In the heat of May, vines are transitioning between flowering and fruit set. Each tiny flower has the potential to form a single grape berry. How powerful is that? The pollinated flowers are starting to drop, emerging a tiny green sphere at the end of the stem.
Barbera, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Tempranillo, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vermentino, and Verdelho
I rolled up to our first vineyard at 7:30 AM sharp as Bertus was already leaned against the truck, sunhat, and glasses in hand.
This is the Sierra de Montserrat vineyard in Loomis, CA. This vineyard is wild because you essentially turn into a residential community and boom: rolling hills of Tuscany? In between the endless rows of vineyards are huge custom-designed homes. This area is also dedicated to the conservation and preservation of about 200 acres of protected oak woodlands, wetlands, and wildlife habitat. The days are significantly warmer here than in Napa so fruit set has already begun in some parts of the vineyard. Understandably so since the sun was already roaring in full force by 8:00 AM. Bertus predicts in just a few weeks' time that these tiny green spheres will become pea-sized berries! This vineyard is approximately 28 acres of Barbera, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Tempranillo, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vermentino, and Verdelho.
Tiny flower clusters ready for bloom.
Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Grenache Noir, and Counoise
A few twists and turns down the road and we ended up at Clos du Lac, another unique vineyard community modeled after the southern region of France. From this hillside vineyard, overlooking dozens of wildflowers, you can see the itty bitty base of Folsom Lake. In French, Clos du Lac means “Walled Vineyard by the Lake" so take it literally! This vineyard is nestled in the Sierra Foothills at an elevation of 500 ft. 30 acres in the gated community have been set aside for vineyards planted with Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, and Petit Verdot. Also, several acres of Grenache Noir and a small amount of Counoise have been planted on a private estate vineyard.
Zinfandel and 2% combined Mission, Mourvedre, and Cinsault
Lastly, we trekked out to the Stampede vineyard just outside of Lodi where we met with Jeff Perlegos, who walked us through the rugged site. Jeff and his brother, John, farm the Stampede Vineyard near the Clements Stampede Rodeo grounds in the Lodi AVA’s Clement Hills sub-AVA. The rodeo still competes and is the biggest amateur rodeo in the country. Jeff is warm and easy-going and walking his vineyards feels like he’s invited you into his backyard. These old vines were originally planted in the 1920s, are head-trained, and were planted in a diamond pattern. Jeff expressed that the fruit takes on qualities from both the areas it straddles: Amador in Amador County and Lodi in San Joaquin County. The acidity in the grapes hails from Amador and the fruit aroma and flavor is derived from Lodi. The vineyard consists of 98% Zinfandel and 2% combined Mission, Mourvedre, and Cinsault.
In June and July, young clusters will begin to appear. Over roughly the next 60 days, berries undergo rapid cell division and grow larger. These clusters will eventually become berry bunches. The green berries will start to change and ripen, undergoing a process called veraison. For red grapes, this is when the color changes from green to purple! Stay tuned ✌️