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A new year... a new friend

Posted by Tom Higgins
Tom Higgins
Owner, Winemaker, Vineyard Manager & CTO (Chief Troublemaking Officer)
User is currently offline
on Sunday, February 16, 2014
in Vineyard

 

While each year harvest activities bring us a great deal of joy and euphoria, this year was bitterweet - as our hearts were heavy this past October with the passing of our wonderful winery dog, Fíon.  She was a fantastic companion to us and provided countless laughs with her antics.  And as harvest chaos began winding down,  our sense of loss was amplified - and we sorely missed the wagging tail greeting us at the end of each day,  the vineyard hikes with a loyal companion, and the consistent performance of joyous bronco jumping at each meal time... the winery felt emptier and far too quiet.  

 

In mid-December we decided that it was time to think about looking for a new companion.  We began our search for a Swiss Mountain Dog, and anticipated being on a waiting list for a few months, then waiting for pups to be born, then further waiting for the pups to be old enough to leave their mother - most likely a wait of 6 to 9 months.  But, as luck would have it, one of the breeders we spoke to had a female "pick pup" that was supposed to head out to a breeder in Colorado - but the placement fell through.   The breeder's love for this puppy grew, and they were considering keeping her - but the couple had made a promise to each other that the number of Swissys living in the house could not go into double digits.   Thus, the opportunity seemed to work for all of us.

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So in this new year, we were fortunate enough to welcome Caliza to the family at the winery.  The name "Caliza" is the Spanish word for "limestone".  Caliza absolutely loves being around people and at present is very much a little shadow, following all of the humans in the house... for the time being.  As I'm aware, she will develop her own independence as she approaches a year of age and will begin to test the boundaries.  Thus far, she must believe that we live in the tundra, given the vast amount of snow on the ground that she enjoys sticking her muzzle in as she bounds through the powder.  Once the mud arrives, I don't think either of us will be enjoying the cleanup after vineyard romps!

 

While our dear Fíon will never be replaced, we are happy to find room in our hearts for our new companion... and when you arrive to the winery this season,  we hope you enjoy the greeting from a new friend with a wagging tail.

Starting the new vintage...

Posted by Tom Higgins
Tom Higgins
Owner, Winemaker, Vineyard Manager & CTO (Chief Troublemaking Officer)
User is currently offline
on Saturday, February 01, 2014
in Vineyard

 

altAs the bountiful harvest from the 2013 vintage rest in the cellar, we begin to prepare with anticipation for what 2014 will offer us.  In this viticultural environment, the grape variability from year to year is truly dependent on what mother nature provides.  A warmer season may benefit many of the reds of the region, whereas a cooler one may express a snappy finish on the Rieslings from the Finger Lakes.  While the next nine months will be fast and furious keeping up with the pace of the season, this time of year offers us a little break from the chaos and a time to catch up.

 

Most people stopping into the tasting room during the season ask what we do in the winter - assuming it must be a time when we head down to key west for three months (I wish I had with this winter).  While operationally, things are a little slower and more quiet, there are still a number of things to stay on top of.  Here are a few:

 

Wrapping up Fermentations

The Rieslings continued to bubble into the frigid months of December and January, before it was time to stop the fermentations.  Because of the duration of the fermentation (i.e. slower activity), we don't need to be analyzing them as often as we do for the Pinot.  Oh, and the tropical aromatic esters that they are showcasing as they progress through their fermentations are just so sublime.  It is really an enjoyable time to be in the cellar.

 

Tasting Room Upgrade

With the lack of traffic in the tasting room, it allows us to work on those projects that we've been waiting on the past 12 months.  One of those annual tasks is refinishing the tasting room bar.  The black walnut bartop sees a number of hands, bottles, and glasses throughout the year, so this break allows us to apply the coats of lacquer to protect the wood for the new year ahead.  Additionally, the lacquer has a tendency to linger for a few weeks, so it's probably best to apply now as to not impact the aromatic experience in the tasting room.

 

We also ordered some new imagery to adorn the walls and share more of a "behind the scenes" look of Heart & Hands.  Everything from the early season bud break to harvest will tell a tale of the season and our vinification practices.

 

There will also be new wines this season along with a new format for the tastings, so we're pretty excited about getting the season started when the upgrades are wrapped up in the tasting room.

 

Blending Trials

Once the wines have completed fermentation, it gives us an opportunity to look at each vessel (barrel or tank) to assess the wines individually and begin blending trials.  Anything from the vineyard, to the tank size, the press date, the fermentation duration, or the yeast selected (to name a few) can create a complex web of variables to select from.  For the Rieslings alone, it can take weeks for us to decide on the breakout of the final blends - so it is not for the weary. 

 

Stirring Polarity

Can't forget about our white Pinot Noir - Polarity.  Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday means a visit to the barrel room to stir the lees to create more richness and complexity in the finished wines.  With 5 additional barrels this year, it means spending a tad bit longer working on what the French refer to as "battonage".

 

altPruning the Vines

And last, but clearly not least, pruning.  To me, pruning marks that magical moment that the new season is upon us. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the vines will emerge this spring with new life.  Pruning is our way of listening to the vine speak about the previous year - if the vine was small last season, we may need to cut back this year and leave fewer buds for balanced growth.  I think it is an exciting time to work with the vines and really hear them.  It always teaches me more about my site and how that one vine in that 3 foot space operates.

A break from the work to enjoy the beauty...

Posted by Tom Higgins
Tom Higgins
Owner, Winemaker, Vineyard Manager & CTO (Chief Troublemaking Officer)
User is currently offline
on Thursday, August 01, 2013
in Vineyard

 

Just sharing a quick time lapse video from this evening taking in the rolling clouds and beautiful sun...

 


And now for the clusters...

Posted by Tom Higgins
Tom Higgins
Owner, Winemaker, Vineyard Manager & CTO (Chief Troublemaking Officer)
User is currently offline
on Sunday, May 05, 2013
in Vineyard

 

altWith the San Diego-like temperatures this past week (clear, sunny, mid 70's), the vines made a quick leap from bud break to a first showing of the clusters.  The forecast for this week doesn't look like there will be much of a change, so we're probably going to see some significant growth this week.

 

What are the next tasks?

We'll begin the process of "suckering" this week to remove the shoots that have emerged from the trunk.  This allows the vine to focus on putting energy into the shoots on the fruiting wire for this seasons production.

 

Next, we will do some shoot thinning to remove shoots that are too close to each other.  The grape clusters need appropriate air drainage, so it is important that each shoot (bearing 2 clusters) has its own space.  It is much easier to perform this task at this point in the season when you can use your fingers. As the shoots mature and harden off, pruning shears are required for removal, and the task becomes more difficult.  

 

We will continue to post photos and updates as the 2013 season progresses, so be sure to check back to see where we are in the vineyard and cellar.

 

Bud Break 2013!

Posted by Tom Higgins
Tom Higgins
Owner, Winemaker, Vineyard Manager & CTO (Chief Troublemaking Officer)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, May 01, 2013
in Vineyard

 

altJust in time for the derby season.... "And They're Off!"

 

Yesterday (April 30th) marked the beginning of the growing season at Heart & Hands - bud break.  While in some of the vineyard the buds continue to swell, a majority of the lower block is showing some green.  Last year's bud break was much earlier, exposing us to frost risk. This year we can breathe a little easier knowing that we're only a few days away from the "last frost" date.

 

We're looking forward to a great 2013!