Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pierre Seillan Visits Blue-Merle Vineyard, Offers Pruning Advice

Pierre Seillan, winemaster of Chateau Lassegue (St.-Emilion), Verite (Sonoma County), Chateau Vignot (St. Emilion) and Tuscany, toured the Blue-Merle Vineyard and offered these words of advice as we walked up the mountain inspecting the vines:

* [while pulling off the vine "suckers" just as I would] "You can pull these off." (Note: The Queen had forbid me to touch the vines and cut off suckers and extra growth. See, dear, me and Pierre have the the same idea!)

* "This is too long, you should cut it," he said about a cordon stretching out 3-feet in each direction. "It is too much work for the vine." (Note: Much of the Blue-Merle vineyard is on 6ft. spacing. Pierre recently planted a vineyard with 3 X 3 spacing in Sonoma (3 ft. between each vine, and 3-ft between rows). He limits the cordons to two spurs each, with 4 buds per spur. He says limiting the production is sustainable -- he doesn't need to fertilize. And, there's a new type of "tractor" that travels over the vines spaced 3 X 3.)

* I asked about our new plantings that are on 4ft. spacing ... "That is fine. " Should I use a single arm cordon or double arm? "You should have two arms; it creates better balance for the vine."

* About pruning the new vines in the winter: "You should cut them to the bottom, then let it grow up to the top wire of the trellis. Then, the next year you should cut it at the cordon. I like to make a strong trunk, and strong cordons." (Note: We had originally planed to encourage single, one-arm cordons on our new vines. But, we will follow Pierre's advice to develop a really strong trunck and cordon -- especially after having experienced the consequences of weak cordons from vines we did not prune properly this winter. And, as an attempt to create great tasting, "boutique" fruit which a large commercial vineyard could not afford to create.)
After the tour -- gazing at the sunset in the West and the moonrise in the East -- the Hidden Meadows Winemakers Association convened at Coyote Oaks Vineyard for a gourmet's dinner and tastings of several Pinot vintages. Said Pierre, "I call you the Epicureans." An encore champagne brunch of les Epicureans du pays du Merle-Blue was held at Sunrise Vineyard Sunday morning.

Pierre first visited the region several years ago as a young man in his 20s, when he planted a vineyard in nearby Temecula. Welcome back, Monsieur Pierre.

Earlier in the day, Pierre met with the San Diego Amateur Winemakers Association in 100 degree heat at the Arroyo Vineyard in Bonsall. When Pierre spoke about "le terroir" (the earth) expressing itself in the wines he produced it really touched a chord in my thoughts, as the Blue Merle (like Pierre's own vineyards) has distinct areas of land (some red clay, some decomposed granite, some silty soil, some inhospitable rock -- each with its own varietal) which will produce unique flavors -- which can only be found in the land of the Blue-Merle.


Tom said...

Anybody out there have any input on a presses? 250 new vines in this year so looking for equipment.

Craig Justice said...

Tom, definitely purchase a basket press of some kind. It will cost a few hundred $, and is well worth the money. Good luck with the harvest! BTW, we started a "Winemaker's Forum" on LinkedIn. If you're on LinkedIn, check it out. Another good resource for learning about presses, winemaking, etc.