Monday, July 23, 2007


The purpling begins imperceptibly at first. Out of the corner of my eye as I walk through other vineyard tasks something looks a little different. Is it really turning? Seems early this year. Then a few yards along there is more color, then more. Then over the course of the weekend the unmistakable change occurs. The rhythm of the vineyard amazes me, and especially the critical turning points. Veraison is one of them. Fully ripe grapes will follow in a month or two; then harvest begins.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


There are many painful things about farming, most of them are things that happen to us - weather, equipment failure, unwanted animals, nutritional problems, and insect pests to name a few. The worst ones are things we do to ourselves. What sense does it make to remove fruit from the vine? How can I make wine if the farming end handicaps the winemaking by dumping perfectly good fruit? Grape vines live to make grapes and young vines are particularly fruitful. Getting the grapes perfectly ripe for making wine is not the plant's goal and they don't think much about the future the hedonistic creatures that they are. Most of our vines are young so this year they set way more fruit than is healthy. So the excess fruit has to go. That means checking out each plant, making some assessment of how strong it is, guestimating how much fruit it can bring to complete ripeness while still remaining strong enough to withstand the rigors of winter and our pruning, and then dropping the rest bunch by bunch. Joan, who spends much more time with the vines than do I, says I'll get used to it. Ouch, ouch, ouch . . . . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sonoita Monsoon Rains

The summer rains have started. I have to say I don't quite have the darting inside part right yet. Sunday while Tim and I were working on putting wires up I heard thunder and looked south to see rain in the distance. I could feel the cool wind sending the clouds our way. I thought, is this the time to go inside? I then looked north over the vineyard and saw, well, blue skies! So we kept working. This time it was the right decision. My neighbor, Kent, says he goes inside when the lightning cracks over his head. Somehow I don't think he has it right either!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Gathering Storm

The Monsoon storms are on their way. During monsoon season the morning starts out warm with very clear blue skies. As the day progresses clouds start popping up over the mountains and gathering into dark thunder heads. A favorite path they take is over the Huachuca Mountains. I can watch them from the vineyard and dart inside the building when the thunder sounds as though it is moving my way. The rains are a mixed blessing. Grape vines love the moisture falling from the sky. The nitrogen that is released turns the leaves a dark green and it is always nice to ratchet down the irrigation. On the downside, the damp can start the growth of powdery mildew, the winds can cause damage to the vines and sometimes great bursts of hail plummet and bruise the grape clusters. In spite of these things I get a thrill when I see the first clouds appear over the mountains.

Monday, July 2, 2007


We got up at 5am on Saturday to do some tractor work in order to beat the heat and wind. The tractor didn't start. Dead battery. The battery guy said they only last about 2 years in this desert climate. The sunrise was nice but now what? Flexibility seems to be the grape farmers mantra. I can't recall how many times Joan and I have organized some sort of schedule of tasks only to be derailed by rain, lightning, heat, wind, bugs, malfunctioning equipment, new disasters, blown up irrigation, simple repairs gone horribly wrong, injuries, bad moods, you name it. This may be Arizona wine country, but it's pretty isolated out here. I can't exactly call the Winery Cooperative Tractor Repair Guy or Gal to come give me a fix. So a dead tractor battery meant postponing that piece of work. Cursing my skinned knuckles as I wrestle the old battery out of the tractor. Dropping a chunk of change on a new battery. Anticipating more skinned knuckles getting the new one where it belongs. Waking up at 5 am again, etc, etc. You get the idea. But in truth I feel pretty fortunate to be fighting this battle and not some life/death struggle in the Middle East, Africa, or some other part of this earth. Peace and Happy Independence Day.