Last year's harvest has come and gone, but the work is far from done!
January is a busy month around our estate vineyard, Fiddlestix. Here's what we're doing this time of year:
This week's Office Dress-Up was Opposites. Opposite gender, opposite seasons, opposite of work clothes, and opposite of being a die-hard Giants fan.
We paired our opposite clothes with an opposite meal - our least favorite foods.On the menu was mayonnaise, eggplant, cottage cheese, peas, and Lima beans.
What food would you have added to the list?
Read on for the juicy details & fun facts, as well as a celebration coming in August!
18 years ago I purchased a flower farm and have since turned it into my own slice of Pinot Paradise. I decided to make this area the home of my vineyard, Fiddlestix, because I wanted to invest in the future of what is now the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in hopes that I could be a part of it becoming a noteworthy place…
I created Fiddlehead (my Winery) to focus on Pinot Noir and the place it is grown is essential to the personality of the brand. Fiddlehead is all about sense of place. So after my early vineyard source - Sierra Madre - sold in the mid 90’s, and there was little Pinot Noir to be had from Santa Barbara County (and even less that was the top quality that I demanded for Fiddlehead), I knew the only way I could progress my commitment to Pinot Noir was to invest in the development of bare ground.
In 1996 I purchased the land for Fiddlestix. The first blocks were planted in 1998 with dormant grafted vines, and the first tiny crop of Lollapalooza was produced in 2000! In 2001, a group of us local winemakers successfully earned the Sta. Rita Hills AVA designation.
In my time here, I have come to admire what makes the Sta. Rita Hills special. Here are a few reasons which I believe make the Sta. Rita Hills area so unique:
Sta. Rita Hills AVA at a Glance
More fun facts…
√ Sta. Rita Hills AVA is in Northern Santa Barbara County, California, USA.
√ Sta. Rita Hills AVA lies between Buellton and Lompoc CA.
√ 100 square acres of hillside land, one of the smallest AVA's in California.
√ 99% of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA lies within the existing Santa Ynez Valley AVA, on the far western end. Although independent, Sta. Rita Hills AVA can be considered the Western sub-appellation of Santa Ynez Valley.
√ Boundaries were established by winemakers and winegrowers in the area, marking maps on foot and in
4x4 trucks. The boundaries were chosen specifically for viticultural viability and for the highest quality
Pinot Noir winegrape production.
√ Approximately 2877 acres planted, mostly Pinot Noir with Chardonnay, small amounts of Syrah, Pinot Blanc,
Pinot Gris, Gewurtztraminer, Riesling and other varietals.
√ Petition to establish Sta. Rita Hills was drafted and submitted in 1997, approved in 2001.
Fiddlehead purchased the land for Fiddlestix in 1996.
In celebration of this unique region, the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance is hosting their annual Wine and Fire Weekend showcasing the accomplished wines and producers on August 15-17, 2014.
Love the place, but hate the crowds? That’s alright! Join us for our “Super Pinot Sunday” open house at our Winery & Tasting Room in the “Lompoc Wine Ghetto” on August 17th. It’s a rare chance to taste our entire Pinot line-up and a unique opportunity to catch up with me before we’re in the thick of harvest! For tickets and more information, visit us HERE.
The thrill and angst of harvest is in the air! The valley is filling with pick-up truck and tractor buzz. Crews are filtering in and out of the vineyards applying bird nets, removing green, lesser ripe clusters from grapevines (“green drop”), and winemakers are tasting and sampling and are eager to set the pace for the new vintage. Grapes are “coloring up”, flavors are evolving, and many of us are picking for sparkling wines – a wonderful “warm-up” event – which are harvested at a much lower sugar level than still wines…typically 17-18 Brix, compared to 21-25 Brix. We had our first pick on Friday!
Our vineyard and winery equipment has been inspected and fine-tuned. Our bin dumper is on the forklift, and our 2012 Fiddlestix Pinot is racked and resting in barrel. The picking bins are being cleaned, our press and fermentation vats are being cleaned, new rubber boots have been ordered and we are breaking in our seasonal harvest cellar rats. And to top it all off, we entertained with our final pre-harvest event …WINE and FIRE in the Sta. Rita Hills this past weekend! Whew!
It has been a curious growing season, with the lack of rain having the greatest impact. In 2013 we received only 6.9 inches of rainfall at Fiddlestix. For comparison, in 2012 we got 13 inches, 32 inches in 2011 and about 28 inches in 2010. The dry growing season means necessary micronutrients typically carried in the water are less available to the plant, resulting in grapevines that struggled with shoot growth. Stunted shoots don’t have as many leaves for photosynthesis, and therefore can ripen only a smaller crop. Thank goodness for irrigation as we were able to replenish many of the micronutrients that were missing from our normal rainfall. As the season has progressed, we now have a relatively even canopy which helps promote even ripening within a vine row.
We love visitors in September, but beware…we may give you a pair of rubber boots and put you to work! Night harvesting starts at 2 am! But we throw a heck of a lunch party for our harvest crew.
Cheers to vintage 2013!