General updates

3-D rendering of the vineyard. November 2009. (from: Google Earth)

3-D rendering of the vineyard. November 2009. (from: Google Earth)

As if I had not been posting infrequently enough, I wanted to take a moment to say that until the end of August I will be pretty preoccupied with things at home and work. If possible, I will try to say something of value, when appropriate.

Until then, I wanted to give some general updates about my vineyard.

I have been keeping a pretty diligent video chronicle of transpirings at my vineyard and it is available to view here. There is something gratifying about growing things. It’s not without surprises, frustrations, disappointments and fears.

Flowering, 3 weeks after planting.

Flowering, 3 weeks after planting.

My first surprise of the season came in the form of greater than anticipated vigor in my Aglianico vines. The second was flowering in the Montepulcaino vines – just three weeks after planting (and after they budded vigorously).

I would be curious to know how often this happens. I’m eager to hear the experiences of other growers and vineyard managers.

Nevertheless, I could not allow this to continue. These vines need to put all their effort into becoming established: developing roots and accumulating carbohydrates. For that, they need a robust canopy.

Aglianico vine partially toppled by wind.

Aglianico vine partially toppled by wind.

My first major disappointment (although, probably, not my last) came on Father’s Day. That was somewhat ironic, as I have often compared my feelings about the vineyard to the paternal feelings I have for my children (though the later come first, always). So, finding vines toppled or broken from winds (about 20 mph, in the days prior) was rather heartbreaking. And heartbreak of one form and degree or another, is something all parents experience.

Aglianico, as I’ve learned from Dave Caprone, who has been growing the variety in Paso Robles since 1992 or so, is prone to breakage – particularly when it is not trained on wires. After considerable deliberation, I have decided to nurse the damaged vines back and hold off on putting in posts and wires. A recent video on my YouTube Channel explains my solution.

A phantom menace.

A phantom menace.

Finally, we come to fears. Over the course of the past hundred years or so, Los Angeles and Southern California vineyards have been repeatedly devastated by Pierce’s Diesease.

I have found 5 insects bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter on my back-up vines – which are kept some 5 miles from the vineyard.

I can never get close enough or get a photo clear enough to determine if these are, in fact, GWS or the Smoke Tree Sharpshooter.

However, history, the proximity of the vineyard to running water (1,500 feet to the Los Angeles river – though I am not sure if it is considered a true riparian zone), the ubiquity of citrus trees (of which the GWS also is a pest) around the vineyard and the reports of diseases in other area plants attributable to Xylella fastidiosa give me reason to be concerned that Los Angeles County may still be an active Pierce’s Disease hot spot.

Reliable and safe preemptive measures meant to minimize negative outcomes are few and far between. I’d like to arm myself with options but all I can do is arm myself with patience.

In the military, they have a saying: “Hurry up and wait”. As a business owner, a grape grower, a winemaker, a parent and even as a writer that is all one can sometimes do. The best thing one can do is be vigilant, watchfully waiting for signs of trouble or signs that things are going well. This is where having a few items on one’s plate is actually a good thing. It takes one’s mind off the one vexing thing, allowing the necessary time to pass.



Father, husband, physician, amateur guitarist, wine lover, wine writer, wine grower and wine maker trying to do it all within eye shot of downtown Los Angeles.
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4 Responses to General updates

  1. Thomas says:

    Yes, yes, yes.

    I spend a few hours each day either looking for or actively engaged in eradicating pests from my various plants. The ones that love rain, make me fear rain, especially in the night; the ones that love drought, make me pray for rain; the ones that love cool, make me want hot; and the ones that love hot, make me want cool.

    Talk about conflicting fears!

    Here, we have a host of pests, the latest and quite devastating is the Japanese beetle, whose only chemical foe seems to be Sevin, which I refuse to apply, so I spend sixty-plus days each summer walking the property and collecting beetles in a jar of soapy water, not to do away with them, but just to keep them from creating too many babies for next year.

    It’s like that with slugs, and of course every known mildew on the planet is in heaven in this climate.

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  3. Joe Haslett says:

    You have good reason to be concerned about Pierce’s and GWS, actually any sharpshooter can transmit PD, such as the Bluegreen Sharpshooter. Your vineyard looks nice and clean which will minimize access from the bugs but GWS can really fly so keeping as much clearance as possible is good. I had a 50 plant vineyard in Reseda, it grew great, I even made some wine, but one by one all of the plants gradually died out, this was just as the GWS was being recognized as a problem, so you may want to put yellow sticky traps in the vines so you can see what is visiting. I would keep the extra plants at the vineyard, but if you saw GWS or similar on the back up vines they may already be infected. You can easily make cutting from your vineyard plants when they go dormant, just save some of the wood when you prune.

    If you are not aware of the home wine making club Cellarmasters, I would highly recommend you checking it out, there are quite a few back yard vineyard people in the club, with workshops and meetings going on all year long, lots of information and some really good wines.

    I really like your site, thanks for focusing on the Central Coast wines, we appreciate it.


    Joe Haslett
    Alere Vineyards

  4. Arthur says:

    Hi Joe

    I have more successfully identified Smoke Tree Sharpshooters. Have not caught any GWS on my traps.
    Did PD kill your vines or something else?

    There seems to be a greater prevalence of other types of bugs in the vineyard. The one oleander on the property looks good so I am optimistic (cautiously so) but am a hair’s breadth from pulling the trigger on some carbaryl or imidacloprid.

    I also plan to talk to the Ag Dept about pheromone traps – but am not sure what good they will be.

    I do know about cellarmasters and would want t meet up – when my schedule permits (which is rarely these days).

    I definitely plan to make own-rooted back-ups this year. Do you have any experience with dong this?

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