February in Ventura County’s Vineyards

young vines in an yet-to be named new vineyard above the small town of Fillmore located only a short drive from the metropolis of Los Angeles

As the days get longer, the dormant vines begin to awaken. The little buds nod their sleep heads and burst from their slumber, unfurling into little leaves that will stretch and reach toward the sun gathering the materials they need for the vine to flower and set fruit.

This is called bud break, and it is an exciting moment in the vineyard.

But before this happens, the vines must be prepared. And that means

Pruning pruning pruning! and planting too!

Clos Des Amis winemaker Bruce Freeman has planted and consulted on many of today’s vines in Ventura County including these young vines in a new vineyard above Fillmore CA

After a week off to attend the Wine Ambassador course in Los Angeles, with Vinitaly, I spent two days in Ventura County vineyards this week and several days earlier in the month as part of my 2019 resolution to understand wine making from the vineyard up.

Pruning in the sunshine while looking up at the snow capped peaks above Ojai CA.

In winter,  the pressure is on to get the pruning down before the buds break, we’ve been having this winter, getting into the vineyards and getting it done has been challenging. Some days in the vineyard, the sap has run enough that the bees have been buzzing even though the local mountain peaks are snowcapped!

It’s not like we can’t work in the rain– but that we can’t get to work when the clay soil roads are too slick or the sedimentary soil roads are washed out.

Since the South Mountain vineyards are finally pruned, on Monday we worked in the Santa Paula  Olivelands vineyard owned by Limoneira on Telegraph Road near Wheeler Gorge. Bruce pruned a bunch of vines to give the Limoneira crew an idea of how it’s done, then later in the afternoon, we joined them.

New vines planted this year and last below new citrus plantings and native chaparral scrub on this sunny site filled with shells and sedimentary rocks from when this area was under the sea.

Today Bruce, Gretel, and I plus our three dogs headed out to Fillmore to finish up the pruning out there. Fortunately when we arrived on this drizzly day, farmer Steve had already pruned much of the vineyard,

Winter is the time to plant especially when nature has been so generous with rain this year.

… as well as had his crew plant new vines too in the soft pliable rain softened earth.

While we did get sprinkled on today, it didn’t keep us from finishing the pruning!

Roan Mills is my new love. They are only open on Wednesday and Saturday so those are the days that vineyard work happens in the vineyard near the bakery and cafe.

Or enjoying a tail gate picnic in the vineyard with sandwiches from Roan Mills which grows the wheat, grinds it, and bakes it into break for the sandwiches we enjoyed. Mine was prosciutto, brie and fig with arugula from their farm. SO GOOD paired with an orange Clos des Amis Chardonnay from the Olivelands Vineyard.

Chardonnay vines above Santa Paula on the northern side of the Santa Clara river. These terraces originally had avocado trees, but the citrus company that owns the land wants to experiment with vines. Much easier to prune on these gentle sloes with these terraces than it was in Fillmore where you’re balanced on the slope while making pruning choices!

It’s not all work and no play at the winery this month, but unfortunately I missed the day that Bruce busted open a bunch of sparkling wine. But with more inclement weather on the horizon, more experimenting is on the way as well as filtering wines and other prep for bottling now that labels have been approved following the government shutdown.

Pizza and Clos Des Amis grenache during a break from pruning with the “Circle of Friends” doing the work. It is peaceful, meditative, and companiable.

I love love love pruning and being out in the vineyard — as did my dog Cisco!. And not just because I love hanging out and learning over lunch with excellent wine…

Looking forward to what March will bring!

Stay tuned and subscribe!


5 thoughts on “February in Ventura County’s Vineyards

    • Yes, it is definitely an art! These are just baby vines so one of the challenges is making sure that it is the most viable that is saved and not pruned AND instead of a traditional cordon trellis method and where I could follow the lines of people who prided them before, these are being head trained and more to consider.


  1. Pingback: Lamb Stew Paired with Cabernet Franc Created By Couples #WinePW | wine predator

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