Posts in Vineyard to Vintage
Hail to the Winemaker!
My Husband, John, Enjoying a Glass of Provence Rose

My Husband, John, Enjoying a Glass of Provence Rose

This year is our 10th year or 10th Anniversary of our backyard Syrah vineyard at our home, Domaine de Manion. I remember the day vividly, April 1, 2006, when our entire Vineyard Production & Management Class (Mira Costa College) of 20 people enthusiastically helped us plant nearly 300 bare root grapevines. Initially a landscape solution I dreamed up, as our family and friends can attest it has turned into so much more.

Vineyards are a lot of work, filled with commitments and year-long timetables, not just a romantic lifestyle. John and I took many classes, workshops, and seminars to educate ourselves on our vineyard and winemaking adventure. Some grape growing years were better then others. Some vintages better than others. Although grapevines are like weeds, they can be a magnet for disease, pests, and are sensitive to weather surprises. 

As we became more confident with our vineyard and winemaking we started entering amateur wine competitions, beginning with San Diego and Orange County Fairs, and recently the California State Fair in Sacramento. We have bought different grape varietals from Baja and Sonoma County to experiment and blend with our Syrah. 

Through all of the years and accolades, John has emerged as a talented winemaker. I add my two cents, labor, and tasting notes, but it is John who puts his signature on all of our wines. Wine- making is a balance of science and art. It is true, a winemaker has a distinct style which comes through in their wines. John creates bold wines, smooth, chewy, sometimes spicy, and with a long finish.

We recently received the unexpected Home Wine Judging Results from the 2016 California State Fair, and more fair results should trickle in by early summer. Entering the "Dry Red Division" we received Double Gold, Best of Class for our Merlot, Silver for our Syrah, and Gold for our Merrah (a magical combination of Merlot and Syrah.)

The best part of making our wine is sharing it with family and friends. We are grateful for all who eagerly help us harvest and bottle each year. Hail to my husband, John, the Winemaker!

 

 

 

 

 

VintageGardenGal Turns Seven!

It is hard to believe my blog, VintageGardenGal is celebrating seven years! I started writing VintageGardenGal on September 4, 2008. With over 253 posts under my belt, it has been a wonderful experience to share with all of you. Thank you for your continued interest and support!

How does one celebrate a blog milestone? How about with a celebration "Grape Harvest Cake!" Ever since I read the book, We've Always Had Paris and Provence, A Scrapbook of Our Life in France, by Patricia and Walter Wells, I've always wanted to make Patricia Well's "Grape Harvest Cake" from Chapter 23. She makes this cake often May to September at her Provence Farmhouse, using various seasonal fruit, and grapes from their vineyard in the fall.

My husband, John, and I too, have a vineyard in which we grow Syrah grapes. Well, it is a bit of "lemons to lemonade" story. We did not have a good grape-growing year, low yield, and not even our traditional harvest event. Normally, I am so busy with the harvest, winemaking, family and friends in town that a "Grape Harvest Cake" is nearly out of the question. This year I took our "petite" yield of good fruit, and said, "I am going to make this harvest cake for my blog anniversary, and share it with all of you."

Grape Harvest Cake

Recipe Type:  Dessert
Cuisine: Provence
Author: Patricia Wells
Cook time: 55 mins
Serves: 12

A simple Provence cake that uses seasonal fruit, and grapes in particular in the fall. If you don't grow grapes, use fresh purple grapes such as Champagne grapes. This cake is made with olive oil, typical of Provence, creating a cake that is moist and light. You will need a 9 inch springform pan and an electric mixer fitted with a whisk. Lightly sprinkle powdered sugar over the finished cake as an optional garnish before cutting and serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste ( vanilla extract)
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, and 1 orange, preferably organic
  • 2 pounds small fresh purple grapes (which have to be carefully seeded if they have seeds)

Instructions

  1. Olive oil and flour a springform cake pan. Tap out an excess flour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the olive oil, milk, vanilla, and mix just to blend.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon and orange zest and toss to coat the zest with flour. Spoon the flour mixture into the egg mixture and stir to blend. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes, to allow the flour to absorb the liquids. Stir three-fourths of the fruit into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing over the top with a spatula.
  5. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining grapes on top of the cake. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels firm, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes.
  6. Remove to a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the side of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base. Serve at room temperature, cutting into thin wedges.
San Diego Magazine Feature

Shelley Metcalf's Photo of our Home and Vineyard Last fall at harvest time, our gifted architect, Bill Bocken  brought his partner, Paul Adams, a talented San Diego landscape designer, and his amazing photographer, Shelley Metcalf to photograph our home for the first time since the completion of our home remodel.

San Diego Magazine took notice and features Metcalf's photos, article written by Kimberly Cunningham in their January 2014 San Diego Magazine feature "Design: Living" article Accidental Winemakers.

This article features many indoor and outdoor photos depicting our home, property, and lifestyle. Cunningham cleverly added the feature "Get The Look" for resources and details that brought our design and style together.

Shelley Metcalf in Action

I wrote extensively on our remodel progress as it was literally unfolding in a quick ten months. For more reading on our remodel, please go to Remodel Project.

What a great way to start 2014!

Composting with Grape Pomace

DSC_0971 I'm a firm believer in backyard composting. I love the idea of recycling what you have from your own garden, property, and kitchen scrapes into your own personal compost recipe. It is especially important to compost when you have backyard chickens. In fact, I really delve into this subject of backyard composting and backyard chickens in my book, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies. See also my previous post, How To Compost In Your Backyard.

I call backyard composting a personal compost recipe of your life, because it is the layering of greens and browns, essentially by-products of your cooking, gardening, and property which create this custom compost mixture. My husband, John, and I have a small backyard vineyard. We use the grape pomace in our compost each fall. Grape pomace is the skins, seeds, and stems of the vineyard grapes after the wine making process. Grapes are a form of green or the fire that heats up the compost mixture, where the browns such as our chicken bedding, or rice hulls is considered the browns and fuel for the compost. Grape pomace heats up our compost to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, an incredible temperature for a backyard compost mixture. Composting with our grape pomace creates a rich organic material called humus, which will go back into our garden soil, and flowerbeds.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit Annie's Annuals and Perennials with my fellow garden bloggers attending the three day San Francisco Fling. One of the highlights of this three day adventure was Richmond east bay nursery, Annie's Annuals and Perennials. If you are ever in the Bay Area, make a visit to Annie's Annuals. A truly incredible nursery. Plants can be purchased online and shipped, too. While visiting Annie's Annuals, I noticed a sign and display, that grape pomace is one of her favorite compost materials.

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This was the middle of summer, and not Halloween, as this sassy and colorful mannequin greeted you at the nursery entrance. I can only imagine how she is costumed this week, two days before Halloween!

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Annie and I know a good thing, composted grape pomace. Try contacting your local vineyards in the fall, for possible sources of grape pomace. It is a great way to enjoy the colorful autumn season, maybe have a quick wine tasting, and purchase wonderful grape pomace for your backyard composting.

DDM Harvest & Bottling 2013

DSC_0691 Here at Domaine de Manion we are especially grateful for the family and friends who help us harvest the grapes from the vines, sort the grapes before crushing, and share a delightful dish. This year, we had a bit of a heat wave right before our intended harvest, and so had to scramble and bring the grapes in a week earlier. We had a record yield of 860 pounds of beautiful fruit clusters which reached a desired 25.5 brix, or sugar percentage.

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The fruit looked beautiful, dark, and inky as syrah should be. We quickly look at the luscious grape clusters on a sorting table before they are scooped up, destined for our grape auger which gently squeezes and destems them before putting them on dry ice for about two days to extract their skin color. The grapes are then brought back to room temperature, a pre-determined yeast is carefully added, and the fermentation process begins.

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A week later, we invited everyone for bottling and more celebration. Situated under our huge Torrey Pine tree providing shade, we had a huge assembly line of able and willing helpers, filling the bottles, corking, labeling, and boxing all of last year's vintage which had been carefully aged in kegs the entire previous year. We had a total of 37 cases, when we finished and broke for a huge "Bottling Potluck" and a little Domaine de Manion wine.

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Thanks again everyone, for all of your help and enthusiasm!

"N" is for Necessary Netting

DSC_0431 It is the special time of year in our Syrah vineyard when the grapes begin to show their color and start their verasion process. Grapes turn from green and hard to the touch, to their first blush of color and softer to the touch. Verasion in our vineyard tells us we are about 8 weeks away from our harvest, give or take the ensuing weather leading up to the harvest.

With grape clusters turning color, it is necessary to net every grapevine row to protect our harvest crop from attentive wildlife and even our free-range chickens. See my previous post on this for more information, Vineyard Ready for Netting.

For our backyard vineyard, netting takes about an hour and a half, with enthusiastic friends who lend a helping hand.

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Nets have been carefully rolled up and stored since last year's harvest. Nets will stay in good shape, and can be used year after year for the vineyard. The netting is rolled out, and taking the leading net edge hoisted over the top of each row so the netting covers equally both sides of the grapevines, and essentially the entire vineyard row. Next we take simple wooden clip clothes pins and clip together the netting. The entire vineyard row with netting is clipped underneath the vines and around the end posts.

Many thanks to our friends who helped this weekend! This year our friend, Karen Contreras, owner of Urban Plantations, joined us for the netting process. Urban Plantations specializes in the design and maintenance of edible landscaping around San Diego County.

Please share if you have problems with wildlife eating your ripening fruit or grapevines? Simple netting is a simple way to protect your harvest.

Quiet on the Vineyard Front

Vineyard Going Dormant in Winter Please welcome my husband, John Manion, who is the wine maker and VP of Liquid Assets at Domaine de Manion. We have been on this journey together from the first idea of a vineyard, and what a ride it has been. John shares his thoughts with you, from time to time on our vineyard and wine making. 

Hello, I'm the Vintage Vigneron, (aka the husband John) to provide an update on the wines and vines.

I’m just finishing up barreling the 2012 vintage and putting it to bed for the winter. Overall, it was a good vintage in both quality and quantity with our vines providing us with our second largest harvest at 600 pounds of fruit or for those that support the "farm to table" movement, that would be 17 cases of our estate Syrah wine. The Vintage Garden Gal and I typically purchase additional bulk grapes from local sources so we can make some interesting blends that include our Syrah. The annual output of Domaine de Manion has been steady at 35 cases for the last number of years.

The vines are now turning autumn colors and shutting down for the season. Syrah vines tend to hold their leaves the longest of most varietals so we won’t see naked vines until late December–early January.

We’re heading into our rainy season here in Southern California and the vines will be really happy to get a big dose of water as they ready themselves for the next growing season. I get concerned calls from friends (I think they worry that production will be down) when a frost hits.

Barreling Vintage 2012

Here is Southern California frost is not really a big concern because of our typically mild winters. Remember, grape vines are deciduous plants that evolved in climates that have hot summers and cold winters. The frost actually helps shut the root systems of the vines down and inhibits needless growth if it warms up during the winter season. We want our vines rested and ready to grow once we prune them in the early February time frame. The one time we don’t want the frost is after we prune the vines – that effects the budding process and does effect the production of grape clusters. That’s why we hold off pruning until we think we’re done with the cooler winter temperatures.

It’s nice to be finishing up the 2012 crush, reviewing the lessons learned from the growing and wine making season, and taking a little breather.

I’ll check in again when we start the pruning process.

Domaine de Manion Harvest 2012

Harvest at Domaine de Manion was September 8, 2012. We had a generous bounty of 600 pounds of estate syrah grapes, an army of enthusiastic friends and family, and a harvest lunch to rival any three-star country chef. The weather was warm, but not the record-breaking heat experienced the follow Saturday close to 100 degrees. Grapes were picked at 26 brix (sugar percentage) and should yield about 35 gallons of wine which equates to about 15 cases of bottled wine.

We had our ritual "blessing of the harvest" and continued gratitude to all who were able to participate and share with us this day. All of our "fruits of labor" from this past year culminating on this special day. This was our fifth harvest. Our harvest is always an event, with cherished family and friends. It transcends generations, and always brings a universal smile to all. Our families who live out of town, migrate annually to join us, and make this an extra special occasion.

Vineyard nets were removed from the rows of vines and rolled up for next year. Eager harvesters started down the vineyard rows in teams, filling orange lugs with ripe grape clusters. Filled lugs yield 40 pounds of grapes each, giving us our poundage count. Lugs were carried to a sorting table, to sort any grapes that might not make the cut.

Dad Manion Enjoying Harvest 2012

Grapes destined for wine, were sent through an augured crusher/de-stemmer machine. Next step in the process, food-grade plastic barrels were filled with slightly crushed grapes and dry ice. Dry ice allows the grapes to sit on their skins and cold soak. A day later, yeast will be added and fermentation is kicked off. Another vintage is underway, with many more steps in the process, and time to age in the oak barrels.

Paella in the Making

Two hours later, and with everyone's help our harvest is in. Everyone is hungry for a well-deserved harvest lunch, served with award-winning Domaine de Manion vintages. It is now time to relax and reflect on the day. We had smoke ribs--brined for two days, paella cooked on the grill, assorted cheeses, fresh fig appetizer, tomato tart, garden salads, fresh chocolate-dipped strawberries and many more sinful desserts.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries at Harvest

One has to reflect on all the fun, happiness, and joy surrounding this day. It reminds me of the quote, "Uncork the wine, enjoy the dance, and let the Gods decide the rest.!" --Horace

Our Army of Enthusiastic Helpers

Please share if you have ever experienced a grape harvest. Please share if you visit wine country at harvest time.