Vineyard Report- 2009 Harvest
Older Vineyard Reports
We strongly believe that the character of quality wine begins in
the vineyard. Our goal is healthy vines in healthy soil...fine winemaking
from the ground up. We assess each vine for vigor every year, carefully
pruning to allow the vine to produce its optimal crop. We plant cover
crops in the fall to prevent erosion and enhance fertility, grinding
up the clippings and prunings in the spring and incorporating them
back into the soil. During the growing season we remove weeds mechanically
to minimize the use of herbicide and reduce the need for additional
water. We are proud that we have not used insecticides on producing
vines in over 30 years.
We revisit each block many times a season, removing
shoots, trimming off excess fruit and training the
vines to maximize the interception of sunlight. By
hand, we remove foliage around the grape clusters to
increase air flow and prevent mildew and rot, and harvest
by hand at the peak of each row’s physiological
maturity. We pick in the early morning, while the grapes
are still very cool. We pick each varietal when the
sugars and acids are in ideal balance, and keep temperatures
constant to preserve that balance. The trip from vine
row to winery is less than five minutes, so the juice
is pressed out before the grapes have a chance to warm.
We don’t burn fossil fuels trucking fruit for
miles and then consume power trying to regain appropriate
temperatures. We perform most of the winery operations
by hand and never rush the aging, allowing each varietal
an optimal rest in both barrel and bottle before releasing
our finished wines. This allows us to produce rich
flavorful, well-balanced wines with crisp fruit cradled
in a light touch of oak. Muir-Hanna wines need no specialized
ritual after purchase – just draw the cork, enjoy,
and join us in celebrating our legacy.
The Vineyard Report
Reports on the seasonal status of the vineyards and expectations
of the upcoming crops as well as more information about sustainable
2009 Harvest Notes
August 24, 2009
Harvest began early for us this year as we sold most of our pinot noir to Mumm for champagne. They pick at lower sugars than for still wine so the fruit came off on Tuesday, August 18. As I recall, that is pretty much in the middle of our harvest dates when we sold to Chandon from 1976 to 1990.
The chardonnay crop looks like the yield will be average to slightly above. The set was good and the vines look quite healthy. The early May rain provided ample soil moisture for vigorous vine growth and full bunches. In addition, this has been an extraordinarily mild growing season. We have had no prolonged hot spells and an unusually large number of days with below normal maximums. This bodes very well for an exceptional quality year.
The first maturity sampling of chardonnay indicates we are one to two weeks behind the last couple of years and comparable to 2005 when we began chardonnay harvest on September 13. I believe the fruit will be ripe at lower sugars this year as the seeds are starting to darken (mature) between 18º and 19º Brix. This corroborates my thoughts that this should be an outstanding vintage.
Download the Vineyard
Report for 2009 Harvest (Microsoft Word .doc)
Spring 2009 - 21 May 2009
OK! I am behind, seriously behind, in updating this report. So, I will recap the recent past and bring you up to date.
2008 was an interesting growing year with the chardonnay and pinot noir vines budding out about the first of March. The shoots grew slowly because of cool weather and then we had some very cold nights in mid April. We suffered no significant damage due to the cold, flowering and fruit set were uneventful for us, and relatively mild summer temperatures combined to give us a long slow ripening season. The result was wines of extraordinary balance and complexity.
The winter rains began in late October in moderate amounts that were nicely spaced so the wild mustard and the seeded cover crops got a very even start. Relatively mild temperatures and low rainfall in January allowed the mustard to reach full bloom three weeks early. By the end of January we had accumulated only 8.8 inches of rain – 28% of the yearly average. February came in with nearly twelve inches followed by another three inches in March. We received only .5 inches in April and thought we were going to end up with 25 inches or 78 % of normal. As I write this on May 2, we have received nearly another inch with more in prospect over the next few days. The bottom line is we have received adequate rainfall to saturate the root zone and the late rains will delay the time when we need to add supplemental water.
It is now May 21 and I again take up the narrative. We did indeed receive more rain so we totaled nearly 2 inches in May to bring our yearly total to just over 26 inches which is about 80% of normal.
The vines were a little slow going dormant so we did not begin pruning until the second week of December. We completed pruning and tying canes in early March. By that time the chardonnay and pinot noir buds we beginning to swell. However, bud break was not until the 18th of March that is 2 ½ weeks behind last year. We had some cool weather about the same time but suffered no damage.
Bloom in the chardonnay and pinot began 1 ½ weeks ago and currently there are some pinhead size grapes developing. In the meantime, the cabernet franc and merlot have begun bloom. Temperatures reached about 100º on the 15th and 16th but it is just a bit early to determine if it caused any infertility in the buds, called shatter.
The vines are growing well and so far it looks like we are off to a pretty good start to the growing season.
We are in our third year of farming using only materials certified for use in organic production. Additionally, we are in the process of certifying for “Fish Friendly Farming” which means we don’t allow sediment or pesticides (organic or otherwise) into the streams. We were already doing everything required so will not have to change anything.
Download the Vineyard
Report for Spring 2009 (Microsoft Word .doc)
2007 Harvest Update- 18 September 2007
We began harvest on 20 August with 4 tons of pinot noir for Alpenglow. That
was three weeks earlier than last year. We picked another
6 tons of pinot on the 22nd for red pinot and added 10% of that
juice to the Alpenglow. We also set aside and chilled another
30 gallons of juice which we will blend into the Alpenglow to provide
the residual sugar.
We began harvesting chardonnay from the John Muir Hanna Vyd on
August 31, 12 days earlier than last year. We crushed 6 tons
for our 07 Chardonnay with the remaining going to Chateau Montelena. We
crushed another 4 tons from Orchard Vyds on 4 Sep.
The merlot was ready to go on 5 Sep, 22 days earlier than last
year. We harvested a combined 11 tons from our original and
The petit verdot and cabernet franc at the John Muir Hanna Vyd
are near 24ºbrix but not quite ripe. The new cab franc
at Bill and Claudia’s vyd is only at 21.6ºbrix and the
new cabernet sauvignon at Orchard Vyds is at 20.1º. The
Particelli Vyd cabernet is close to 25º and nearly ready to
We have harvested nearly 270 tons so far with only about 55 tons
The weather has been superb. We had only one day over 100º in
July and August was very mild until the very end when we had 3
days over !00º. The first three days of September were
in the mid to upper 90’s but we are back to the 80º-90º range
with lows in the upper 40’s to low 50’s. There
is a threat of rain and below normal temperatures in the next few
days so that will dramatically slow the ripening process.
Well, I certainly am behind the 8-ball this year since I haven’t
written since a brief note in January. So, I’ll try
to catch you up in a hurry.
WINTER- It was colder than normal in December – more
like I remember growing up with lots of ice on the animals’ water
dishes and the puddles. The puddles would have been frozen
if there had been any but rainfall was below normal by 40%. It
was plentiful enough, and distributed evenly enough, to allow the
cover crops to grow lushly, and to fill the root zone. I
don’t think much got down to the water table.
SPRING – In
contrast to the cold winter, spring was mild. The chardonnay
and pinot noir buds were pushing out by the first of March. There
was very little rain during the spring and night time temperatures
were never low enough to require frost protection. Bloom
occurred about three weeks earlier than last year so we planned
for an early harvest assuming a normal summer (What is normal in
climatology?); Because of the lack of rain, fungal pressure
SUMMER – Mild with no significant heat
extremes. Morning fog clearing between 10-11AM. Sunny
with light breezes in the afternoon. Are we talking perfect
ripening weather or what? You may remember talk of the prolonged
hot spell in inland CA in June and July? It didn’t
happen here. From June 1 to Aug 1 this year we have had 3
days over 100º and 26 days over 90º. Our mean low
temperature was over 50º (52.7º) only in July. Compare
to last year with 11 days over 100º, 28 days over 90º,
and June, July, and August with mean minimums over 60º There
are those already predicting the “vintage of the century”. In
truth, few of us can remember such a benign growing season.
HARVEST UPDATE – I took samples to check
sugars on Monday, August 13. The pinot noir was at 22.1º,
and the chardonnays ranged from 19.5º to 17.7º. I
think we will pick pinot by the end of next week and start the
chardonnay in the first week of September.; Our crop levels
look to be average or a little better in the chardonnay, a bit
below average in the pinot, and about average for the merlot, cabernet,
cabernet franc and petit verdot. The pinot and chardonnay
actually began verasion about the 4th of July. So we started
early, bloomed early, and have been ripening slowly. If the
weather continues its current trend the harvest season will slowly
creep back towards normal.
2006-2007 WINTER UPDATE
Well, here it is January 4, 2007 and winter is full upon us. Actually,
it has been for over a month. The vines are dormant and the
vineyard floors are a carpet of green broken only by the brown
of the vine trunks and the occasional yellow mustard flower. Another
month and it will shift to a sea of yellow. That reminds
me of a humorous story. After seeing the movie “Dr.
Zchivago” (sp?) Claudia decided that she would like a lot
of yellow daffodils along our driveway. She began planting
in earnest and after several hundred bulbs began blooming was overjoyed. The
effect was spectacular viewed in context of the yard and immediate
surroundings. However, after driving the ¼ mile of
our driveway surrounded by a sea of yellow mustard, the impact
of the small “pond” of yellow daffodils was muted.
back to the report. The weather was cooler than normal in
December with three days going below 30ºF for at least 8 hours
each night. We had a total of 4 ½ inches of rain spread
over the month so there has been very little run-off.
We began pruning the pinot noir on Dec 4 and have since completed
about 40% of our total pruning. Very few lost days due to
rain account for the speed. We should finish the pruning
by the end of February and hopefully budbreak will not occur until
HARVEST REPORT 2006
As expected the 2006 harvest began a little later than the normal
of the last few years. We began the year with a very early
budbreak but then cool moist weather during the spring slowed
everything down. A major scorcher in July (we reached 114ºF)
speeded things up a bit and most gratifyingly, did no serious
We began harvest on Sep 12 by picking the young block of the John
Muir Hanna vineyard for delivery to Chateau Montelena. On
Sept. 15 we picked 5 tons of pinot noir to produce our Alpenglow.
Our chardonnay this year came from the JMH vineyard (4.4 tons
on Sep 20) and Orchard Vyd (4.04 ton on Sep 26). We picked
our merlot on Sept. 27 followed by petit verdot and cab franc in
We picked the 99 Vine Primitivo (zinfandel) on October 22 with
the help of Trish and Mark from our Wine Club. The whole
family was involved including our grandsons, Colton, Trenton, and
Gino (and their parents). After picking we had lunch on the
deck overlooking the vineyard then headed up to the John Hanna
property to crush the fruit and start the winemaking process. A
great time was had by all.
Overall,fruit quality was excellent. We got mature, ripe
flavors at slightly lower sugar levels than the previous few years. This
equates to more elegant wines, a bit softer on the pallet but with
full, lush fruit flavors.
Archived reports: (Microsoft Word Document)
Download the Vineyard
Report for Spring 2009
Download the Vineyard
Report for Spring/Summer 2006.
the previous Vineyard Report for February -June 2006.
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