Tag Archives: swan

Rain, rain, go away…

Yikes! Big storm in the forecast for Weds. That is not a good thing when you still have grapes hanging in the vineyard! Looks like we will be harvesting the Pommard, 115, and 777 on Tuesday morning just in the nick of time. The guys will show up at around 3:30 in the morning with headlamps and picking bins. It’s fun, but that is another post. Right now we have to be concerned with the Swan which needs more hang time before it can be picked…which means it has to weather the storm. Yesterday Mom and Miguel spent the day leafing that block which looks like this now:

Notice that all those lovely leaves that we left on the vine to prevent sunburn on the grapes are now laying on the ground. (The best laid plans…) As it turns out, with the storm coming in we now want to denude the vines of all leaves in the fruit zone so that after the storm the clusters will get good sun and air flow so that they dry out completely, hopefully preventing rot.  Great… Rot… I am not even going to go there. It also turns out that Mom hates this job even more than changing emitters. Said it made her crazy. Plugged into her favorite tunes on her iPod and she still can’t focus…that’s my Mom. She was good for about 8 rows and then went into the house to cook dinner.

And what a dinner it was! Mom’s friend Kris from high school in Greenville, MI, her hubby Dan, daughter Chris and her hubby Mark were joined last minute by our Talisman winemaker Scott and his wife Marta. Lively conversation, good food and wine and since they were all dog people I got tons of pets and belly rubs! This morning Mom and I stayed in bed until almost eight! Now she is thinking about going shopping…so much for vineyard work.

As for me, I came downstairs this morning, had breakfast and a pit stop outside and then promptly went back up to bed. Since it looks like there won’t be any vineyard work this morning I might as well get some beauty sleep. Harvest in two days! I will need the extra rest!


I Love You!


Filed under Food, Pinot Noir, Vineyard


Brix (bricks): “Relative density scale used in the sugar and winemaking industry, it indicates the percent of cane sugar (sucrose) by weight (grams per 100 milliliter of water) in a solution or juice of unfermented grapes in degrees Brix (°Bx). One °Bx equals one percent (so, if grapes are picked at 20 degrees Brix they consist of 20% sugar) and, in winemaking, the alcohol concentration of the finished wine is estimated to be 0.55 times the °Bx of the grape juice.”     ’nuff said.

I know you have all seen this picture before:

That’s because at this stage of the game there are very few changes in the vineyard and not too many tasks to do except an occasional watering. What we get to do now is sit and wait until the grapes are judged ready to harvest. Presently we are at around 22 degrees Brix, and we will pick our grapes at around 23 degrees Brix. However, as luck would have it, that is not the only consideration. Around the same time that the sugar content of the grapes rise, the winemakers are also looking for well-developed seeds where the pulp of the grape has pulled away from the seed leaving it brown and crunchy. And of course the winemakers are looking for flavors that are full and ripe. As we move into October and the days get shorter there are a couple of roadblocks that can derail the project. (No big surprise there!)  As we all know, most plants react to shorter days by shutting down and preparing for dormancy…it is no different in the vineyard. Once a vineyard has shut down, the ripening process is pretty much done so it is a race to get the clusters off the vines. Rain…did I mention rain? Rain goes hand in hand with rot. The vineyard has already been “blessed” with a small shower last Sunday, with the possibility of a few more next week. But in the midst of our Northern California Indian summer the days will remain warm enough to hopefully bump up the ripening process. Just a few more days to the finish…we are estimating 10 days to 2 weeks until harvest! Keep your fingers crossed!!!


Wow! Did I have a great time in Big Sky Country! The highlight was a big hike to a mountain lake for lunch and a little fishing. It was also such a treat to spend time with my buddies, Gracie, Annie, Rambo (even though he was a bit too amorous for my taste), and their people Joe and Beth, Bill and Dottie, and Roger. Many thanks again to Joe and Beth for their hospitality!

Love and kisses, Honey

“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.” ― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

P.S.  Those aren’t big bees nests, they are charcoal kilns!

“The Canyon Creek kilns produced charcoal needed to smelt ore at Glendale. These kilns today, are partially preserved and protected by State Park Officials for future historical enjoyment.”

 – http://glendalemontana.com/Artifacts%20from%20Glendale%20Montana.htm#


Filed under Fly fishing, Pinot Noir, Vineyard


time for cider and doughnuts, harvest (we hope) and fly fishing! Mom’s niece Melissa, who is pregnant is taking care of the cider and doughnuts for the moment (wink), harvest is churning along as we patiently wait for ripening of our grapes and Dad is on his yearly fly fishing expedition with his friend Will from school days at U of M and a couple of Will’s buddies from Ann Arbor. This time they are in Yellowstone. Mom got this email this morning:

“We got into the park yesterday afternoon and fished the Lamar, but got skunked.   Going to do a hike up the Lamar today a few miles off the road to hopefully get away from the crowds.  Still a fair number of people here, altho’ it is the weekend.  Weather is beautiful–high 70’s–and lots of hoppers when you walk through the meadows.   It’s the bug of choice per the fly shop people, but I guess the trout in the Lamar didn’t get the memo.
We hiked about a mile to the Lamar across a rolling meadow from the road.  Coming back there was a herd of 10 antelope that kept slightly ahead of us but didn’t completely spook.  Paul was a ways behind Will and I, and could see up a bluff that we were coming up and spotted a wolf!  Very disappointed that I didn’t get to see it. Shortly after that,  while we were getting out of our waders, a ranger showed up with a tracking antenna and told us it was a young male that had a collar on.  He could track it in the hills across the road but we couldn’t spot it.   Saw lots of buffalo and elk on the drive back at dusk.  This place is friggin beautiful!
Give the little missus a good belly rub for me and I send you a telepathic kiss!   T
Yesterday she received this email from Graciebutt’s Dad. Joe and Beth are staying at a place on the Big Hole in Montana.

“A big hole has sucked the water out of the Big Hole! This is lowest I have ever seen it. The big run off from the giant snow melt washed away at least five feet of bank behind the private home on the back 40. Wading was much easier. There are actually more holes to fish this year. 
I hooked three on a #12 attractor pattern. The bug of choice remains the parachute Adams. I hooked several small fish on it. Beth caught two. We did not even put on a nymph today. Geoge says a size #14 Bead Head Prince is the way to go.

We did land a big brown today. A buck hit the attractor at the end of the riffle. My guess is he went 18 inches. If someone will bring a tape we can measure Beth’s net.  The fish had to bend to get it in. 

The weather is….in a word….beautiful. Near 78 degrees. 

No moose sightings as of 3:30 MDT. We did see a Bald Eagle fly up the channel late yesterday evening. More deer than you would care to count. No antelope on the property yet but we saw a ton on the way up from Dillon yesterday. 

Well, time to check out the upper 40.” 

Sounds like they are all having a really good time. As for me, I got breakfast but no belly rub yet. Now we have to go check the emitters in the vineyard. Each block is getting a 10 hour deep watering. Sometimes the emitters get clogged with iron and other mysterious goo. This is the job Mom loves the most. She gets all wet and crabby. Oh well…maybe I will get a big belly rub later.

So as we head off into the vineyard I will keep one image in my mind. Graciebutt, Annie, and me in Montana! Love, Honey


Filed under Fly fishing, Pinot Noir, Vineyard


Need I say more?

While Mom and Dad slipped off to Michigan last week for a family gig, the grapes metamorphosed into beautiful, plump, purple berries! We still have a long way to go as harvest usually occurs about 45 days after verasion. That will put us into October again this year…too late to be harvesting grapes as we move into possible rains and stalled flavors due to the long hang time late in the year. Mom and I are at the ranch through Labor Day as we prepare to fertigate the rest of the vineyard, pull more laterals from the fruiting zone, trim and tuck canopy, and generally fuss over every little thing possible. Today we will pre-water for the organic fertilizer application on Friday and walk the vineyard looking for potential problems.

Hell, Michigan

Apparently Mom and Dad had a great time in Michigan..Hell, MI to be exact! Lots of good times with family and friends mountain biking awesome single track and kayaking the lake, with a lot of eat, drink, and be merry thrown in the mix.

Garlic Nirvana

If you have ever had Mom and Dad’s summer pasta with tomatoes and garlic, you know how much they love Allium sativum! One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Dyer Family Organic Farm near Ann Arbor, MI. Richard and Diana Dyer specialize in over 40 different varieties of soft and hard necked garlic. A visit to their farm was a delight for two “stinking rose” aficionados like Mom and Dad. (P.S.  Did you know that elephant garlic is actually a wild leek in disguise!)

I am still trying to recover from my vacation last week! Eric, Zephyr, and all the other kids at camp kept me pretty busy and I wasn’t able to get my quota of sleep. Now we have to take a walk in the vineyard…sigh.

Talk later,


“I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.” – Rita Rudner


Filed under Food, Pinot Noir, Vineyard

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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Filed under Pinot Noir

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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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)


Filed under Pinot Noir