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Vineyards Practices

Vineyard Manager Gustavo Aviña and Winemaker Michael Beaulac believe there is a symbiotic relationship between what happens in the vineyard and what happens in the cellar.

Vineyards Practices

Vineyard Manager Gustavo Aviña and Winemaker Michael Beaulac believe there is a symbiotic relationship between what happens in the vineyard and what happens in the cellar.

Together they determine the best approach to farming each of the five distinct appellations of our estates, carefully evaluating soils, sun exposure, climate, and slope to determine the most effective rootstock, clones, irrigation, and other aspects of grapegrowing. “Gustavo’s intimate connection with the vines means he knows every inch of our Pine Ridge Vineyards,” says Michael. “We rely on his experience, deep intuition, and keen observation—he simply understands how to get the finest fruit out of each row of our estate.”

We farm all of our vineyards ourselves. Stewardship of this remarkable land is not something we take lightly.

Each year, we renew our relationship with the vines by pruning them. It’s our way of communicating our expectations. By adjusting the number of buds on each side of the vine, we instill balance. Pruning coaxes the vines to focus their energy solely on producing fruit, so that the grapes come to full maturity, developing ripe brown seeds before harvest. Our teams manage the same vineyards throughout the year: they therefore gain intimate knowledge of every vine they care for.

The magic of budbreak returns every spring when tiny, fuzzy green buds, delicately rimmed in pink or burgundy, burst forth from the vines.

Bloom is a beautiful, precarious time of year; each set of tiny flowers is a future grape cluster, and we hope Mother Nature spares us the hail or frost that would destroy these tender blossoms.

In spring, whenever temperatures fall, we use wind machines in the vineyards. The machines, such as the one pictured here at the cooler Carneros Collines Vineyard, keep the air circulating so that the coldest air does not settle on the vines and damage the buds or the new growth. The fans mix the warmer air from above with the cooler air near the ground: a change of just one degree can make a huge difference in protecting the vines.

Using a shovel to curtail weeds is expensive and labor intensive, but this hands-on method is the best way to remove weeds left behind after the ground has been cultivated with mechanical equipment.

Throughout the growing season, our vineyard team is wholly committed to canopy management. No degree of fine-tuning is too great. As the shoots grow, we painstakingly tuck them between trellising wires, using clips to hold them in place. Ideally spaced, they receive optimum exposure to the sun, ensuring the photosynthesis critical to nourishing the vines and ripening the grapes.

Grapes respond to constant attention, so all our vines receive ongoing care by hand. These Cabernet Sauvignon vines are having leaves pulled from their fruit zones. This early exposure prepares the grape skin for the long hot summer ahead, resulting in far more flavorful fruit at harvest.

Veraison marks the beginning of ripening in grapes. The grapes swell and begin to take on varietal color; red varieties transform from spring green to shades of purple, blue, and black. At this stage, sugars increase while acids decrease.

During harvest, we walk every vineyard row of each of our estate blocks, tasting grapes on the vine in order to harvest at peak ripeness and tannin development.

Harvest begins when our grapes reach optimum maturity. Many factors determine this moment, but most important is the taste of the grapes. We pick all our grapes by hand, at night, as early as 1:00 am. Our dedicated pickers prefer these middle-of- the-night rendezvous; neither they nor our treasured crop feel the heat of late summer sun as it reaches into the valley.

Following harvest, the vines enter their winter dormancy. Leaves change color and carpet the valley with brilliant red, orange, yellow, and brown.