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December 2005
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February 2006

Tablas Creek Wetland Area

At the end of January, we finally completed our new wetlands project.  The project, in response to a new California law requiring wineries to treat their waste water before releasing it into the environment, consistes of a series of ponds designed to filter runoff water from the winery while breaking down any impurities the water may contain. 

Runoff water (for example, water we use to clean barrels and other equipment during harvest) is channeled down to the upper pond.  There it is naturally cleaned by plants such as cattails and reeds.  The cleaned water is then channeled to the lower pond, where it returns to the atmosphere through evaporation.  Because wineries use so much water in the course of their business, it is only logical that we should have to ensure that this water becomes a healthy part of the environment it reenters. The wetlands project at Tablas Creek is the most natural and organic way of doing so that we could find.

Getting Ready to Plant "Scruffy Hill"

After a five-year hiatus in planting, we're getting ready to begin again, at the deliberate rate of 5 acres per year over the next five years.  This will allow us to gradually build our capacity from the around-16,000 case level we are now (on 80 acres) to the 22,000 case neighborhood (on 105 acres) we'd like to max out at.

What will be fun is that we're going to have available a new selection of vinifera clones (many of which weren't available during our key planting years of 1994, 1995, and 1997).

A view looking back across Tablas Creek from Scruffy Hill
A view looking back across Tablas Creek
from Scruffy Hill

We will begin the planting, this and next year, with the 10-acre section of land at the southeast corner of the property, on the far side of Tablas Creek, that we have named "Scruffy Hill" after its often unmowed appearance.  This beautiful piece of property was originally discussed as a house site, but with all the members of the family having decided to live in town, and the obvious suitability of the west-facing slopes for vines, we've decided to plant.

We are planning to plant the plot to Mourvedre, Grenache, and Counoise, all dry-farmed and head-pruned, without even irrigation lines to get the young vines started.  In order to increase the likelihood of the vines surviving, we will plant quite sparsely (about 10' x 10') to allow the vines to make the most of the little available water.  The dry-farming will control our yields, once the vines get into production, around the 2 tons-per-acre level.

As we try to do whenever possible, we want to allow anyone who's interested to learn more about our vineyard and winemaking practices, and hopefully demystify wine a bit in the process.  We have scheduled a Vineyard Development Seminar for Saturday, January 21st (weather permitting).  The details:

January 21, 2006 10 a.m. (rain date January 28th)
Planting and Vineyard Development Seminar

In 2006, we will begin the planting of the remaining 30 acres we have available to us at Tablas Creek, at a pace of roughly 5 acres per year. The first section of the vineyard to be planted will be the section we call "Scruffy Hill" on the south side of Tablas Creek adjacent to Vineyard Drive. In this beautiful section of property we'll be planting head-pruned, dry-farmed Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise. Join us on Saturday, January 21st to help us put the vines in the ground! Neil Collins, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager, will lead attendees in some hands-on planting as well as a discussion of vineyard development issues including irrigation, vine spacing, rootstock selection, and more. We'll finish the morning with a field lunch either down by the creek or at the winery, depending on weather. The event is free for VINsiders and $20 for guests. Space is limited and reservations are required for this unique event; contact Nicole Getty at [email protected] or 805.237.1231 x39.

You can read a complete list of upcoming events, both at the winery and around the country, on our Web site.

Drying Out

We're drying out here at the vineyard after receiving about 8 inches of rain over three days, culminating with nearly 5 inches on Monday, January 2nd.  Gusts of wind topped 40 miles per hour.  It looks like there was remarkably little damage from such a strong storm; we're seeing only a little erosion on our roads. 

Winter storms like these are normal parts of the Paso Robles climate. Although the vineyard averages about 30 inches of rain a year, it is normal to see the bulk of that in just a handful of storms.