view from Mesa Winds Farm at sunrise
Mesa Winds Farm & Winery
Our Orchards and Vineyards Wines Farm Stays and Events Babydoll Southdown Sheep Mesa Winds Farm & Winery News

Vineyards 2006

Vineyards 2007 >>

Shhh! Sleeping vines!

Gris in the snow

We took samples of the grape buds today to see if they were damaged by the minus 10°F. temps last night, November 29.

Horst Caspari, state viticulturist, has sent around a variety hardiness chart and his technique sounds fairly scientific because he uses a freezer. We aren't aiming that high, but maybe we can tell after 24 hours indoors if the buds are damaged.

For Meadowlark, it will not matter much because next year will be another training year. If the November cold doesn't freeze the ground solid, we will put in the posts soon. Or will we be starting on the microirrigation system? - M

The row and a half of Chambourcin was picked last and necessarily due to a late September frost in the upper vineyard. The acid was 12%, too high to ameliorate for wine, so we made 17 gallons of delicious juice.


Our 900 vines, one acre, of pinot noir and pinot gris yielded about 650 lbs of grapes. Last year's attempts at winemaking were quite dismal so this year with too few grapes to sell, we tried again for lack of anything better to do.

We tested brix and ripeness starting in mid-September then wham! We were hit with a freeze a week later that killed most of the leaves in the noir. Our noir vines were troubled all season by grasshoppers, springs freeze, and crown gal. The gris would have continued to ripen as it wasn't compromised by the freeze. But we decided to pick at 21 brix (noir), 23 (gris), press and combine the two for a blonde noir and enough wine to fill a barrel.

Other growers who were waiting for the brix to rise were not always successful because the unusual lengthly period of autumn rains retarded and diluted the sugars. In some cases, it was just too muddy to get into the fields. But that's the nature of vintages – it's all in the grapes!
Ramona picking gris
Morning picking was t-shirt clear, but by afternoon in the lower vineyard it was sleeting.
George and Amanda
Anno and Robert unloading grapes Anno and Wink
The crush:
By evening we'd picked 34 totes, crushed and destemmed them.
the wine press barrels fermenting
The press:
Noir and gris were both pressed without time on the skins, then barreled. The next day we inoculated with wine yeast.

mowing vineyard
Meadowlark vineyard, Wink's mowing in the distance.
meadowlark vineyard at sunset
Meadowlark vineyard is ready for winter by late September. We start again next spring with our new WeedBadger to remove weeds between the vines.


We spent many hot days in the new vineyard, Meadowlark, doing hand work. We fought to keep the bindweed and wild buckwheat from strangling our grapevines. We mowed then tied the vines to bamboo stakes to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Also during August we did several passes through the pinot noir and gris to get the older vines onto the headwire. This wasn't crop management, our efforts were focused on second year training, Still we managed to grow some grapes. - M

Steve prunes upper vineyard in late July.
weedbadgering grapevinesErik pruned and tied the Pinot Noir and mastered the weedbadger during his 2 week stay in early July.

Beauty in the Beast
Photo courtesy of Michelle Brunson
©M.Brunson, 2006

July, pest management and weed control

We rescued the Pinot Noir vineyard from severe grasshopper infestation this month. They had completed stripped some plants and had us in plague-panic mode. Some of the more amusing solutions we contemplated were the Hopper Whopper, and introducing grasshoppers to cats as a (force-fed) delicacy. From that point on, they'll eat nothing but grasshoppers. According to one long-time farmer, Mike H, 50 cats can clean up 20 acres although suffering temporary blindness. Hmmm!

I discovered a grasshopper manual which told me more than I wanted to know but enough to learn what hoppers don't like.

A combination of factors: mowing, tying the grapes higher on the stakes, rain, and a serenade from Gus Brett, we managed to rescue the majority of the grapevines and proceed to weedbadgering — the long awaited WeedBadger! A relief from handwork at last!

clean grape rowWe cleared unwanted competition around each grapevine easily while irrigating the first year grapes in Meadowlark Vineyard.

We hired additional help for several days in Pinot Gris vineyard which also needed another round of tying. For some reason the grasshoppers are fewer in the Gris.

While we worked at endless apple thinning, Meadowlark Vineyard exploded with Nature's love of diversity. I recognized all the popular familiar characters — pigweed, bindweed, purslane and a variety or two of thistle. Many more plants shall remain nameless due to my ignorance, but are no less powerful character actors in disturbed ground.

bindweed bio-controlsThe real shocker? We discovered bindweed mites were already on the farm when the Insectory in Palisade came by to deliver more of them! Powdery mildew has also crippled bindweeds in the hoophouse and field.

So if they aren't weeds, what are they? They are plants that provide organic matter making it easier for the desired species to absorb nutrients, prevent erosion, enhance soil structure (saw lots of earthworms!) and make the place look "lush."

However, these non-native varieties lack predators and are too competitive for our vines. To slow down the bindweed, we turned to bio-control agents, aka Aceria malherbae and Tyta luctuosa. This mite and moth work even during winter months and can strangle a strangling vine! - M

Late May, Meadowlark Vineyard is born

The new vineyard is IN! All four blocks have been planted, backfilled, and on scheduled irrigation now. We have Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris and 50 "experimental" table grapes, Himrod (green seedless), and Canadice (red seedless).

May 28 surprised us with a late freeze (30°F) which damaged our vineyard. Since our older vineyard had not been mown, the tall grass held the cold temperatures close to the lower new canes (and suckers) causing them to turn black and die. The tips of new growth also got nipped and some clusters shattered. The newly planted vines however suffered no damage.

We must soon turn our attention to the vines we are training, fertilize the most needy, add compost and sulfur to all. - M

Last minute field preparations

The field looms large. Ripping, disking, ripping again and then V-ditching the day before planting.

Robert lays out flags every four feet to mark the placement for each vine.

Preparing the vines

After digging up the vines from storage, we soak the bundles in water overnight. Wink constructed an awning over trailer to protect vines and people as much as possible from sun.

Trinidad gives Erik, one of our interns, a lesson in pruning the vine prior to planting. It was shocking how little was left.

We planted two of four blocks and a week later changed location of our plant camp. We lost a few hands but gained a couple more pruners.

Tyler and Derek start off with Pinot Meunier.


The row is watered a day or two before so the furrow is moist enough to dig even deeper holes for individual vines.

After each row has been planted and the vines covered, gated pipe brings the water.

Our second crew was twice as many workers. Trinidad was our foreman who spoke Spanish and directed the show. He's been planting vineyards in the area for years.

Still without rain, plenty dusty!

Table grapes require more area, and we weren't sure where to plant them until the last couple of rows allowed just enough space.

Finally lots and lots of water.

Soil amendments

Each vine was made its home with a shovel full of compost and splash of organic fertilizer. Above ground each vine gets another boost with 8oz of elemental sulfur.

That makes 5000+ vines, right?


When the ground was dry enough, about a week later, Bennet starts backfilling the V-ditch closer to the vines to make regular watering this summer easier.

Poor Wink! He found more rocks to remove.

Wild plums infest the irrigation ditches and here, above the Pinot Gris vineyard. Max is looking forward to a jammin' party this fall.

Early May

The Pinot Noir is pretty-pruned! We will add compost, sulfur and organically sanctified fertilizer for the plants that need a bigger boost.

We've hired a custom farmer to rip the Lower Twelve Pinot Gris field in several directions, then disc. Wink's been removing the previously undisclosed rocks as Judd tills.

Next the new rows will be measured and staked. Then single-ripped in a straight line in preparation for the V-ditcher which follows the rip to create the planting ditch (in the shape of a "V").

How many plants we can get into the ground per day depends on how much labor we can hire. Many farmers in the area are planting grapes this spring and finding help is always a challenge in the valley this time of year.

We appreciate our laborers! Without their hard work, it would be difficult to provide what the plants need when they need it — needs which are intense for days at a time and minimal for long stretches. Farmers keep their crews by finding work for them between planting and harvest, the two busiest times, but many smaller farms can't afford that. - M

Lower Twelve, new Gris vineyard being prepared

Noir pruning, before and after in upper vineyard

Let sleeping vines lie at a 45 degree angle.

Becca tackles chambourcin which was tied up last September to help prevent mildew and frost damage. For several years the vines rambled wild.


The Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier vines arrived the second week in April. We were focused on hoop house, pruning peaches, and bee preparations when the call came to pick up 5000 vines arriving via truck in Grand Junction.

Wink built a special lean-to on the north side of Badger Cabin and buried the dormant vines in native and potting soils,which we water regularly for moisture and coolness. We are hopeful we can keep the vines in this state until the ground has been prepared for planting in a week or two.

During April, we pruned the Pinot Noir vineyard, mostly. This past weekend (4/30) we had helpers too!This is time consuming work although pleasant and rewarding. We chose cane pruning and benefited from the state viticulturist, Horst Caspari, demonstrating at Rogers Mesa CSU Extension Service. We still have to tackle the "Lower Twelve" existing vines (Pinot Gris) and new plantings and have a partial row of noir to finish. - M

soil testing
Using a soil probe, we collected 30 random samples from the upper, then lower section of prospective vineyard. We'll send all to a lab in Dodge City for nutrient analysis.
wind machine maintenance
Another early spring job, checking batteries and oil on wind machines. The existing 1000 Pinot Gris vines might need a breeze if the temps are freezing during budding.


The Pinot Gris vines have been ordered and will be arriving in early April. We're analyzing the ground now with soil tests and profiling. Until a couple of years ago, this ground was in apples and we suspect this terroir has imparted a tantalizing hint of apple to "Test Batch 05 Pinot Gris" we fermented last fall.

According to Extension Service tracking, the fruits on Rodgers Mesa and in Palisade area finished their winter rest and are ready to bud when the average daily temperature reaches a certain number. For wine grapes that temperature is 50°F. The risk of freeze after bud break is greater the earlier in the year it occurs.

What can be done? Maybe the wind machines can raise the temps if the air is warmer higher than it is around the vines and trees, warm air rising at it does. Wink is ordering a temperature alarm that will wake him in the dead of night so he can crank up the V-8 Chevy engines if the temp falls below a set degree. I've heard these engines will wake the dead by themselves once they're going. - M

Orchard Years 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

Vineyard Years 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006