January 2020 – Winemaker Journal – Janice Schmidt MS

May 2020 bring you and your family many successes and new opportunities. For the Estate 1856 family, we are happy to shut the door on 2019 where, yet again, we faced an extended fire season, multiple power outages and an evacuation that affected more than 200,000 residents of Sonoma County. Thankfully, we’ve now had several inches of rain in the past few weeks. Today, our hillsides are covered with lovely green grasses and I can see the newly emerging cover crop in the vineyards which will nourish the soil in the months to come. At least once a day, you’ll also find our grandchildren stomping through their favorite puddles around the ranch!

This is my 20th year as the co-ranch manager of Tzabaco Rancho Vineyards and 10th year as winemaker for Estate 1856. I enjoy winter not only for the peace but also sheer poetry of the season. Walking into the vineyards early in the morning with clean, fresh air and the crackle of frost beneath my boots is almost magical. Every vine is sleeping and it’s our job to prepare them for a new growing season. The big, three month task of the season is pruning the vines to remove the previous years growth which then triggers new, fruit bearing shoots. This is HUGE because it determines the crop size in the Fall. The crew has to be very thoughtful with each vine. If they prune and remove too many buds, we won’t have enough fruit. Generally, we prune to two bud spurs every 4 inches! Because pruning also leaves open wounds on the wine, we follow along with a special paint to prevent the growth of fungus. Can you imagine doing this to thousands of vines? It’s a meticulous job that our experienced crew are masters at. We are so grateful for their work.

This year, we will continue to produce our award winning Bordeaux Blends, along with Malbec and Petit Verdot. We will be at the San Francisco Wine Competition, the largest wine competition in the United States, on February 15th pouring our 2015 Cabernet Barrel Reserve which earned a coveted Double Gold Medal!  We are also pouring at the California Artisan Cheese Festival on March 29th at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. You will be able to buy wine at the Cheese Festival but not at the Wine Competition. The wines are always available in our on-line wine shop!

This year, I plan to chronicle the entire harvest season in this new winemaker journal. I hope to share with you the many joys of life among the vines along with the many jobs that must be undertaken to produce the highest quality of wines! Happy New Year! – Janice Schmidt MS