One vintage on the vine, another in the barrel… As the vineyard calls my heart and hands.

To me, springtime always means sensory overload. My mind, my soul and my emotions are never far from the vibrancy and new life bursting in the vineyard… It is the inception of the vine lifecycle. On a macro level, all other life around explodes: wildflowers, fruit trees, green grass and sweet air carrying the fresh smells of the season.

post-1Much joy found in making wine naturally involves lovely time spent outdoors and the enjoyment of wine itself. (It’s all part of the job!) All that fun is balanced with the reality that farming is real work – taking years of mastering the craft and educating oneself to fulfill the great potential in winemaking. So even though I now enjoy daily views of the countryside and being outside, this is, ironically, a long way from my upbringing. I grew up in the large and beautiful city of Medellín, Colombia. It wasn’t until my vineyard studies in France that I first donned a pair of boots, started pruning grapevines in the cold, wet winters and began my life of farming. So, as Malcolm Gladwell shared in his book Outliers – The Story of Success: To master any craft, we need to invest 10,000 hours of hard work, education and hands-on experience to ensure we become the best we can be in whatever our field.

Once bud-break season arrives, I grow excited during the weeks to come in anticipation of my utmost favorite moments during the grape berry lifecycle: The moment of pollination and seeing the beautiful and delicate grape flower become a berry.

With bud break, we see for the first time the potential for a new harvest, a new crop, a new beginning. Each bud carries a shoot that on its own, will have the potential to carry grape clusters. For each varietal, each vineyard vine density (total vines planted per acre), each terroir and each type of wine, the number of shoots and cluster per vine varies. In top-quality vineyards, we look forward to producing an estimated tons-per-acre, which will bring to the fruit the intensity and concentration we hope to convey in the finished wine. As you can see, winemaking is both art and science.

One thing it is not, is simple!

This year, bloom started around April 25th and after the first 20 days on the count, we are not close to having 100% bloom for all clusters. This brings some questions to us and will require new decisions to make in the vineyard: When and how to decide our leafing procedures? How even will the maturity of the clusters be? Which clusters do we want to keep to ensure we make the best wine possible? And how good will this crop likely be? Cold weather, rain, strong winds, or storms can significantly affect the crop from a given vintage, so we are crossing our fingers right now, as a storm with possible showers and thunderstorms passes through Northern California over the next few days.

Confessions of an early blender

In life (and winemaking) I prefer organization and structure; this proclivity shows up in my timing of blends. I consider myself an “early blender.” This means that I like to taste, evaluate and decide upon the fate of a given barrel of wine very early in its life (and much earlier than most winemakers in California). It’s true that wines evolve over time, and one needs to watch them progress. However, I believe that if one really knows their soil, vines, wines… then one can see through this and know the quality intrinsic in the vineyard, before the wines are even made. I’ll discuss further the art of blending in a future blog.


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