Tag Archives: red dog

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” – Yogi Berra

Wait! Why am I quoting Yogi in my blog? According to Wikipedia, Berra said this in 1973 when he was managing the New York Mets, and they were 9½ games out of first place. It would seem that their chances of winning a division title were slim and that it would be natural to give up. No, said Berra, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. The Mets rallied to win the division title on the next-to-last day of the season. So the answer is that it has nothing to do with harvesting a vineyard but everything to do with, well, basically not giving up the fight.

It rained at bloom, it’s raining during harvest time. In between the two rains, we worried about mildew and phymposis; now we worry about botrytis (bunch rot) and raisins. We have done everything we can to nurture and protect our little vineyard from harm; from spraying to leafing to mixing up a potion of eye of newt, tongue of frog! Can’t do anything more than wait.

So, in this slack time (harvest is tentatively scheduled for this coming Saturday in the wee hours), I took some pics of our wine cellar. Hope you enjoy!

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Ha ha! Just kiddin’! Would be awesome though not sure I’d put it in the middle of my kitchen floor! And Mom just uttered those immortal words:

“It’s five o’clock somewhere.” – Anonymous (and Mom)


Filed under Pinot Noir, Vineyard

Harvest Cancelled Due to Rain…

You’ve all seen Sideways right? The story of two losers on a weekend lark to wine country in Central Valley, California. The movie that supposedly put pinot noir on the map…hey, any publicity is good! Mom and Dad saw it in a little theater in Sausalito, CA and smuggled in…you guessed it…a bottle of pinot.

Despite the rain, and the pests, and the searing heat, and did I say rain, this is why we do it…a love for the little thin skinned grape that produces such a wonderful wine. Maybe we will pick next week.


"Never understood a single word he said
But I helped him drink his wine.
Yes he always had some mighty fine wine." - 3 Dog Night

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Powdery Mildew, the Big Kahuna

As every farmer knows, for every bit of produce that comes out of the field, there are an equal number (or more) of pests that can bring on their demise. Today we are sulfuring the vineyard to protect against powdery mildew.

Spraying sulfur compounds for powdery mildew must be started on the green clusters early in the season and continue once every 2 to 3 weeks depending on the powdery mildew index. It goes like this:

“After finding powdery mildew, an epidemic will begin when there are 3 consecutive days with 6 or more continuous hours of temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees…” – UC Davis Integrated Pest Management Program.

So a good spray program is essential; that is, every 21 days +/- . This will usually prevent spread of the fungus, but it is also important to monitor between spraying in case the days have to be tweaked a bit.

This picture shows a good case of powdery mildew. We have never seen anything quite like this since we maintain a good spray program. Here are the dates we sprayed: 4/22, 6/8, 7/1, and 7/14. Between 4/22 and 6/8 the weather was to cold for powdery mildew, but other than that you can see it has been 2 to 3 weeks between sprays.

The good new is that once the grapes have gone through verasion (color change), there is too much sugar in them to support the growth of powdery mildew and spraying is no longer needed. (As an aside, the sugar (Brix) is usually 12 degrees or more. Brix is something we will talk about later as we get closer to harvest.)

It has been a long week. Mom and I have dealt with dirt, rocks, propane, and spraying. Time to kick back and relax this weekend…nothing to do but eat, drink, and be merry! Have a good weekend!


Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. – Ann Landers

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It’s a Jungle Out There!

On June 28th we had rain! Rain! Such an unlikely occurrence that we had scheduled a crew to come up and do what is called canopy management. This consists of tucking long vines in the last of the three wires to attempt to keep shadow off the fruit zone as well as tipping any that threatened to fall over the fruit zone, pulling internal laterals which grow inside the fruit zone and also shadow the fruit zone and can prevent good air circulation, and suckering to remove all unwanted growth on the vine. Well, it rained…poured actually. Mom had a cold so she gave up and we went back to the City. Fast forward ten days and the rain had produced so much extra growth that it looked like the Amazon! Below you can see the before and after. It took two full days: yesterday 7 guys worked all day, and today 19 guys worked all day, but the vineyard is all buttoned up now. We will begin watering soon and hope for an early verasion (the grapes change color from green to purple) because approximately 45 days after the beginning of verasion we can expect harvest. It is a pretty good indicator, but there are several things that can get in the way. Let’s not go into that now!

And one last thing that you might be interested in. Remember the Rootstock + Bud = Perfect Marriage post? (You can review by going back a few posts.)

Here are the before and after pictures. For the most part we had success…we estimate at least a 95% take on all the grafts that were done! The budders will return sometime this month to re-bud any failures…and a new block of pinot noir Swan clone is born!

Ok folks…that’s it for today! We are having a Fourth of July redux BBQ tonight and I am going to need to help mom with some of the arrangements. Until next time!

My neighbor has two dogs. One of them says to the other, “Woof!”

The other replies, “Moo!”

The dog is perplexed. “Moo? Why did you say, ‘Moo’?”

The other dog says, “I’m trying to learn a foreign language.” – Morey Amsterdam

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Flowers, Petioles, and Bird Eggs

Today we did maintenance, and not very much of it! Too hot…my kinda dog day afternoon where everything moves at a slower pace and the ground under the big oak is just the right temperature.  We limited our time outside today. On the agenda was followup on the petiole analysis (more on this later), watering 5 baby replants in the established vineyard, and line flushing in the new block. I have already told you all about line flushing (wet and nasty), and watering is watering so we’ll talk about petiole analysis.

Here is what grape-vine flowers look like. Tiny little things (click on the pic for a better view) that determine size and set of the berries on the cluster. Tiny little things that my Mom just happens to be allergic to! (Boy is she out of luck on this one…for a week there cannot be enough kleenex boxes in the house! This year it also corresponded to a nasty cold.)

Every year when the bloom gets to a certain percent, usually 100%, we have to take a random sample (75 to 100) of the petioles in each of the blocks of vines. Petioles are the stem of the leaf and we have to take the sample right across from the first grape cluster on the fruit bearing cane. They are then sent to a lab for analysis and the lab sends back recommendations for additions to the soil or foliage. For all you chemistry people out there, they are checking for N, P, K, Mg, Ca, Na, Fe, Mn, B, Cu, Zn, and NO3. For all you non-chemistry/non-gardener people they are the trace minerals needed for good solid growth.

Here is the assembly line of petioles lined up and ready to go. Notice there are not any leaves, just the stems. They are wrapped in paper so that they get lots of air and don’t mildew. Then they are labeled and sent overnight to the lab in Fresno…the results to come back usually within the week. Then we can adjust our fertilizer and foliar sprays to add anything that is deficient. The package was sent out on Saturday and today we checked on its safe arrival.

We are now sitting in the house, Mom is on the computer and I am waiting patiently for dinner. Just a few minutes ago I showed up expectantly and now begins about 15 minutes of campaigning for dinner. How is it that my food clock is so right on?

Lastly, amid all the sweat and toil and absolute boring repetitiveness of the task of running an “agricultural enterprise” as my good buddy Joe calls it, occasionally you find something that stops you in your tracks. Today while Mom was inspecting some vines, she found a tiny nest and was very surprised to find some tiny residents! These are the small things that make it all worthwhile…that and the good pinot noir that comes out of this vineyard.

Happy  dinner everyone! I am about to enjoy mine!


Did you ever walk into a room and forget why you walked in? I think that is how dogs spend their lives.” – Sue Murphy

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Let’s Talk Irrigation!

The entire vineyard has irrigation lines that hang from a wire under the cordon. Every year Mom has to flush these lines to clear all the nasty things that grow in them and possibly plug the emitters that water each vine. Although watering doesn’t start until sometime in July, we will need to fertilize the vines through this system even before watering starts. Below is a short video on YouTube showing the flush. Dad is featured in the video so that Mom could film it. There are no videos of changing the emitters because Mom is usually mad when she does it.

Click on this link: Flushing Water Lines to see a video of line flushing (watch for the black goop that is flushed out) and hey, if you watch this video through to the end you can see a video of me with two of my best friends, Graciebutt and Annie in Montana a couple of years ago!)

Let’s look at the whole picture.

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The pictures in the slideshow represent the sequence of the operation: Pumphouse, tanks, timer, manifold, emitters, water to vines (and sometimes Mom!). Here is how it works: the pumphouse sits over the well which pumps water into the tanks and when the timer is turned to a specific block of vines it will send water to the manifold which will water the vines in that block through the emitters that may need to be changed and Mom gets wet. (And the knee bone is connected to the hip bone…) There are five blocks of vines and depending on their size are either watered alone or with another smaller block. All together in the mature blocks we have about 6,600 vines. That’s 6600 emitters that need to be checked. There are 115 rows in the mature blocks that need to be flushed. So…that’s all there is to it! Except…

…for the flushing of lines and replacing the emitters. From the manifold there are a series of pipes that lead the water to individual rows of vines, then to the emitters. You can see an emitter in this photo. Imagine trying to change it when the sytem is under pressure! Water flies everywhere! It’s a nasty job, so when Mom is hard at work I usually stay out of the vineyard because she tends to get a little crabby and a lot wet! Her shoes fill with water and she wears protective glasses. She must be crazy!

This picture shows me guarding her wet clothes that she put out in the sun to dry. After all, she may need to put them on tomorrow and finish up the job…I think she got fed up today and went in for a big glass of pinot noir! And now I am resting because it is hard work waiting for Mom to come out of the vineyard to play with me!

“Very good Honey. I knew it was just a matter of time before dogs will take over the world”John Forton (Uncle John)


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Rootstock + Bud = Perfect Marriage!

Briefly, Red Dog Vineyard has four clones of pinot noir planted: Swan, 777, 115, and Pommard. There are many clones of the pinot noir varietal… these four clones were chosen by our winemakers for their ability to convey certain characteristics into the finished wine.

Like varietal clones, there are many rootstocks that can be planted based on soil type, among other things. Last spring we planted 3309 rootstock which was chosen for our specific site on Sonoma Mountain Road because of it grows well in our clay loam soil. It has grown for almost a year to let it develop a good root system in anticipation for grafting and Friday we did just that: 3309 rootstock + Swan clone bud.

The Swan clone budwood has been stored at Grey Creek Viticultural Services since February when it was cut, gathered, and bound in packs of 50 after pruning. The canes are cut so that there are about 8 buds per cane and each cane is about 2 1/2 feet long when it is bundled. Being that the budwood is from our own vineyard, it is called a field selection and comes from the strongest, most balanced vines. It has been stored at this facility at 37 degrees in moist sawdust filled bags to ensure the survival of the buds on each cane.

Here is a rootstock that was planted last spring.  By the time the budders get to each individual plant, the green growth has been removed leaving only the stem. The budders work in pairs, the first budder cuts a groove into the rootstock stem, then cuts a bud off one of the canes that were picked up Thursday from cold storage. He then slips it snugly into the groove. The next budder…

wraps the bud with white tape very snugly to keep it in place. You can see the bud peeking out of the tape. Hopefully in about 4 weeks we will see a little green leaf pop out, the beginning of a nice strong shoot that will eventually become  main trunk of the vine. But we aren’t done yet…

The final stage is enclosing the budded rootstock in a milk carton tube to make a nice warm growing environment and protect it from nibbling rabbits. Then we sit back and hope that all 1460 grafts take. Unfortunately, there are always a few misses and so the remaining budwood was taken back to cold storage until the budders come back to redo any grafts that have not taken.

Whew! It was hard enough to supervise all the work going on in the vineyard today AND patrol the perimeter in search of my nemesis, the dreaded bunny, So instead of blogging, I went to bed early. This morning Dad took me out for breakfast and to run a few errands. Can you say “happy dog”?



“If your dog doesn’t like someone you probably shouldn’t either.” – Unknown

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