Yesterday we drove to Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard in the Cuyama Valley. With a very wet winter finally behind us, the valley was glorious with blankets of yellow wildflowers and long green grasses under a perfect blue sky.
The first stop was to look at our impressive new reservoir. It seems like a mini-lake, filled by water from 3 wells on our property. This reservoir is primarily for frost protection. We spray water through sprinklers and the thermodynamics of freezing protects the buds from frost damage. As the water cools, it releases enough heat to protect the grapes.
Frost protection is crucial at Santa Barbara Highlands — particularly after bud break, when a damaging frost could ruin a substantial part of our crop. For this reason, Lino calls April the “month of terror.” But the frost protection was perfectly timed, because bud break has just happened and it looks like our vines have no frost damage.
The nature all around us was beautiful and life affirming, but another reason for our tour was meeting our newest purchase: the Optimum 890 Pellenc All Purpose Harvester, Sprayer, Pre-Pruner and Mower. This French machine has become the gold standard in vineyard circles. Since it is so versatile, it will help us become more efficient in the vineyard, particularly as we complete our planting cycle. Our ultimate planting goal is 1,100 acres, largely devoted to Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
The 890 Pellenc fits above the vines, and has huge tires. It works on four rows at one time — a computer inside the driver’s chamber operates the four different arms.
The best thing about the machine, according to Lino, is its state-of-the-art de-stemmer, which removes the stems when we pick the fruit. So the grapes are ready to go directly into the fermenter once we deliver them. Science fiction has caught up in the vineyard. The gorgeous yellow monster is here to stay.
Each time we visit Santa Barbara Highlands, we are amazed anew by the beauty of the area and the quality of the grapes that come from there. We feel blessed to be pioneers in this emerging viticultural region. With only two or three other growers in Cuyama Valley (Harvard Business School is planting a big vineyard nearby), we’re clearly outliers. But from the way we’ve been selling our grapes to many other wineries throughout the coast, there’s real enthusiasm for the quality of our Santa Barbara Highlands fruit.
Speaking of Santa Barbara Highlands, we are offering a 3 Pack with the last of the 2013 vintage NADIA wines before we roll into our 2014 wines.
A votre santé,