Posts tagged backyard vineyard
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!






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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Vineyard Ready For Netting

It is that time of year. The vineyard is abundant with grape clusters, and the veraison process is just beginning. Veraison is the stage or process when the green grapes begin transitioning from hard to soft to the touch, and their color changes from green to eventually their particular harvest color, depending on the grape varietal. In our case, mature syrah grapes are almost black in color at harvest.

We net the vineyard for protection reasons. It is the same concept, if you net or protect fruit trees with sun-ripened ready fruit. Birds of all kinds (even domestic chickens), and wildlife such as raccoons, coyotes, can feast on a vineyard and in some cases quickly eat your entire crop for the year. We have heard of vineyard owners who had their unprotected vineyard  crop eaten in a weekend. Please note, netting is a good practice and economical for backyard vineyards. Commercial wine regions that have acres and acres of vineyards are not usually netted.

Netting is a simple way to protect your harvest. The optimum net size is the entire length of a grapevine row plus two feet extra per end post to cover end posts. Nets are rolled out along side the grapevine row. Thrown over the row of grapevines, and clipped at both end posts and and at each grapevine above the drip irrigation with wooden clothespins. A netting source in California is Jim's Supply .

Right before harvest, we have our enthusiastic friends and family remove the clothes pins, and roll up the netting for the next year. Please share if you use netting to protect a crop from wildlife.

Fall Sunset Over the Vineyard

Fall is such a busy time here at Domaine de Manion with the harvest. It is a time when many related activities surrounding the vineyard and making wine seem to converge. When we have a sunset like this one, it is nice to pause, relax, and reflect over over the fall vineyard and it's beauty. Another year of grape-growing has been completed, and the new wine is in process. No, this is not Santa Barbara or Provence, it is San Diego North County.

A vineyard has four-season interest, and in the fall, the vineyard's leaves turn autumn colors of red, brown, and amber. The vines have borne their fruit. The temperature is cooling. The vines are in the process of going dormant for the winter. Soon they will drop their leaves entirely and shut down until next year's early spring . A good, long, watering of 4-6 hours through our drip irrigation will benefit the vines for the coming year.

Please share if you associate vineyards in the fall timeframe. Please comment if you have experienced a fall vineyard, and winemaking.


VintageGardenGal Tidbit Thyme....

Arlene Charest, a VintageGardenGal reader, needs someone within 100 miles of Northwest Connecticut who will "babysit" her free range family of Bantams.  She will pay for their feed -- plus a sum, plus the 4 eggs that her hens lay every day.  She has 7 chickens which includes one dear gentle rooster and two very well behaved teenagers. She needs to leave CT mid-November and will be back to pick the "chicken people" up in March.  If anyone can help Arlene out, please call 860-601-4193

And don't forget, VintageGardenGal, a garden lifestyle blog, is celebrating it's third anniversary.  Fab Sponsor, ORGIN DAY SPA (tel) (760) 635-1300, in the San Diego, California area, is offering 20% off of services for a limited time, when you mention "VintageGardenGal" at time of scheduling. It's a treat, no trick! Thank you everyone for your interest and support. See you in the garden!