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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

The following article was posted on December 27th, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 42

Grapes galore

Look back at viticulture milestones this year in Santa Barbara County wine country

BY WENDY THIES SELL

Another vintage has been “put to bed” in barrels and tanks in Central Coast wineries. The winter months give winemakers, vineyard managers, and workers time to catch up on rest after the grueling harvest months during the fall.

Expectations for the ’12 wines are high as the weather cooperated better this year than in years past.


FEB. 1:
These are dormant grapevines at Firestone Vineyard near Los Olivos, before pruning. In a few weeks, vineyard workers will expertly cut off the previous year’s growth, setting the stage for the next grape crop.
PHOTOS BY WENDY THIES SELL

MAY 4:
Springtime at Brander Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley means the flowering phase has begun. This is when pollination and fertilization happens. “Fruit set” soon follows, and tiny grapes appear.

“The 2012 wine grape harvest in the Santa Maria Valley ended up being a successful completion to an overall nice weather year,” said Santa Maria vineyard manager Jim Stollberg, owner of Maverick Farming. “We didn’t have too many abnormalities from Mother Nature, and the resulting yields and fruit quality were in line with what we like for high-quality wine production.”

Stollberg added that average tonnages across most grape varieties, mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, “were both good for growers and winemakers and will keep the market in balance into 2013.”


AUG. 4:
Sangiovese grapes at Stolpman Vineyards near Los Olivos begin veraison, the French term meaning “the onset of ripening.” Grapes start to accumulate sugar and soften; red grape varietals turn from green to purple; white varietals turn golden. Netting protects the sweet fruit from animals.

SEPT. 10:
A vineyard worker grips grape shears to pick the ripe Pinot Noir grapes at Riverbench Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley in the cool hours before daybreak. Many grapes are picked before sunrise, in the early morning hours, when it’s more comfortable for workers, and the cooler temperatures keep grape sugar levels stable for the fermentation process.

Throughout 2012, I captured hundreds of images with my camera while traveling the scenic country roads of northern Santa Barbara County, visiting the area’s wineries, and interviewing the winemakers who work hard all year crafting a product for us to enjoy. Cheers to the 2012 vintage!

Sun food and wine writer Wendy Thies Sell wishes you a joyful new year. Resolve to send restaurant and winery story ideas to wthies@santamariasun.com.


SEPT. 14:
Winery workers grab leaves and stems out of the bin at Santa Maria’s Cottonwood Canyon Winery while crushing the first 2012 Pinot Noir grapes, picked earlier that morning from the estate. Grape skins are gently broken during “the crush” before fermentation can begin.

OCT. 14:
Juicy grapes hang heavily on the vine at Bien Nacido Vineyards. These Santa Maria Valley grapes will be harvested in a few days, when the winemaker decides the sugar and pH levels and taste are suitable for the style of swine he or she wants to make.


OCT. 31:
CORE Wine Company owner/winemaker Dave Corey spends Halloween on the tractor, moving into his Santa Maria winery the Santa Barbara County Cabernet Sauvignon grapes harvested that morning.

NOV. 15:
The fiery orange hues of late autumn colored Lucas and Lewellen’s Los Alamos Vineyard, after the grapes were harvested. The vineyard will go dormant until spring.