July 26, 1999
We had several groups of people come by this past weekend and sold a good amount of our 1998 bottled wines. This continues to surprise me each year. We do not have any official release date for our bottled wines, and thus we start selling our wine immediately after it is bottled. I like to taste my newly-bottled wines almost daily to see how they are progressing. I have found that the wines change dramatically from from day to day from the initial day of bottling through the first six weeks. After that initial six-week period, they begin their natural aging process and there is a marked improvement in the winter months and thus should probably not be released until sometime between March and May, which is the practice of most wineries. So when someone stops by during the first few weeks after bottling and wants to buy wine that was just bottled, this is still a surprising eye opener to me but helps to give me confidence that I am making wine that even when young can still be enjoyable.
Today I sent Pat, Kate and Susie off shopping so that I could accomplish some computer work. This involved installing our new fax machine. Actually, it is an H-P R80 all in one fax, scanner, copier, and printer. I bought it initially for its fax capabilities since I've been very unhappy with my old machine. I also installed a new video accelerator game card. Since I've invested in Diamond Multimedia and Susie is into these accelerated games, I was interested to see how this card would improve the video capabilities on our computer. As we are typing this, I am still working on it. It is not as easy to set up as one would expect. Also, I installed a Diamond wireless network connector. The software advertisement promises Internet connection for both of our computers at the same time. I found it gave me an error message, stating that the license agreement had expired. Trying to figure out and fix both these programs tomorrow will undoubtedly occupy my entire morning. Of course, besides all the trouble I normally have with the installation of new software, other unexpected problems always come up. This time our main printer stopped working. No communications whatsoever. Now mind you, I didn't change anything with the printer, but somehow as usual something got screwed up.
In the middle of all this, Susie left me with Cuvie (our new Golden Retriever) and I had to run (slowly) up and downstairs quite often making sure Cuvie was happy and not getting into trouble. Overall, I am actually happy with what I accomplished today. At least Pat is still able to type what you are reading now and upload it successfully.
July 27, 1999
The weather has been "normal" lately. As a matter of fact, yesterday's high was 90 and the low was 50 which according to my past calculations, are representative of the average high and low temperatures here during the summer months. Today, my guess is that we barely made 80 degrees. The sun was in and out and it was relatively cold during the day, especially this evening. We have seen some color out in the vineyard since the 20th of this month - in grape language "verasion" (sp?). The beginning of this process is at least two weeks later than normal. But since the crop is light in quantity like last year's, I am confident that the crop will come in at full ripeness. As a matter of fact, last year we didn't see color until about the end of July.
The crop on the young budded vines from last year seems to be substantial and the crop on the Barbera is also plentiful. The rest of the vineyard's crop level seems to be way below normal. As I've said before this is the second year in succession that we've had a low crop and that is unusual. I'm hoping that it will be about the same as last year, but if it is as low as '96, my production will be considerably below the 3,000 cases I am estimating at this time. We continue to be cautious about selling any more 1999 futures but have sold a limited number of cases at the winery since the end of the initial offering on May 31st, now in the $14 per bottle range.
As the berries start to size up during the next several weeks and become heavier, we will have a better idea of what our potential harvest might be. Then toward the end of August as the grapes ripen to over 20% sugar, the berries will start to shrivel and condense in weight again. At that time, the weather has a lot to do with the potential quality and weight of our harvest. I try to cut off irrigation, depending upon the year, six weeks before harvest. That can be anywhere between the first or second week of August to the end of August. If we get a cold spell right after we irrigate, the beginning of harvest can be delayed for as long as two months. If we have a heat spell, we could be harvesting within a month from the time I cut off irrigation. I prefer in this vineyard to have hot weather for at least several days before I harvest. As a matter of fact, as I've said before, I like to bring in the grapes in the afternoon when they are hot (unlike most wineries). I'll go into this again in more detail as the season develops.
July 30, 1999
Today's edition of the Santa Rosa paper had an article about the weather,
stating that we were about 15 degrees below normal for the past two weeks.
Of course, the paper was predicting the same low temperatures for next
five days. So it's not surprising that today has already turned out to
be at least 10 degrees hotter than what they were predicting. We started
off this morning with 45 degrees and now at noontime, it's already over
80 degrees. Most people forget even from year to year that it is very typical
for us to have a couple of weeks of below normal temperatures followed
by about two weeks of above normal temperatures. Hopefully, we are going
into one of those trends now.