has been consistently inching earlier.  His Chardonnay vineyard, planted in 1990, just behind the tasting room, must be nearly 7-feet tall. Bunches of grapes are full and are starting to get tighter.

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What’s next for these vines? The Rueds are anticipating an early harvest in August, but have fingers crossed for September. For these Sauvginon Blanc & Chardonnay grapes, they are harvested first and earliest in the day. White grapes due better when picked in cooler temperatures.

A very big thank you to Richard and Dee for taking the time to sit and talk with us about their family and vines. It’s members like these that make the Dry Creek Valley rich and rooted in values that we hold near and dear. And a very Happy Father’s Day to all!

For daily updates on all of our Dry Creek Valley wineries and vineyards, follow us on Instagram at @drycreekvalleywines and be sure to like us on Facebook @drycreekvalley to keep up to date on all that’s happening!

 

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In the Vineyard with Rich Mounts

In Mid-March, the rain subsided for a week in our idyllic Dry Creek Valley. We were able to venture out into the vineyards for a chat with, 2nd generation winegrower, Rich Mounts. His vineyards surround Mounts Family Vineyards with 140 acres of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and many specialty Rhone varietals for Mounts’ Verah label.

So what happens in our Dry Creek vineyards in mid-March? A lot more than you think! Here’s what Rich Mounts has been working on.

 

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Pruning
IMG_5976Pruning is a honed and coveted technique among wine growers. There are some who’d debate the “correct” technique for hours and hours. Over the winter vines sprout long vines out that won’t produce high (or any) amounts of wine if left unkempt.

An older technique that Rich goes by, is you prune by the size of the wood. If it’s smaller than a pencil, you’d only leave one spur, smaller than your finger, two, and smaller than thumb, three. But the general rule now is to leave two. Depending on the anticipated weather for the year, you can tailor the sugar content in your grapes at this point. Less spurs, results in higher-sugar wine, but if it’s a hot year and you expect major growth, you can allow for more spurs on your vine.

For the timing of pruning, it’s safe to say that the last vines you prune, will be the later to the harvest party. So many early harvest varietals are pruned first, Sauvignon Blanc, for example and last to prune are Cabernet Sauvignon which tend to come later in the season.

The majority of Rich’s 140 acres of vineyards are pruned. But due to the recent rain, there’s been a slight delay in completion.

 

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For the younger vines, it’s important to go through and prevent leaning of canes which could result in snapping of the vines. After everything has been pruned, Rich and his workers go through and point out weaker canes that need support. It’s time to train these vines how they should grow, and in this case, grower knows best!

 

 

 

 

Bud Break
IMG_5977Happening all over Dry Creek right now is Bud Break! An exciting time as these little bundles turn into the fruit that creates your favorite wines. Each bud contains all of the ingredients in tiny forms — shoots, leaves, and berries, yet to be grapes.  These buds were carefully left in place by pruners, typically two buds on each spur as explained above. Bud break usually happens around April/May, but due to warmer weather in the county, has started as early as March as you can see in these photos.

Fingers crossed an early frost shatters these delicate little wine producers.

 

Cover Crops

IMG_5982In late winter, early spring you’re sure to notice the amazing cover crops adding lush greenery and color to our Dry Creek Valley. But did you know this is a vital part to ensure that our vineyards’ soil contain the perfect nutrients to produce quality wine?

Many vineyards plant bright yellow mustard.  But Mounts is partial to legumes! Rich plants a combination of bell beans, peas, and vetches. Not only do these crops release nitrogen into the soil but they also create great organic material that turns to into basically humus. This improves the structure of the soil. At this time in March you’ll slowly start to see less cover crops as growers and workers are working them down back into the soil as soon as the earth is dry.

 

That’s a brief summary of where our Dry Creek Valley vineyards are now. A big thanks to grower, Rich Mounts, for such a detailed tour of his vineyards and taking time out of his morning. Be sure to check out Mounts Family Winery on your next trip out to Dry Creek Valley for a gorgeous view, delicious wines and authentic Dry Creek Valley history.


 

Grower Speak Defined:
Canes: Canes are the one- or two-year-old branches of the grape plant. They grow as shoots off the main trunk. Vine growers train them to grow horizontally along wire trellises. It is from buds on these canes that the leaves and fruit of the grapevine grow.
Cordons: “arms”, of the grapevine extend from the trunk and are the part where additional arms and eventually leaves and grape clusters extend. The cordons are usually trained along wires as part of a trellis system
Humus: dark, organic material that forms in soil when plant matter decays.
Spur: Spurs are little arms that grow from the cordons. From the spurs grow one-year-old wood, which produces the leaves and grapes.

Dry Creek Valley on Tour – A Picture Perfect Event

Thank you, Los Angeles, for a great event!

The wine was flowing and the food pairings were perfect thanks to food partners: Bob Blumer, Baby Blues BBQ, One World Beef, Cowgirl Creamery and Hog Island Oysters. The event started on the Hog Island Oyster patio where southern California’s world famous weather perfectly complemented the sparkling, white wine and oyster pairings. Winemakers mingled with VIP guests, personally presenting their quintessential white wine for pairing with oysters.

Then, the VIP guests moved inside Lightbox at Smashbox Studios, where Dry Creek Valley icons highlighted their library vintages during the VIP hour, moderated by Dan Dunn. Legends such as Ed Sbragia and Julie Pedroncelli highlighted their library vintage and talked about their history farming in Dry Creek Valley. The food continued with passed trays of Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese as well as Catfish Corndogs, Shrimp “on the Barbie,” Steak Au Poivre bites, and many additional tasty morsels from the combined minds of Bob Blumer and Baby Blues BBQ.  20+ wineries poured their signature varietals with a few surprise vintages for our guests. Partners Ian Blackburn and his WineLA team produced an amazing event that raised almost $5k for TJ Martell, an organization dedicated to funding innovative medical research focused on finding cures for leukemia, cancer and AIDS.

Take a peek at all the fun!

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Guests are welcomed with Steak Au Poivre bites

 

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Bob Blumer in the kitchen with Baby Blues BBQ head chef & One World Beef cooking up the amazing food for this event.

 

The outdoor patio was a perfect place to enjoy Sauvignon Blanc and Oysters.

The outdoor patio was a perfect place to enjoy Sauvignon Blanc and Oysters.

 

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Hog Island Oyster Co. wowed LA audiences with 1,000 fresh oysters to pair with our wineries’ Sauvignon Blanc, Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, and Viognier.

 

 

Bill Frick's wines are frickin' delicious!

Bill Frick’s highlighting his scrumptious Grenache Blanc.

 

Another Shrimp "on the Barbie" mate?

Another Shrimp “on the Barbie” mate?

 

Julie Pedroncelli shows off Pedroncelli's Sauvignon Blanc - perfect for a hot day!

Julie Pedroncelli shows off Pedroncelli’s Sauvignon Blanc – perfect for a hot day!

 

Our camera ready Silent Auction raised a generous amount towards the TJ Martell Foundation.

Our camera ready Silent Auction raised a generous amount towards the TJ Martell Foundation.

 

LA loved our friends at Comstock Wines, Dry Creek Valley's newest unmissable winery!

LA loved our friends at Comstock Wines, Dry Creek Valley’s newest unmissable winery!

 

Guests enjoy a local Bay Area Favorite - Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam

Guests enjoy a local Bay Area Favorite – Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam

 

We can't get enough of Cast Wines epic Petite Sirah

We can’t get enough of Cast Wines epic Petite Sirah

 

Eco-chiq Box Water kept DCV on Tour guests hydrated between wine tastings

Eco-chic Boxed Water kept DCV on Tour guests hydrated between wine tastings

 

February in LA is a fine time for watermelon and grilled chicken, delicious with Dry Creek Valley's Rhone-style white wines and, of course, zinfandel

February in LA is a fine time for watermelon and grilled chicken, delicious with Dry Creek Valley’s Rhone-style white wines and, of course, Zinfandel

 

WineLA's Ian Blackburn toasts with Dry Creek legend Ed Sbragia

WineLA’s Ian Blackburn toasts with Dry Creek legend Ed Sbragia

 

Our friends at Dutcher Crossing welcomed a new family member...to their wine library: a large-format bottle of Dry Creek Valley Reserv Cabernet Sauvignon!

Our friends at Dutcher Crossing welcomed a new family member…to their wine library: a large-format bottle of Dry Creek Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon!

 

Our LA friends know how to party!

Our LA friends know how to party!

 

This made us hungry before we even knew what it was! Chef Bob Blumer and Baby Blues BBQ made pulled pork "snowcones" with wonton wrappers.

This made us hungry before we even knew what it was! Chef Bob Blumer and Baby Blues BBQ made pulled pork “snowcones” with wonton wrappers.

 

Cheers to making new friends in Los Angeles! We love bonding over food and wine. See you all again next year!

Cheers to making new friends in Los Angeles! We love bonding over food and wine. See you all again next year!


Grower Spotlight: Goldschmidt Vineyards

Grower Spotlight: Goldschmidt Vineyards

Goldschmidt vineyards

Goldschmidt Vineyards

Nick Goldschmidt moved from his New Zealand home to Healdsburg in 1990. Says Goldschmidt, “Dry Creek Valley was ideal for us. We can’t be as close to the ocean as we were in New Zealand but at least we have the river. It’s a magic spot.” Twenty-five years later, Goldschmidt has now lived half his life in Sonoma County, though he’s such a world-traveler that one can hardly say “home” is any one place. Goldschmidt grows grapes and makes wine in Sonoma, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, and other locations, as consulting winemaker for dozens of wineries worldwide.

Nick Goldschmidt

Nick Goldschmidt

Though Dry Creek Valley has historically been best-known for its zinfandel, Goldschmidt has long championed the region for its merlot. His Dry Creek Valley vineyard is seven acres, all planted to merlot clone 337. Goldschmidt explains, “The soil is really loam over river gravels. What I find is that there is really good water holding capacity which seems strange for this area but I am a big proponent of not having dehydration in merlot and so this works well. The grapes we pick are fully-ripe with fresh fruit elements and soft tannins.” His Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot–named for one of his three daughters–earned a 92-point score in Wine Enthusiast in 2006, its first year of production.

Goldschmidt at the White House

Goldschmidt at the White House

This year has been a big one for Goldschmidt. The Kiwi got a rare American honor when his wines were served at the White House. The event was even more memorable, since Goldschmidt is an old friend of White House sommelier, Daniel Shanks.  In other honors, Sonoma Magazine spotlighted Goldschmidt in their “Top 100 Wines” issue and included two of his wines among their favorites.

Goldschmidt is a dedicated educator, inspiring other winegrowers in Sonoma and beyond. He is a frequent guest lecturer at UC Davis, Fresno State, and Cal Poly, has written multiple articles for the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, and is a regular speaker at American Society of Viticulture and Enology conferences and at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.

Goldschmidt’s favorite part of globetrotting are the people he encounters. “I get to work with the best winemakers in the world,” he says. As humble as he is generous, Goldschmidt explains, “They hire me to consult but actually I think I learn more from them. It is really fun and working with different cultures is what winemaking is all about.”

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Grower Spotlight: Dane Petersen of Fall Creek Vineyard

Grower Spotlight: Dane Petersen of Fall Creek Vineyard

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Dane Petersen (L) and his son Brad Petersen – Photo courtesy of George Rose

Dane Petersen, owner of Fall Creek Vineyard, sits on the tailgate of his pickup truck, looking out at his field of mustard. “It’s solid yellow,” he says. “In Autumn, we try to coat the ground with a cover crop to prevent erosion. I quit buying commercial seed two years ago, because the wild mustard does a better job of it! The bees just love it.”

Fall Creek Vineyard, located at the northernmost end of West Dry Creek Road, sits on a long, narrow piece of land that borders both Dry Creek and its namesake, Fall Creek. Just half a mile from Lake Sonoma, “It’s just a hair warmer than the rest of Dry Creek Valley, so frost is not really an issue,” says Dane. Of the 37 acres of land; 30 acres are planted with zinfandel, 5 acres are merlot, and 2 acres are cabernet sauvignon. The oldest vines in the vineyard are about 50 years old, and were planted by Dane’s father, Hereward Petersen. The soil in the vineyard is red and rocky alluvial soil that has come down from the hills above over millenia. Seghesio Vineyards purchases Fall Creek Vineyard’s oldest vines.

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Grower Spotlight: Susan Lentz of Mountainview Ranch Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley Vineyard view horizon

View from the top of Mountainview Ranch Vineyard

Grower Spotlight: Susan Lentz of Mountainview Ranch Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley winegrowers work diligently to promote and practice sustainability in their winemaking. Susan Lentz, winegrower and co-owner of Mountainview Ranch Vineyard, has lived in the region for 25 years and has been certified sustainable under the California Sustainable Winegrowers Alliance (CSWA) for the last three years. Lentz took time to share with us a bit about her vineyard, how she came to be a winegrower, and what sustainability entails. (more…)


Interview with a Grape Grower: Bob Littell of Treborce Vineyards

Interview with a Grape Grower: Bob Littell of Treborce Vineyards

Grape Growers and wine vineyard background

Bob and Joyce Littell holding the 2012 Treborce Vineyard Zinfandel from Wilson Winery, Double Gold Winner and Best Zinfandel at the San Francisco International Wine Competiton

Every day, Bob Littell goes for a walk through his Treborce Vineyards and inspects his vines, with pruners on his belt, tape in hand, and his dogs–German shorthaired pointers he rescued–for company. If he sees a problem developing, he can nip it in the bud, literally, or if he wants to keep an eye on a particular vine, he can mark it with colored tape so his vineyard manager and crew know to watch it closely. There’s a constant breeze in the vineyard in the afternoon, so Treborce Zinfandel grapes aren’t as susceptible to some of the challenges posed by the area’s prevalent fog.  Nonetheless, it takes continuous monitoring and hard work year-round to produce top-notch fruit, which is essential to making top-notch wine.

Treborce Vineyards, first planted in 1999, has been producing phenomenal Zinfandel and Petite Sirah grapes ever since. That’s why so many of the wines made from Treborce fruit have won awards. A relatively small property–a mere 10 acres of vines–has made a big impression in the wines of Dry Creek Valley.  We spoke to Mr. Littell about what it’s like to be a grower of wine grapes, his favorite vintages, and his impressions of Dry Creek Valley evolution in the 34 years he’s been there. (more…)