View Archive The Sixteen 600 Blog By Sam Coturri

Category - Harvest,Seasonal,Vineyard
Posted - 10/06/2014 08:54pm
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Guest Blog-Harvest Memories pt 1
I’d be hard pressed to say, no pun intended, that this feeling resonates with everyone working for Winery Sixteen 600, but for me there’s something about the alarm buzzing before 5am that does the opposite of make me want to hit the snooze and doze off a couple dozen more times. For me, it makes we want to throw the down comforter off and jump out of bed, walk through the hallway with its beautiful but creaky original wood floors trying not to wake anyone else, and then tip toe into the kitchen to turn on the kettle to make up a pot of fresh coffee. Scramble up some free-range farm fresh eggs and throw a couple of pieces of bread in the oven. It’s going to be a long, hard, hot, sun-soaked day in the vineyard and a lack of a hat, sleep and/or calories will catch up to you pretty quickly if you’re not careful. Believe me, I’m not. It takes a couple days to get adjusted, and with what seems like as much wine poured at dinner as is sold by the wineries during the day its hard to get to sleep on time.

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Fog lifting on an early morning at Nuns Canyon Vineyard in the Moon Mountain District

Maybe its because I’m only up here for a couple of weeks a year, or maybe its because those couple weeks are always during harvest, but there is a spirit and energy in the air that doesn’t have the same affect as life in Los Angeles, or any big city I’ve been to for that matter. The call always comes in last minute. I’ll get a text that says something like, “Ready to come up?” or “The sugars are getting up there.” Sure, by now I know the call will be coming any day as summer comes to a close, but in Los Angeles we only know that its happening because of the dates on the calendar. Unlike most of the country, the weather is a very poor indicator of anything. Once you get outside of the city this time of year, the children are back in school and the roads have quieted down of families on summer road trips. That exciting feeling of just being behind the wheel on the open road is incomparable to almost anything else I can think of or at the very least, say in mixed company.  It takes about an hour to get out of the city but once you do, that wave of joy from simply pushing down the pedal, turning up the volume, and looking out at fields on both sides of the highway is as if there is no end in sight to either your journey or the horizon. I’ve learned to be careful how many people I tell before I leave (mostly because I don’t have enough lead time), but without fail, everyone is ready to drop their cushy nine to five desk job, hop in the truck, and come North to get rocks and thorns in their shoes and soaking wet in the winery. “I’m coming up next year! ” they say. “I don’t even know if I’m coming up next year!” I reply. It so happens that I’ve said that the last two years and I’m afraid to say it again because I’m worried that will ensure that it does.

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Heading North

Without fail, the first morning I awake in Sonoma, there’s always some work to be done, and it always starts at the same time: 6:30AM. When it comes to helping out on one of the picking crews, I’m one of the lucky ones. The managers have to set up in anticipation of their crew, so they get to the vineyards at about the same time I’m reaching around aimlessly for my glasses. There are bins to be delivered to the designated blocks, labels to be made for each bin, scales to be set up once the bins start coming in, and tractors to be arranged for a uninterrupted pick. So I’ve heard…I’m not actually there to witness any of this, I’m still making breakfast!

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Guest Bloger Charlie Ron Pennes is a leading member of the self-described Harvest Reserves working his third harvest running bins in the vineyard and working the crush for Winery Sixteen 600. This year, we let him catch his breath a few times to take some photos. The Los Angeles native occasionally posts photos to his own blog cronphoto.blogspot.com.



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Category - Moon Mountain District, Farming, Vineyard, Planting
Posted - 06/17/2014 07:56pm
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Vineyard Rehab Part 1 AKA Muchas Piedras
When I posted the first Instagram picture of this vineyard reclamation project my friend Morgan Twain Peterson of Bedrock Wine Co. aptly commented the "vineyard has looked, ahem, like it's not keeping up with the neighborhood." Of course, the neighborhood Morgan was referring to is a little slice of the Moon Mountain District above Sonoma Valley. The vineyard neighbors the Sixteen 600 Estate to the Northwest and the Phil Coturri-grown Liquid Sky Vineyard to the South.

Though technincally organic, the poorly planned and neglected block of Zinfandel had never been in commercial production and frankly, looked kinda sad. In fact, when I would bring groups up to Sixteen 600 and Liquid Sky for tours I would point to the vineyard as the result of organic by benign neglect. No cover crops were ever grown, the soil was never cultivated and the irrigation system was failing. So while there were no chemical fertilizers or pesticides applied, the vineyard struggled to grow let alone produce grapes.
However, early this year the property was sold and the new owner wanted a productive vineyard and we saw an opportunity to "grow" the Sixteen 600 Estate vineyard.

In early March arranged with the new owner to redevelop and farm the vineyard. The following is the first of an ongoing series documenting this redevelopment. In light of what Phil always says, you plant vineyards for your children and olive trees for your grandchildren, the first wine from this vineyard probably won't be available until 2020, 6 years after this project began.

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The first task was to take out the old vineyard and the first step was to cut the vines off the trellis system and pull them out. The trellis system was then disassembled and sent to the metal recyclers. Here, Phil describes this process to Juan Oliveros who manages the Norrbom Road properties for Enterprise Vineyards.

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Once the trellis and vines were removed, we were really able to see the site in all its raw, rocky glory. The vineyard has amazing exposure from due East to West Northwest, expansive views of the Sonoma Valley, the San Pablo Bay and Mount Tamalpais.



With the old vines and infrastructure removed, we reshaped the terraces to best accommodate for exposure, slope, soil (rock) composition and to maximize the amount of vines we could fit into the small vineyard. This reshaping also broke up the soil compacted by years of neglect. In most cases, this tractor time would make planting easier but nothing was going to make digging holes up here "easier."

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With the terraces reshaped and the topsoil broken up, we could finally see just how rocky this vineyard is, and this is when Phil started to get really excited about it.


The new vineyard was laid-out with five feet between each vine and a minimum of eight feet between the rows depending on the terrace. Then came the "fun" part, digging 1,230 or so holes. This crew gathered close to the guy with the best radio so they could listen to Mexico play Brazil in the World Cup over the constant din of shovels and metal bars hitting rock.

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In every vineyard Phil develops a shovelful of compost is added to the hole before the rootstock is planted. On a site where the soil has been as neglected as this vineyard, the scoop of compost will go a long way toward building up organic matter and helping ensure the survival of the vine.


With the holes dug, the compost added and the irrigation system working, it was time to plant the vines. We chose a rootstock called Paulsen 1103 because it is drought tolerant and good in rocky soils. Listen closely and you'll hear Juan say "Muchas piedras" (many rocks) stating the obvious.

In the next week or two, the first little green leaves will start appearing, marking the beginning of a new life for this rocky little slice of paradise. Stay tuned for more developments in Vineyard Rehab.





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