A Tale of Two Syrahs

By Paul Zellman • Education Director, Lake County Winegrape Commission


It was the best of vines, it was the worst of vines, it was the age of black ink, it was the age of red ink, it was the epoch of sustainability, it was the epoch of insolvency, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Sunburn, it was the spring of a perfect set, it was the winter of hard freezes, we had great wines before us, we had raisins before us, we were all going direct to the Harvest Fair, we were all going direct the other way to Bakersfield.

Vine Balance – Dispelling the Myth: Good Wines ONLY Come from Low-Yielding Vineyards

High quality wines are produced from winegrapes that are in balance with regards to their chemical and flavor characteristics—sugar and TA levels are not at either extreme; a little bit of “green” or “cat pee” can be OK. In turn, balanced winegrapes come from balanced vines AND vineyards.

Jim Wolpert proposed a working definition of Vine Balance: 1 – vine shoot growth provides enough lea area to properly ripen the crop, and 2 – crop per acre meets a rower’s and vintner’s goals. These two components of vine balance are affected by: 1 – Choices made at the time of planting (soil, rootstock/scion), spacing and trellis; and 2 – Choices made during annual cultural practices (pruning, canopy management, irrigation, nutrient application, and weed / cover crops).

While not explicit in Woldpert definition of Vine Balance, I believe he hints at the importance of economical sustainability—the vine growth should fill the trellis and be appropriate to the initial vine spacing. If growers have large gaps between cordon arms or, conversely, excessively vigorous shoots that overlap, yields and perhaps quality will be diminished.

I would add that Vine Balance can be recognized when vegetative growth is sufficient to mature the fruit to complementary juice chemical and flavor characteristics.

Following the choices made to establish a vineyard, dormant pruning is widely viewed as the single most important cultural practice that affects vine balance. Prune too severely and there will be insufficient grapes to limit / slow shoot growth and the vine becomes unbalanced with excess vigor. Leave too many buds during pruning and the excess crop load cannot be matured / balance by weak shoot growth. The capacity of a vine is a balance between crop load and canopy size.

Obviously, pruning is not the only tool used to affect vine balance on an annual basis; shoot and crop thinning practices allow the grower to fine tune crop levels to match canopy and shoot growth. Furthermore, growers have a great influence on canopy size through irrigation and nutrient management. Excess applications of water and/or nitrogen will yield unbalance vines and poor quality winegrapes.

But, Wolpert makes the point that, to a great degree, vines are self regulating. I agree, but, I won’t go into the details here. But consider that mechanically pruned vines in Sonoma County, with over 100 buds per vine, have been producing $15 bottles of wine for the last decade.

By and large, sustainable winegrape growers are seeking to produce “balanced vines” with as few inputs as possible. It troubles me to see growers attempting to balance their vines by applying the gas pedal and the brake at the same time to their vines. For example, you may have seen this vineyard: weed control is achieved through multiple discings, the drip irrigation system is turned on in May and runs through Halloween, and then the hand crews are furiously removing shoots while the cane cutters make a few more passes through the vineyard. I suggest that the proper cover crop and irrigation management strategies would eliminate much of the hand labor and cane cutting.

The sustainable economic bottom line for winegrowers is improved by: increasing returns / yields / price; and lowering cost / inputs. Minimizing passes through a vineyard are within the control of growers. Grape prices are difficult to affect.

I see a beautiful vineyard and a brilliant crew rising from this valley, and, in their struggles to be truly great vignerons, we will make great wine.

Lake County growers are blessed with a remarkable climate and soils that are well suited to winegrape production. Let us compare our region to, say, Bordeaux. I believe the vignerons near Pauiliac would love to grow vines with our moderate climate—dry summers and great fall ripening weather (a la 2012) — AND,  the sublime gift of irrigation management.

Yet, our French cousins do make some wonderful wines, at least, every couple of vintages or so. How do they do it?

I submit that the Bordelaise grow balanced vines based on their millennia of experience. Specifically, they match their, climate, soils, varietals/rootstocks, vineyard layout and annual cultural practices to achieve what should be a balanced vine two out of every three years. God willing. And, they perform this feat while being prohibited to irrigate.

So, how did California winegrowers and winemakers come to believe in the myth that good wines come from dry farmed vineyards that may not yield more than 3 tons per acre? I believe that our lack of experience compelled us to seek guidance from our European forefathers.

But, transplanting the French winegrowing strategy to California does do hold true to breed in the New World. For example, let us use a French style vineyard layout of 1m by 2m planted to Merlot on 101-14. Let us then replicate this layout by planting vineyards in Calistoga, Kelseyville and Clovis. Without extraordinary inputs and management, none of these three vineyards would produce acceptable wines.

Why should the wines from these three hypothetical vineyards be so bad? Because these vineyards would be unbalanced.

Since the mid 1990s, the consumer’s willingness to pay premium prices for higher quality wines has given impetus to great strides in California viticultural practices. California winegrapes have widely adopted cultural practices that were rare or unheard of a generation ago. Let me give a few: drip irrigation, canopy management, mechanization (harvesting, leafing, and some pruning), varietal / clone / rootstock selection, vine spacing, trellis designs, IPM and training /education.

Sustainable winegrape growing is not a set of required rules and practices. As the saying goes, “There are a thousand ways to skin a vineyard.” Sustainable winegrape growing is a process towards continuous improvement. Lake County winegrape growers should always be striving to improve their vineyards to meet the evolving demands of our customers. 

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better balanced vineyard that I go to than I have ever known.

The LCWC will hold Grower Tailgate Meeting on February 21 to address pruning strategies in relation to balancing vines and enhancing sustainable winegrape practices.


References

Jim Wolpert. Vine Balance and the Role of Vineyard Design. February 23, 2011. Sonoma County Grape Day.

Kliewer, W. M. and N. K. Dokoozlian. 2000. Leaf area/crop weight ratios of grapevines: Influence of fruit composition and wine quality. In: Proceedings of the ASEV 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting, American Society for Enology and Viticulture, Davis, CA. (also: American Journal for Enology and Viticulture 56:170-181. 2005)

Integrated Weed Management UC Pest Management Guidelines, University of California

Mark L. Chien 2009. Vine Size and Balance and Balanced Pruning. Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Ohmart CP. 2011. A View from the Vineyard: A Practical Guide to Sustainable Wine Grape Growing. Wine Appreciation Guild.

Eutypa – UC Integrated Viticulture Online

iv.ucdavis.edu/?uid=64&ds=351

Master Vigneron Class Graduates

Susan Stout • Contributing Writer

Lake County News 


Master Vigneron Class

L>R: Pablo Zellman, Jaime Rosas, Amador Villalobos, Federico Gonzalez, Tacho Corona, Gabriel Martinez, Gerardo Mendoza, Antonio Batres, Felix Aguilar, Alonso Raygoza, Geronimo Rico, Randy Krag
Photo By: Casey Carney

LAKEPORT, Calif. – Ten individuals representing Lake County’s professional vineyard work force received accolades Thursday, Nov. 15, when the Lake County Winegrape Commission presented its first graduating class of the Commission’s Master Vigneron Academy. The graduation and celebration took place in the Lakeport Yacht Club.

The 2012 graduates of the yearlong course are Felix Aguilar and Gabriel Martinez of Bella Vista Farming; Antonio Batres and Alonso Raygoza, Beckstoffer-Red Hills; Tarcisio Corona, Stokes Vineyards; Federico Gonzalez, L & L Vineyards; Gerardo Mendoza, Red Hills Vineyard; Jeronimo Rico, Dorn Vineyards; Jaime Rosas, Lyon Vineyards; and Amador Villalobos, Nissen Vineyard Services. “You guys are tops,” said Randy Krag to the group of vineyard foremen and supervisors. Offering congratulations to the class, Krag said the men had each earned the title of “Master Vigneron” by completing the course and pursuing a career path.

In a video presented prior to the introduction of the graduates, Krag said, “It’s the people who make our business work.” While praising the class’ work over the past year, he reiterated the comment to the approximately 50 people attending the graduation Thursday.

“People are the strength of what we do. (Lake County) is in good shape if our industry is in such capable hands,” Krag said. Krag, research/education chair for the Lake County Winegrape Commission, has been credited with the concept of the Master Vigneron program.

From left, Lake County Winegrape Commission Board member Randy Krag, Master Vigneron Academy instructor/director Paul Zellman and Commission Chair Peter Molnar at the program’s graduation on Thursday, November 15, 2012, in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Susan Stout.

He explained Thursday that he proposed a program to help develop the professional workforce of vineyard managers. The experience workers and managers involved in the industry are at the core of the program goals, he said.

Krag and Paul Zellman, director of the Master Vigneron Program, presented each of the graduates with certificates of completion in English and Spanish and a hat sporting the “MV” logo on its band.

Zellman coordinated the monthly meetings of the Master Vigneron Academy and led the group on its visits to wineries and vineyards in Lake County and outlying counties.

Commission Chair Peter Molnar acknowledged the group, noting that the first year of any type of program is usually the hardest but that from what he observed “there is every indication that it was successful.”

Molnar said the Master Vigneron Program is “very important” to the commission, and he thanked Krag for the idea.

The program contributes to professional development and recognition of the workforce leaders while allowing the individuals to stay in Lake County, have their families with them and build their careers, Molnar said.

The graduates were congratulated by Molnar and commission President Shannon Gunier who called the completion of the yearlong program “an amazing accomplishment.” Gunier said the individuals’ recognition was well-deserved.

Honorees, their families and guests of the commission enjoyed lunch and dessert prepared by Chic Le Chef. A selection of Lake County wines was served with lunch.

For information about the Lake County Winegrape Commission and its Master Vigneron Program, visit the commission’s Web site at www.lakecountywinegrape.org .

Master Vigneron Program graduate Jaime Rosas (left) and Lake County Winegrape Commission Board member Jeff Lyon at the program’s graduation on Thursday, November 15, 2012, in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Susan Stout.


Lincoln-Leavitt Insurance Agency, Inc.

By Susan Stout • Contributing Writer


Lincoln-Leavitt Insurance Agency was formed in August of 1999 when Tom Lincoln and Leavitt Group Enterprises partnered to open a new agency in Lakeport. Lincoln has been in the insurance business in Lake County since 1977, and his agency provides numerous insurance products for local businesses and families.

As an affiliate sponsor of the Lake County Winegrape Commission, Lincoln-Leavitt offers a wide choice of insurance alternatives for local winegrape growers and wineries. The agency represents all recognized leaders in ag insurance, including Grange, Allied Insurance, California Insurance Group (CIG), Travelers, Golden Eagle and Winery Plus. Whether the need is fire or crop insurance, workers compensation, farm or business liability, group health or employment practices liability, Lincoln-Leavitt can tailor a solution that offers broad coverage at competitive prices.

In addition to Lincoln, there are seven other licensed insurance professionals ready to assist clients. Jill Jensen, a Lake County native who entered the insurance field in 1989, has extensive experience in commercial and personal insurance sales. As a longtime winegrape grower, she understands the challenges facing growers and how to address the unique risks that growers and wineries face. She also has extensive experience in the increasingly complex field of health insurance. Jensen is assisted by Kristy Weiss.

Also assisting Lincoln and Jensen is commercial account specialist Christina DeWeese. She has invaluable experience in both banking and insurance and oversees all commercial customer service. She is backed up by Kathleen Compton, who has over 30 years of insurance experience and claims a rich agricultural insurance background.

To help meet the needs of farm families, Deanna Steele, Carrie Banks and Erica Nissen have dozens of carriers that offer insurance products for home, auto and recreational vehicles. Among the companies that compete for personal insurance business are Allied, CIG, Safeco, Grange, Hartford and Progressive.

Lincoln-Leavitt already insures a number of local grape and wine industry clients and welcomes assisting others who value over 100 years of collective insurance experience and a local reputation for excellent service. The agency is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 5 p.m., and can be reached at 707-263-7162. All agency email addresses are found at www.lincolnleavitt.com, and Tom Lincoln can be reached by cell phone at 707-349-3210.  Jill Jensen can be reached by cell at 707-350-0738.


 

Master Vigneron Class Graduates

By Susan Stout • Contributing Writer

2012 Graduates of the Master Vigneron Class

L>R: Pablo Zellman, Jaime Rosas, Amador Villalobos, Federico Gonzalez, Tacho Corona, Gabriel Martinez, Gerardo Mendoza, Antonio Batres, Felix Aguilar, Alonso Raygoza,
Geronimo Rico, Randy Krag
Photo by: Casey Carney

LAKEPORT – Ten individuals representing Lake County’s professional vineyard work force received accolades Thursday when the Lake County Winegrape Commission presented its first graduating class of the Commission’s Master Vigneron Academy. The graduation and celebration took place in the Lakeport Yacht Club.

The 2012 graduates of the year-long course are Felix Aguilar and Gabriel Martinez of Bella Vista Farming; Antonio Batres and Alonso Raygoza, Beckstoffer – Red Hills; Tarcisio Corona, Stokes Vineyards; Federico Gonzalez, L & L Vineyards; Gerardo Mendoza, Red Hills Vineyard; Jeronimo Rico, Dorn Vineyards; Jaime Rosas, Lyon Vineyards; and Amador Villalobos, Nissen Vineyard Services.

“You guys are tops,” said Randy Krag to the group of vineyard foremen and supervisors. Offering congratulations to the class, Krag said the men had each earned the title of “Master Vigneron” by completing the course and pursuing a career path.

In a video presented prior to the introduction of the graduates, Krag said, “It’s the people who make our business work.” While praising the class’ work over the past year, he reiterated the comment to the approximately 50 people attending the graduation Thursday. “People are the strength of what we do. (Lake County) is in good shape if our industry is in such capable hands.”

Krag, Research/Education chair for the Lake County Winegrape Commission, has been credited with the concept of the Master Vigneron program. He explained Thursday that he proposed a program to help develop the professional workforce of vineyard managers. The experience workers and managers involved in the industry are at the core of the program goals, he said.

Krag and Paul Zellman, director of the Master Vigneron Program, presented each of the graduates with certificates of completion in English and Spanish and a hat sporting the “MV” logo on its band. Zellman coordinated the monthly meetings of the Master Vigneron Academy and led the group on its visits to wineries and vineyards in Lake County and outlying counties.

Commission Chair Peter Molnar acknowledged the group, noting that the first year of any type of program is usually the hardest but that from what he observed “there is every indication that it was successful.” Molnar said the Master Vigneron Program is “very important” to the Commission, and he thanked Krag for the idea. The program contributes to professional development and recognition of the workforce leaders while allowing the individuals to stay in Lake County, have their families with them, and build their careers, Molnar said.

The graduates were congratulated by Molnar and Commission President Shannon Gunier who called the completion of the yearlong program “an amazing accomplishment.” She said the individuals’ recognition was well-deserved.

Honorees, their families, and guests of the Commission enjoyed lunch and dessert prepared by Chic Le Chef. A selection of Lake County wines was served with lunch.

For information about the Lake County Winegrape Commission and its Master Vigneron Program, visit the Commission’s website at www.lakecountywinegrape.org.


Meet the Board of Directors

Randy Krag, Beckstoffer Vineyards

Research/Education Chair for the Lake County Winegrape Commission

By Susan Stout • Contributing Writer


Celebrating the graduation of 10 students from the first Master Vigneron Academy last week, Randy Krag is placing the program at the top of his list of goals. “I want to raise the bar on it for the next go around,” says Randy.

As the Research and Education chair for the Winegrape Commission, Randy brings expertise to the post from a research background in plant pathology and entomology, from practical business experience in vineyard management.

“My family has some old roots in Mendocino County (1854-1882), but they all left for the sunny south where the family remained until I came along.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in soil science in 1986 (Cal Poly Pomona) and his master’s degree in plant protection and pest management in 1991 (UC Davis). He has worked for the University of Idaho at Moscow, E&J Gallo in Merced County,  the USDA Agricultural Research Service on campus at UC Davis, and Welch Vineyard Management in Lake and Mendocino counties.

As a board member since 2008, Randy has helped the Commission present a number of workshops aimed at benefiting the Lake County grape growers. They have included seminars on sustainability, irrigation, and many other aspects of vineyard management.

Employed by Beckstoffer Vineyards, Randy’s chief responsibility is viticulturist, which includes pest management, irrigation, and vine mineral nutrition. He recently completed his ninth harvest with Beckstoffer.

Randy and his wife Erica “found a piece of paradise on the north side of Clear Lake” when the Mendocino County vineyard management company he was working for expanded into Lake County. They have farmed 25 acres of walnuts since 1998, and in 2000 they adopted their children, Jesse and Chelo.

A list of the Commission’s Board and contact information is available on the website, www.lakecountywinegrape.org. The website is also an excellent source of information about the many events and programs presented by the Commission.


Lake County Winegrowers – November 2012 eNews

Harvest ’12 Wrap-up ~ Master Vigneron Completes Year One

Lake County Rising... In this edition… Harvest 2012 is in the books and though we won’t know everything for the next several weeks, early returns are good. Most are raving about the quality of the crop this year in Lake County and even the yields, earlier feared to be low, exceeded many expectations. We are all excited to taste the results of this year’s output as the hard work of winemaking goes forth.

As we celebrate our first Master Vigneron class, we are also excited to be welcoming a new class beginning soon that will come with more innovation as part of this critical sustainable winegrowing program. Lastly, we share an interesting fact coming from some of our recent Lake County Rising campaign survey work regarding the “value” of Lake County wines…


“Smiles” Seem To Be The Trend for 2012
Most growers and others are very enthusiastic about this year’s harvest…

Lake County, CA – Harvest 2012 is done and “there are smiles everywhere,” said Paul Zellman, Education Director for the Lake County Winegrape Commission (LCWC). “It was, largely, an ‘easy’ year.”

This is one of the most enjoyable times of the year – when all the hard work of harvest for growers draws to a close and folks can look back on a job well done. Overall, it has been an excellent harvest. Almost across the board, the take on quality has been good to exceptional. Some are calling it the best harvest in the region over the past several years.

Very few problems were encountered during the season, overall. “There were no real major climatic events that hit [growers] in the pocketbook,” Zellman continued.

Temperatures for ripening were very good, rain was not a big problem and the timing for picking most varietals was logistically friendly as far as accommodating grapes coming into the wineries for processing. Although, there were some concerns about low yields earlier in the season, it didn’t turn out to be nearly as dire as some feared. Some vineyards were down here and there, but not as bad as some recent years.

“Quantity, mainly, exceeded expectations,” said Zellman. “Also, since prices have been up somewhat, again, there are lots of smiles around here.”

Visit our website to learn more…


Master Vigneron Graduation & Year 2
Master Vigneron readies for the second class

Lake County, CA – As most of you know, Lake County is a leader in sustainability in the vineyard. Our goals for the coming years for utilizing the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance’s (CSWA) criteria for achieving certified sustainability in our vineyards are very aggressive. In addition, however, we are also making tremendous strides to lead the charge through innovation with our own program development. One of those programs is called “Master Vigneron.”

We have talked a lot about this program in previous editions (more, if you are curious or are new to hearing about the program can be seen on our website.) Here at the LCWC, we firmly believe that this program is not just “complimentary” to sustainability, but rather, an integral part. We are about to embark on our second year of the program beginning in December with a new class of would-be Master Vignerons.

Our inaugural class will be celebrating their newly minted status at a special graduation ceremony taking place Thursday, November 15th at the Lakeport Yacht Club. We are very proud of this group, many of whom will be moving on to mentorship roles in support of the upcoming class. You can learn more about the first group here. We are looking forward to another successful year building on the hard work put forth by the students, LCWC Education Director, Paul Zellman, and LCWC board member Randy Krag. More innovations for this unique and valuable program will keep coming!


Lake County Wine Industry Factoid
Consumers praise the value of Lake County wines

Lake County, CA – As part of our “Lake County Rising” campaign, in part, funded by a USDA/CDFA grant, we are conducting surveys with several audiences on various topics. We are in the process of completing the first round of this evaluation work, currently. Many interesting things are emerging as we look at the numbers. In coming editions of this e-newsletter, from time to time, we will throw out some interesting facts based on our findings. So, be on the lookout for that…

Up first, we surveyed hundreds of consumers on their perceptions and awareness of Lake County’s wine and wine industry. Of all consumers surveyed, 86.6% viewed the value (quality versus price) of Lake County wines were either good/above average or very good/excellent. We are pleased to see that so many folks who purchase wine agree with one our primary goals – provide a quality product at a great price.


Visit our website for much more. Our website, which can be seen here, has much more information on our region, our winegrapes and all of our programs and activities.
Tell a friend. If you know someone who might be interested in our enewsletter and Lake County, please forward this edition onward. Also, more about us and our enewsletter sign-up can be found here

Cheers,
The Lake County Winegrowers

Produced by Dias Associates Consulting
Photos by Paul Zellman, Hannah Henry & Bryan Dias

Our mailing address is:

Lake County Winegrape Commission

PO Box 877

Lakeport, CA95453

Copyright © 2012 Lake County Winegrape Commission All rights reserved

Seminar Tackles Vineyard/Orchard Pest Management Issues

November 1, 2012 • Susan Stout, Contributing Writer

UPPER LAKE – The  Mendocino College 15th Annual IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Seminar, addressing such topics as weed control strategies, exotic pests in North Coast vineyards, sudden oak death, and nutrition for trees and vines, is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 16, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., at The Lodge at Blue Lakes, 5135 W. Highway 20.

This year’s seminar is co-sponsored by the Lake County Winegrape Commission and Mendocino College.

The enrollment fee for the daylong event is $45 for individuals who register online at mendocinocollegeipm2012.eventbrite.com. Fee for registration by mail or fax is $55. Attendees may earn 7 hours of continuing education approved by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).

Deadline for registration is November 11. Lunch will be provided to pre-registered attendees. Walk-ins may be accommodated for the seminar, but lunch will not be guaranteed, according to the sponsors. For information, contact Paul Zellman, education director for the Lake County Winegrape Commission, by sending an email to paulz@lakecountywinegrape.org or by fax to 707-463-6699. Additionally, information is available from Jim Xerogeanes, director of Agriculture/Natural Resources at Mendocino College, at jxerogea@mendocino.edu.

Check-in for the class will begin at 7:30 a.m. Presentations will begin at 8 a.m. Scheduled speakers include John Roncoroni, weed specialist, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), Napa County; Kim Gallagher Horton, Biobest, USA; Tom Anderson, DPR; Paul Ryan, DPR Enforcement Branch liaison; Lucia Varela, Ph.D., UCCE, Sonoma; Jack Marshall, California Department of Forestry/CalFire; and Greg Young, soil scientist and vineyard/agricultural consultant.

A panel of growers will give a review of this year’s pest management issues in vineyards and orchards. Broc Zoller, The Pear Doctor, will be joined by Ann Thrupp, sustainability manager for Fetzer & Bonterra Vineyards, and Daniel Robledo, Crop Production Services.