Vineyard ‘Aphrodisiac Perfume’

Grape Cluster Flowering

Last year about this time, when grapevines were beginning to flower, we wrote about the sex lives of grapes — how they are hermaph­ro­ditic, self-pollinating, and the flowers are, according to the decidedly unro­mantic Jancis Robinson, “unat­tractive” and “unspec­tacular.” But what is sex without love? […]

Looking back at the 2012 grape-growing season

The 2012 growing season in the North Coast was, in many respects, nearly perfect. Shot in vine­yards across Napa Valley, Lake County, Mendocino, and Sonoma County, this is what it looked like. […]

All Things Being Equinox

bud break 2013 at Benziger in Sonoma

Bud break came early this year. Real early for some. Reports began coming in from some of the warmer parts of Napa Valley and Carneros as early as mid-February — as early as some some remember. […]

Will clusters rot or dry out? On Friday, the clock begins ticking

wet grapes

On Sunday night, October 21, 2012, it rained. It rained and rained and rained. Mushroom foragers are happy. Gardens are happy. Gardeners are happy. Even the vines, as they sigh away their leaves and settle into dormancy, are happy. […]

To Pick or Not to To Pick? That is the Question


For all of September, harvest was happily humming along in most of Wine Country with truck­loads of grapes arriving in the early morning hours at crush pads almost daily — chardonnay, gewürz­traminer, pinot noir — and the smell of fermen­tation hung sweetly in the air. […]

Sauvignon Blanc Hits Crush Pads

Sauvignon blanc grape pick

What does sauvignon blanc mean to you? Is it grassy and herby and does it smell slightly of cat piss? Is it rich and tropical, even creamy, with hints of oak? […]

Birds in the Vineyard

good morning, handsome

For most of the year, the vineyard is a great place for birds. The nooks and crannies created by canes and cordons make for perfect nesting spots while the lush canopy overhead provides much-needed shade and protection from predators. […]

Harvest 2012 Begins With a Bang

Mumm staffers celebrating the first grape harvest or 2012

On Friday, Aug 10 at 11 a.m., a rubber-boot-clad army of eager employees gathered on the crush pad of Mumm in Napa Valley to welcome the arrival of the first grapes of 2012: pinot noir from the Gamefarm Vineyard in Yountville. […]

A Brief and Miraculous Moment

A Beach in Indonesia. Photo by Spencer Humiston

On the Indonesian island of Bali in SouthEast Asia, there is a brief but mirac­ulous moment that occurs at the end of each day. Just as the sun begins to set below the horizon but before it gets dark, the tide recedes and miles of sand between the sea and the land, wet and perfectly smooth, becomes a mirror, reflecting the last rays of the day’s light and the changing color of the sky. […]

The Art of Fruit Thinning and the Quest for Balance

dried grapes

This week, many grape berries throughout our little corner of the world reached a very important mile­stone in their steady march towards becoming wine. Veraison (French for ripening), when grapes begin accu­mu­lating sugar, color and phenolics is a welcome sight for growers. […]

Waiting to Exhale


Take a deep breath. Now, hold it. Now keep holding it. Seri­ously, don’t exhale! Keep holding your breathe. This is what the second week of July, 2012 feels like in Wine Country. […]

Permission to Bitch Slap a Winemaker


The grapes are looking very vulnerable, very exposed this week. Long, cool, foggy mornings throughout Napa Valley and Sonoma means that leafing has been espe­cially aggressive on the morning side of the vines. […]

Vines Still Happy, But Slightly Stressed


Things are moving fast out there!” reports viti­cul­turist Kevin Skene from Sonoma. Warm weather continues this week in all areas “short­ening the window to get passes in” according to Matt Hardin of Barbour Vine­yards in Napa Valley. […]

It’s a Jungle Out There


The foremost important deci­sions about wine­making happen before a single berry even makes it into the winery,” says Greg La Follette of La Follette Wines. Right now, during the time of “berry cell division and berry cell expansion,” (or the first phase of berry devel­opment, which imme­di­ately follows bloom and lasts for about 4 weeks), deci­sions about leafing — choosing which and how many leaves to remove in the fruiting zone, keeps vineyard managers and workers busy between fruit set and veraison.  […]

Warm Days, Cool Nights: 2012 Off to a ‘Normal’ Start

vines at night

Now that fruit has set, following and docu­menting the  devel­opment of grapes and vines (a study known as phenology) begins. The overall goal for growers between now and veraison is to allow enough light and airflow through the canopy to begin devel­oping flavors and tannin in the skins of the grapes while also protecting the fruit from mildew, botyritis and sunburn. […]

Managing the Canopies of Happy, Vigorous (And Sometimes Smiling) Vines

speckling and fruit set

From Amador to Oak Knoll, we are reporting “happy vines” this week. And as they say, happy vines make for happy farmers. And happy farmers with happy vines make for happy grapes. […]

Reaching for the Top (Wire That Is)

Reaching For The Wire

Wow, there is a lot happening in the vine­yards this week. In fact, “this is the busiest time of the year,” (next to harvest, of course) says Matt Hardin, of the famously fastidious management company Barbour Vine­yards. […]

The Sex Life of Grapes

Anther fully extended

Flowers are every­where in the spring in Northern Cali­fornia. On the sides of roads, in the cracks of side­walks, between the rows of vines, clutched between your teeth. Roses are in full blush, patches of wild poppies duti­fully perform their open-close routines with the rising and setting of the sun and the slutty manzanita bushes expose their sticky stamen to hordes of humming­birds. […]

Anderson Valley Special: Suckering and Sunflowers


It’s difficult to make gener­al­iza­tions about the Anderson Valley. Even though it is only 18 miles long and less than two miles wide, the climate is vastly different from one end to the other. […]

Primordial Clusters and the Fractal Geometry of Nature


Thanks to temper­a­tures that were pushing 90 degrees last weekend, vines in Napa Valley expe­ri­enced a whopping four inches of growth according to the Napa Valley Grape­growers, whose members gathered at Round Pound Estate on Wednesday to discuss the 2012 vintage. […]

Let the Countdown Begin

Buds Broke

According to wine­maker Aaron Pott, who has worked in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Napa, the growing season, almost invariably, is 220 days from bud break to harvest. That means the clock has started ticking and it’s time for some good old-fashioned heat and sunshine. […]

Water, Wind and Fire Fight Off Frost

Smudge Pots

After three weeks of nearly non-stop rainfall, it might seem strange to wake up and see sprin­klers going off all over the Valley. Coun­ter­in­tu­itively, those sprin­klers are protecting the just-bursting buds from early-spring frost invasion. […]

Will Sonoma Showers Bring May Shatters?


The pressure is on,” said Thomas DeBiase of Debiase Wines early this week. Pressure, that is, to get as much last-minute precip­i­tation as possible before flow­ering. “Every year is, of course, unique but starting this growing season off as the third driest growing season since 1850 has its own set of chal­lenges.” Going into the week, DeBiase, who makes pinot noir in the Russian River Valley, was also concerned about the lack of frost protection due to shallow retention ponds. […]



When it rains, as they say, it pours. And it couldn’t be more true for Napa Valley this week. According to Accuweather, St. Helena got over five inches of rain between March 14 and March 21st. […]

Vineyard Report: Fast-Breaking News Flash Edition

We take you now to Courtney Humiston with another fast-breaking news flash. Courtney is in a vineyard in Napa Valley in the rain — wet, cold and miserable — covering the quickly devel­oping story of buds growing on vines (with all apologies to our favorite little green muppet reporter). […]