Journey: Thoughts and Reflections along the path. 

Sheldon Haynie
February 28, 2014 | Sheldon Haynie

Celebrating the Rains

 Drought is a very serious thing, and this past several months we have experienced the highest level  of drought, level "D4" or  "Exceptional" shown in the Dark Red, which up to last week covered 22% of the state. There are places in the Central Valley and near Paso Robles where wells are going dry, the earth is subsiding and in general it was looking like a dust bowl was coming. While we had not seen that level of problem yet in the Southern Santa Clara County, to the east of the notch in the coast which is Monterey Bay, we were starting to plan for it.

Agriculture under that dark red blotch is a multi-billion dollar industry, and employs thousands who feed a good part of the United States and supply nuts, fruits and vegetables to the rest of the world. The state of California  and Federal agencies had constructed reservoirs and aqueducts over the last 100 yrs to alleviate the effects of periodic droughts, and up until 5 yrs ago it was pretty effective. At that time there was a change in policy that diverted the much of the stored water to support the "delta smelt" a small fish living in the Sacramento River Delta.

Without rains and good snowpack up in the Sierra it was looking like a very brutal year for agriculture, the people who work in it, and the consumers of local foods. Sending relief money to the farmers and workers does not replace their land, work and pride, though it may let them buy food from others, when they "fed a nation" in the past.

John Mellencamp's song "Rain on the Scarecrow" is probably the most poignant descriptor I can point to that describes my feelings about land. My family has had agriculture in our hertiage, since my great^8 (great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great) grandfather John Haynie apparently got off the "Margett and John in Northumberland Virginia, CA 1621 and was listed as a "planter".  I've developed a link to the soil that was seemingly latent, an urge to get up at early hours and go out and husband the soil, taking pride in growing a crop, working with and in spite of nature to bring in a harvest. 

While jane and I are not solely dependent on farming for our living, we do depend on the wine grapes we grow to make Lightheart Cellars wines and we've both worked many hours to establish our estate vineyard, and recondition the vineyards we manage, bringing their yields and quality up over time. 

So its with elation that we celebrate the recent rains that starting this week on Wednesday have brought over 3 inches to us. The plot from the Santa Clara Valley Water District's Church Street Station shows the results of this past storm, bringing 1/3 of our normal rainfall in 3 days. The forecast is optimistic for the next day at least to continue to get more rains. 

With 6 inches, we can make it through the season, we may have to use caution and conserve more than usual, but we'll have a crop. If we get another 3-10 inches we'll have abundance. 

Gene Kelly ain't got nothin on us, we'll be out there dancing in the rain. 




Time Posted: Feb 28, 2014 at 8:53 AM
Sheldon Haynie
February 23, 2014 | Sheldon Haynie

Pruning and Pouring

We're out in the vineyards working hard these weeks, racing to get ahead of budbreak.

We started with pre-pruning using a hedge trimmer so the pruning crew can be efficient and fast. Alex and Chris have done 16 acres so far. We also have been spraying a mix of Glyphosate (round up) and pre-emergent herbicide under the wire and along the fence lines to keep the weeds down, now that we have had a bit of rain to germinate them.  Having the 25 gal sprayer in the bed of the RTV or in the tractor bucket for the narrow vineyards means we get to drive with one hand and use the other to hold the spray gun, which beats walking a mile per acre with a back pack sprayer.  

We started pruning in Soli Deo Gloria last weekend doing the Petite Sirah on the hillside, as there's little frost risk, this weekend we moved to the 5 acres of the Chirala Vineyard, and brought in our harvest crew to prune. We traditionally pay the guys cash and provide morning snack and lunch, as we work pretty hard and it's more efficient to put out food than have the guys have to pack a lunch. When you are working on your feet for 8 hrs a bit of sugar is just more fuel. 

Yesterday was clif bars and McDonalds, today we had Girl Scout Cookies and Jack in the Box.  On the way to pick up Gator Ade I was mugged by a troop of Brownies outside Safeway. They seemed surprised that someone would buy a box of each type, but then most of their customer don't have 8 hungry guys working.  While the cookies are more expensive than alternatives, their mothers are prospective customers, and took a card, We'll hopefully get the investment back soon. 

In addition to working in the fields, we have poured at several venues; Viva Los Gatos, Drybar Santana Row, the Campbell wine walk and SF Chronicle grand tasting.  Our wines are well received and we hope to see people coming to the winery on future open weekends. 

We have even been buffing up our social media presence, including joining Instagram and claiming our location under Foursquare. We're trying to keep our focus on making grapes and wines, with enough effort to communicate so that people are interested and come try them. 


Time Posted: Feb 23, 2014 at 4:49 PM
Sheldon Haynie
February 2, 2014 | Sheldon Haynie

Celebrating the season

Its been a while, since the last blog entry, we've taken a wee bit of a respite from farming too as is typical this time of year, and focused on family and winemaking. Our 2013 harvest was big, beautiful and we've barreled it down to age.  Winemaking has focused on malolactic fermentation before the turn of the year, while bottling of more meads, a reserve barrel of our Merlot Zinfandel "Eroika", and Rosè of Zinfandel "Serendipity" rounded out January. We hope to release the Serendipity in February as it comes out of bottle shock. 

We finished up after harvest with vineyard ripping, tilling and seeding a cover crop and then have been doing weed management under the wire while the vines are dormant. Our field crew is out doing pre-pruning, the last weeks and the much needed rain has delayed the start of final pruning, to avoid Eutypa problems. We try to prune starting in February on the hillside at Soli Deo Gloria in West Gilroy and then work through the Chirala & Behlmer Vineyards and finish up on the flat at Coop, Estate and Athena's Vineyard to minimize frost risks. We hope to have budbreak and shoot growth after the last hard frost of the season. With this years drought, its especially concerning as we want to get the vines growing while we have cooler weather and need to balance risks.  

Today's rain, a steady soaking at 0.07 in/hr on the estate weather station will go a long way to moving the cover crop along and keeping the vines healthy. We will need to irrigate earlier if we don't get our normal 10 inches of rain by April 1st, and there is concern that the reservoirs are low and that wells may go dry. Each vineyard has a well to support it, but they all pull from the local acquifer, and if it runs too low we will have to adjust. 

On a cheerier note, we were gratified to win a silver medal for our "Lioness" blend at the SF Chronicle Competition, and to have our 2012 Cabernets from both Soli Deo Gloria and Athena's vineyards score high marks at the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley panel blind tasting. The new wines are well received by those who taste them and we're happy to bring them out. At the Barrel tasting yesterday we had several cases of futures sold, and over a hundred people come through the winery. 



Time Posted: Feb 2, 2014 at 10:34 AM