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BOTTLING AND BUD BREAK- Calaveras Wine Country

Updated: May 6, 2019

Wake up, sleepy vines. It’s time to stretch out your limbs and get this vintage started!

The air is warming up here in Calaveras County which means slumbering vines are ready to push out their leaves, and later, big bunches of grapes. When the weather starts to stay at around 46-50 degrees, it prompts the appearance of green through vine bud scales. The buds have been tightly packed all winter and the vines have been using the energy they’ve stored up. Once they open, buds will start gathering more energy through photosynthesis, eventually filling their canopies with the lovely green foliage that lights up hillsides across wine countries everywhere.

Bud Break at Grant Family Vineyard

Bud break not only represents a key phenological stage for these plants, but it also represents the start of a new year in the wine industry. As the vines begin to gather up new energy and begin the grape cycle, winemakers make room for the new vintage by bottling prior vintages. This opens up space in tanks and barrels and finally sends that wine out into the world. Our friends at Ayrael Vieux winery in Douglas Flat have been busy tending to their vines this spring and have just introduced a new white wine called "Monte Bianco" made from their Montepulciano grapes. Sandra Hess, Executive Director with the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance, had a chance to catch up with Bob and Linda Eisenman at their beautiful property this past week to explore their latest offerings. Bob takes us on a stroll through the vineyards in this informative video about Bud Break and Bottling and Ayrael Vieux Winery....

All winter long, winemakers have been pacing the rows of their barrel rooms keeping a close eye on their wines, babying them when needed. This time of year, the excitement picks up as wines start to achieve their proper clarity and barrel aging. It’s time to make sure they’re stable, and filter if necessary. Once deemed ready, the date is set, the bottles and corks are ordered, and it’s time to get to work. Removing the wine from its cozy winter nest and making sure it's absolutely perfect and ready to be packaged. Bottling takes many hands typically, especially on smaller bottling lines. You need someone watching the pressure on the hoses, someone at the filling station, someone at the cork station and someone to move the wine down - a bottle labeler, and a box filler.

Scott Klann, winemaker and owner of Newsome Harlow Wines in Murphys, California had a large crew at his winery to bottle this spring! We caught up with the Scott and found Barbara, wine club manager, helping out with the bottling line. So often we hear about "hand finishing" in the wine industry and this past week, we got a glimpse of just what that means. Barbara was on hand to ensure that every bottle had the proper foil enclosure included prior to being sealed in the bottling line. Now, that's love! Scott shared with us that the team met at 6:15 a.m. to begin bottling at 6:50. Within 4.5 hours, 1430 cases of wine were carefully bottled and boxed. This team knows what it takes to deliver their best at every bottling and chose to jam out to the Pixies on this beautiful spring morning. Known for their killer zinfandels, Scott explains that they bottled four single vineyard wines and revealed news about a new release this spring. Calaveras country is a true zin lovers playground as this was one of the first varietals to be planted in Calaveras County according to the Calaveras County Board of Trade. Zinfandel was imported to Long Island by George Gibbs, probably in 1829 from the Imperial Nursery in Vienna, Austria. The first account of the name, however, did not occur until 1831, when Bostonian Samuel Perkins began selling it as Zenfendel. By 1833 several growers in Boston had the vine, now called Zinfandal by its leading nurseryman Charles M. Hovey. Enjoy this video chat to learn more about what Scott and the team are up to this spring...

Throughout Calaveras wine country, winery teams are coming together to bottle their precious wines and prepare for club member visits during one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Sierra Foothills. Sheri and Rob Hendriks of Aloria Vineyards, formerly Renner Winery, have just refreshed their tasting room on Main Street in Murphys and also recently released their new signature wine, Albariño. Sheri shares, "It’s amazing and just as bright and delicious as I had imagined". With so much attention to every detail, this family winery is working to become sustainable at both the vineyard and the winery. We were able to visit Rob during bottling and found that the corks they've chosen to use are made of a renewable resource, sugarcane! What a considerate and innovative approach to wine production. This husband and wife team decided not to finish the bottles with foil capsules as a sustainable practice. Aloria Vineyards are located in beautiful Calaveras County atop rolling golden hills and surrounded by the New Melones reservoir. The vineyards produce some of the most exceptional grapes in Calaveras County wine country. This Saturday, special guests will enjoy the spring releases from Aloria Vineyards and enjoy the sweet sounds of live music by the Jank Tones at their first release party being held at Outer Aisle in Murphys.

Winemaker Steve Millier has been making wine in Calaveras Country since 1989 where he helped Ironstone Vineyards open their winery. We were delighted to meetup with Steve in the vineyards this spring to get his take on bud break and bottling. After 36 harvests, Steve Millier is still exploring, learning and, most importantly, having fun in the winery. He graduated from Fresno State with a degree in Enology (winemaking) in 1975 and joined Stevenot Winery, in Murphys, Calaveras County in 1982. During his seven-year tenure at Stevenot, the wine he produced won numerous awards. In 1983, Steve and his wife, Liz opened their own winery, Milliare, which in French means “Milestone.” Later, the couple purchased Black Sheep Winery in Murphys, offering a taste of the Sierra Foothills.

Today, Steve is an award-winning winemaker and is dedicated to strengthening the Calaveras County wine community with his innovative approaches to winemaking. And, get this! While he really enjoys listening to Neil Young during bottling, he is also a fan of the Beastie Boys. Hear from Steve about his thoughts on bud break and his newest project in this video feature...

Happy spring to you all from beautiful Calaveras Wine Country! We invite you to visit our 30 tasting rooms, explore the sprawling countryside and meetup with family winemaking teams. Get out and explore some of the vineyards of Calaveras Wine Country this summer at the "Innovations Vineyard Tour" taking place on June 7th. Limited to 50 guests, this will be an intimate look at the beautiful terroir of the Sierra Foothills wine region while learning about the latest innovations in grape growing and winemaking. Registration information can be found at the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance website here.

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