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Annual Notebook Back to Annual Notebook Index
Lawrence Dunham Vineyards Notebook 2011

December 2011
LDV vineyard expansion is underway. The vineyard expansion, 25 new rows, has been laid out. There should be plenty of room for our 2,000 new plants of Petite Sirah. Brought in Cletus with a bulldozer to rip the remaining property north of the creek and up by the house. We also had him auger out post holes and dig out end posts with his backhoe. Tony’s crew cleared away a lot of rocks. Tony got all of the steel installed and it looks great! He also put in two more irrigation stations and the irrigation is now installed up to the pump house. Now just have to string the wires and irrigation lines and drippers to be ready to plant.

Had the creekside vineyard property scraped and all of the vegetation and rocks removed. We did not need to rip as the ground is very sandy. Dan smoothed out the land so we can mow it when the weeds come back. It looks like a beautiful vineyard site if it works weather-wise. I installed two remote/portable/wireless temperature and humidity weather stations to track temperatures in the creekside vineyard. Since it is lower and alongside Ash Creek, I am concerned it might be too cold to withstand cold weather/frosts after bud break. So far, temperatures have been about the same as the main station. The key data will be collected in March, April, and May 2012. Hopefully, I will be able to make the call whether this property is viable or not so we can make plans either way. Sure would be nice to have the space for a few thousand more plants down the road.

Had two pretty cold snaps early in the month, got down into the mid-teens. Got about 1.5 inches of rain mid-month and was able to turn the water off for a couple of weeks. Put water back on 1 time/week on the 28th. Weather has been warm and sunny the last two weeks of the year. We are hoping for a continuation of our mild winter, but La Nina is still lurking.

November 2011
The vineyard is getting some cool nights but no hard freezes yet. Fall has set in gradually unlike 2009. We had a few showers but the water is still on. Leaves have turned and fallen. In order to try to cut down on our winter kill of young plants, we have stuffed all of the plants that are young enough and still have grow tubes with a straw mixture to try to insulate the plants from extreme cold. This technique has been used elsewhere successfully so we are giving it a try. Cannot afford to keep replanting!

We will be watching to see if we have any mold or mildew problems as a result of the straw getting/staying wet. Got weeds chopped in the vineyard and it looks good for the winter. We ordered all of our steel and other materials for our planned vineyard expansion in the spring. We are hoping to have the bulk of the installation done before our vineyard manager takes off for Mexico.

October 2011
Fermentation went pretty smoothly and the vineyard looks good although we still have a lot of weeds. We need to get that cleaned up or we are going to have a mess on our hands in the spring. Had nice warm weather and baby vines continued to grow and lignify. Nights started to cool off and leaves are turning beautiful fall colors.

September 2011
Harvest of the reds went off without a hitch. Bee damage was pretty extensive on the edges but the fruit in the middle was good. My estimation of yields was about right. Petite Sirah was down but we picked a little more Grenache than I thought. With the Syrah, we probably harvested 1.75 tons. We were unable to acquire any grapes from any Chiricahua Bench vineyards so our production is going to be down for 2011 wines but it is all LDV fruit for the first time.

We had Chiricahua Circle members and visitors during the Grenache and Syrah harvest. Several thought it was a blast and would gladly help and others thought it would kill them. Need to re-assess if we do that again. It was brutally hard work and took us until well after noon to get all of the grapes in. The last grapes were too hot for my liking so we need faster or more pickers to make it work next harvest.

August 2011
Monsoon seems about average but locals say there is less rain than usual. A lot of storms around but most are missing us. We are experiencing a little bunch rot problems but not as bad as last year. We decided to preempt with a spray of Cocide which turned out to be a good decision because it stopped it. Bee damage is becoming a major issue. We are going to have to do something as we are getting major damage throughout the vineyard and especially the north and south ends. We picked Viognier a week earlier than last year. Don’t know why, a guess it has been a bit warmer. It appears like everything is a bit ahead of schedule. They are already picking reds in the Kansas Settlement area.

Went through the vineyard and estimate that we will probably get about a ton of fruit off the Grenache and Syrah combined. We will pick them together since there is not enough Syrah to do anything with. There is an amazing lack of bugs this year except for the bees and wasps. No hornworms, skeletinizers or anything.

July 2011
Monsoon has been spotty, until the 24th of July. Then all hell broke loose. Got over three inches of rain and Ash Creek was completely filled bank to bank. We have had rain like that before but not with all of the groundcover burned up. It came off the mountain like it was an airport runway. The water took out a majority of our fencing again but we did not incur a lot of vineyard damage that we can tell. At least there was no hail. We are going to have to move the fence away from the creek; can’t afford to be fixing it every year.

Veraison started about mid-month. A lot of the Viognier that survived the -1 degree freeze and put on fruit is looking rough. We are dropping the fruit and/or cut them back to save them. It is such a shame to have to do that. We are really going to have to temper our estimates for the crop. Hopefully we will get enough for a production run. I have been hoping we might get 100 cases this year but I think we will be lucky to get 50. Petite Sirah looks good but much lower yield this year I think. What little Grenache that is producing fruit looks pretty good. 2011 plantings are growing but seem a bit behind schedule. Syrah is a spotty mess.

June 2011
Oh boy, fires. Still no rain and the tinder dry Chiricahua Mountains exploded in fire from drug smugglers trying to evade
the authorities. The fire was unstoppable and basically burned the entire mountain through the month and into July.
Very sad and a lot of anxious nights watching the fire march toward our vineyard and our home. Firefighters did a
great job of stopping it before it did a lot of property damage but the trade off was the whole mountain burning until
there was no fuel left. Not sure how this is going to impact our weather and watershed.

The vineyard looks very inconsistent. The Petite Sirah looks hearty although there is not a lot of fruit. Grenache and
Syrah have a few plants that have some fruit set but for a vineyard that was planted in 2009, it makes you want to
cry – or sell the place! Viognier probably is what you might expect from a second year vineyard unless you had seen
it last fall. It was so perfect and now it is quite average and just looks beat up.

It is still windy but the monsoon looks like it is finally showing itself. Maybe we can get the wind to die down and get
some rain and cool nights. Everything - people, plants and animals have about had it. Should start seeing animals
chased out of their habitats from the fire and drought appear. Just what we need, more things to worry about!

Farming is taking its toll on the psyche. I knew there would be ups and downs but we need a few ups right now.

May 2011
Here we go again. We had two frost events in May. One on May 14th. No one remembers this type of weather. It is
starting to feel like Mother Nature has been saving her wrath for us to arrive. We have more bud damage. I think our
Viognier and Petite Sirah took a significant hit from these freezes. Unlike the April freeze, everything was budded out.
We will have to see in June what the fruit set is but can’t imagine we will have a crop even close to last year’s. It is
pretty depressing.

New plants are behind because of the weather. Don’t know at this point what the impact of the cold weather is going
to be on the new plantings but it’s a safe bet they will be behind if not structurally damaged. Again, we don’t expect
any rain this time of year but the Phoenix area got rain and we did not. It is still very windy as hundreds of people
have died in the south and Midwest from this very violent storm track.

April 2011
Bud break started on the Viognier right at the end of March. Too early! We had a frost event the first week in April
and had some damage but not too bad. The Petite Sirah was not out much yet. Older vines come out later. We have
identified a cold zone in the vineyard running east to west about 25 plants up from the south end. Very curious, that
there is a band of freeze damage there for the second year in a row. Hopefully we can get out of the freeze danger
unscathed the rest of the way.

We planted our new plants to replace dead plants the week of April 20th. Planting went well. I am very happy with
the quality of the plant stock we are getting from Novavine. Still totally dry, no moisture at all; and windy as hell.
The extreme weather and tornadoes hitting the south and southern plains are driving through our area daily and
the wind is awful. I think we will see some damage from the wind on the grape bunches.

March 2011
Pruning underway and our fears about the cold February weather are being realized. Our Viognier, which had only
7 of 1,800 plants not take from the April 2010 planting had significant kill. Several hundred plants are either dead
or in rough shape and will not produce this year. That end of the vineyard was so perfect! The Grenache and Syrah
are a disaster area. Not counting on much of anything this year from them again and it looks like a majority of this
area of the vineyard will have to be replanted yet again in 2012. The stock ordered to be planted this year is a drop
in the bucket of what we need. There is no stock available so we have to wait. All of the plants that had at least
two growing seasons seemed to survive the horrible freeze. The Petite Sirah looks pretty good.

No rain or snow to speak of. Live oaks have dropped leaves and are not coming back. It is very sad and very windy –
more than our usual windy spring weather.

February 2011
First week in February we had the coldest weather in decades. In was 1 below zero and did not get above freezing
for a couple of days. Froze a pipe in the house and the whole building was flooded. That’s going to be a lot of fun to
deal with. Something to do in my spare time! The insult to that injury will be what damage occurred in the field.
We should know when we start pruning at the end of the month. We are expecting the worst, especially with the
grapes planted in April 2010 and also for the plants that struggled through last year from the October 2009 freeze.
The area is still bone dry. No rain or snow the entire month.

January 2011
The vineyard looks good except it has been a very dry winter. Temperatures have been cool but fairly normal.
There is no snow in the mountains and the creek has not run since last monsoon rains. We have counted up all
of the skips and have found enough stock for replanting. Looks like about 1,200 plants.

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