Ventura County Vineyards: May Gray


Ventura’s Arroyo Verde Park 31 May Gray 2019

Today is the last day of May Gray here in the city of Ventura in Southern California, one county north of LA and one county south of Santa Barbara.

After May Gray, we have June Gloom, followed by No Sky July and then Fogust.

I’m not a fan.

Like a wine grape, I need daily sunshine. I need hot days and cold nights — aka an extreme diurnal shift.

Let me soak in the sun, and cool off under the stars and the moon. Not too cold, not too hot; a chance for the Earth to cool me off every night and get me hot during the day.

Here on the coast where I live, I hear the rocks tumble in the winter surf, smell the ocean spray, and feel the evening cool breeze, and experience the moisture in the air. It can often only change by 5 or 10 degrees from May-August — low 70s by foggy day with some sun maybe in the afternoon and then low 60s at night with lots of fog. It can be cool and foggy all day and night or the sun can play peek a book with that ocean breeze.

Because of our weather, we don’t grow many wine grapes in my part of town; okay I have three Chardonnay vines and Mission grapes that have never fruited but I don’t expect much from them.  You just don’t find wine grapes growing this close to the coast for this reason — not hot enough, not cold enough — AND because of powdery mildew which loves warm moist weather.

But if you drive a few miles up the 33 north from the Pacific in Ventura toward Ojai just past the fog belt, you’ll find grapes at Old Creek Ranch and at Manfred Krankel’s Sine Qua Non. A little further, you’ll find pockets of grapes in the Ojai Valley and in upper Ojai at Roll Ranch. Wineries using these grapes include The Ojai Vineyard, Bocalli’s, Topa Mountain, Ojai Alisal, and Casa Barranca.

In these areas you’ll regularly find summer temperatures during the day in the 80s and at night in the 50s; average winter temperatures are

the view toward Santa Paula from South Mountain 31 May 2019

If you drive  out the 126 from the coast toward the 5 and Santa Clarita, you’ll find wine grapes growing past the fog belt at Wells Road in Saticoy — the Mitchell Vineyards — and a few miles further is Olivelands in Santa Paula, and then on the other side of the Santa Clara river is South Mountain where you’ll find the vineyards of Clos des Amis which also makes wine from fruit grown in Fillmore, about 10 minutes further and only a 20-30 minute drive from the Pacific Ocean.

To combat powdery mildew throughout the growing season, vineyard management entails going through every single vine and pulling leaves that have grown before the first cluster of grapes of flowers. The idea is to open up the canopy so that fresh air can flow through and dry the mildew. This may need to be done more than once!

I recognized the powdery mildew because it looked just like what sows up on my zucchini plants!


As we moved through the vines this afternoon, we also pulled off snails large and small and taught them to fly or invited them to investigate the soil. It seemed like I found the most snails in the areas where I also found signs of powdery mildew. Because we had so much rain this year and historic moisture in a May that was more like March, the vines have gone nuts with growth, and as the days are getting longer and warmer, powdery mildew is on the rise.

While I came home with many bug bites, there are many blessings to be found in an afternoon working in the vineyards including finding birds’ nests, some even with eggs!


One of two nests that Gretel showed me today; in the first, the birds have fledged, and unclear whether they will double clutch. We will keep an eye on this one!

While Gretel and I were out in the vineyards, Bruce stayed in the winery filtering the NV “white” or orange wine.

This wine is a product of an experiment when too many grapes came in at once and this batch of Chardonnay hung out on the skins for longer than usual. While it is not quite as orange as others I’ve tasted, it does have a much deeper hue than you’d expect from a white wine that’s basically chardonnay and not very long in the bottle or barrel — and by barrel I mean neutral oak. On the nose I get lots of white stone fruit — nectarine and apricot with a little baking spice. The mouthfeel is luscious, round, and creamy due to a complete malolactic fermentation.

Below Clos des Amis winemaker Bruce Freeman is setting up to filter the next batch of “White Wine” before bottling. Thick paper filters go in between plastic baffles and the wine works it’s way through with the filter capturing anything tat would keep the wine from clarity in your glass.


Earlier this month we did some bottling: putting the next bath of Chambang into bottles (triage). The wines look cloudy because of the added tirage which will make them get bubbly!

Next step is to take the bottled bubbly, remove the lees and add the dosage.

The final step is labeling and we’ve been looking at various possibilities.

You would not believe how many decisions go into making wine every step of the way — from which canes to prune to what to thin to what fruit to drop to when to pick… all the way to what the finished bottle should look like and then bottling it and wiping off the fingerprints and delivering the cases to the store — which I also helped with today!

We also celebrated Chardonnay Day with oysters!

if you notice that this label is “special” it;’s because I ddi it– my first time on the labeling machine!

What’s next in June? We’ll see! Subscribe!

3 thoughts on “Ventura County Vineyards: May Gray

    • Seeing the bird nests was really special! And I am so in love with this “orange” white wine! YUM! PS It is really good with potato chips… just saying food doesn’t have to fancy and this wine retails for around $12! Incredible to have a handmade wine at that price.


  1. Great you were able to help in the vineyard. Have you thought to purge snails yourself to make escargot sometime?


Please Comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s