Million Dollar Question: When to Pick?

We’re in the thick of the harvest business and after months of preparing, tending to, and coaxing fruit from these vines we come to the annual moment of truth… when to pick?


Sonoma County Zinfandel. Photo taken last week.

Winemakers across these wine-growing regions have been taking random samples of the vineyard periodically, squishing the grapes and testing the juice for sugar content and acid levels.  Mostly, we talk about brix, or the sugar concentration.  Table grapes that we buy in the super market generally have brix of 17-19.  Wine grapes are picked any where from 22 – 29. The sugar, ripeness (taste and whether the seeds have turned from green to brown), as well as acidity, and uniformity of ripening across the cluster and vineyard block very much effect the final wine.  So, at what point to pick is vital.


Harvest 2015: Zinfandel

And so it begins.  We picked the first grapes of the year today – Zinfandel from Solano County. We started by removing the nets (which guard against interested and hungry birds) and then picked the ripe fruit.  Cheers to the 2015 Harvest.  Salut!




A little anxious breather

The grapes have set and are ripening in the California sunshine.  We are getting the equipment ready for harvest and anticipating the start any day now.  Go-time is when the sugar and acidity levels in the grapes are optimal.


Harvest on the Horizon

The grapes are turning color! Which means that harvest is in sight.  And we’re rounding the home stretch of another vintage.  These are Pinot Noir grapes.  Once the grapes have gone through veraison (changing color) they’ll start to develop sugars.  It’s these sugars that will later be turned into alcohol/wine.  Salut!





The grapes have set and in the warmer regions we farm are growing fast!  All the grapes are green at this point.  In another month or so they’ll start to go through verasion – the process when the red grapes turn color and start developing their sugars.  Looking good!



At home in the vineyard

It seems every spring we come across a little nest of baby birds.  We’re always careful when we go through the vineyards, just in case, and then be sure to leave a buffer around these babes so they can grow and leave the nest on their own.


Backyard Tourist: Checkerboard Vineyards


This week we had a chance to visit the exclusive, literally hidden gem of Checkerboard Vineyards.  Our kind host, Beth, gave us a tour of the vineyards, winery caves (with their inviting aroma and clinically pristine walls), and tasting space.


Checkerboard’s vineyards are all estate and at high elevation.  They grow Bordeaux varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.


Each vintage is expertly crafted and cared for by hand, from vineyard to bottle.  This row of barrels holds their 2013 red wines.


Tasting space with a view of the  vineyards.  Checkerboard’s offerings are based around their showcase Cabernet – current release is 2011 and after opening up was a stunning, serious Cab, dark, rich, and lush. Tastings are by appointment only.