Posts tagged syrah vineyard
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.


  • 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)


  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.
Purposeful Pruning of a Vineyard

VintageGardenGal Pruning The Vineyard My husband, John, and I like to have our backyard syrah vineyard here in Southern California pruned by early February or Super Bowl time frame. It is a necessary and important annual task for the vineyard. At this point in the year, the vines are dormant and barren with no leaves to be seen. The vineyard has its own structural beauty showing the trunks and cordons of each vine.

The pruning task at hand is trimming last years shoots, that have matured into canes back down to the fruiting zone of the vines cordons or arms. If you look carefully you can see and count the buds along last year's canes, close to the cordons. There is usually one bud underneath, and more buds follow on the top side. Count one, two buds on top side of mature cane, close to your cordon. Trim at a 45 degree angle an inch away from the second bud. Mature canes trimmed to the two top-sided buds become your new fruit spurs on your cordons. It is ideal to have fruit spurs straight and perpendicular to your cordon arm, and towards the front or the cordon for better sun exposure.

Pruning is a technique that kicks off the entire grape growing season once again, for the year ahead. It is also time to review each vine. It takes some time, because each vine needs to be assessed. Do you have your 4-5 fruit spurs on each cordon. Are your fruit spurs about a "closed fist" length apart. Are there any dead wood parts of the cordon which should be trimmed off. Do you need to pull a mature cane over and create a new cordon, replacing a cordon that is not doing well. Are your fruit spurs out of the central "v" area of your vine. I call it "purposeful pruning".

Your time invested now in meticulous pruning yields all kinds of benefits this coming year such as greater fruit yield, better quality fruit clusters, good canopy management, and allowance for sun exposure and air circulation. Please note there are various pruning techniques for grapevines, not all grapevines are pruned in the technique we use here at Domaine de Manion.

VintageGardenGal Tidbit Thyme...

The word is out. The 6th Annual Encinitas Garden Festival & Tour is Saturday, April 30, 2011. Save the date! Please go to Encinitas Garden Festival for more detailed information.