Archive of Aaron Fishleder
A new season is upon us! The vines are emerging from their dormancy and starting to grow the young shoots that will eventually hold all of those clusters we will harvest in September. At this point in the year, a Viticulturist’s heart is filled with hope and excitement because Mother Nature has been kind so far. Bud break, the stage in grapevine development when the young shoots emerge from the dormant buds, is well under way in our Napa Chardonnay vineyards and just beginning in our Napa Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard.
Here's to the 2013 growing season!
10 2012on May
at 2:35 pm
I love the spring. It is the time of year when the grapes start emerging from their dormancy and we get our first indications of what the season will hold. Spring is by far the busiest time of year for vineyard folks. I know that many people think harvest is the more hectic, but I will let you in on a little secret… Harvest is actually a lot of fun. It is merely a lesson in logistics and managing crazed winemakers. I digress.
I am really happy with how well our insectary cover crop blend has grown this spring. A combination of warmer weather and just the right amount of rainfall has led to a beautiful display of flowers in our vineyards.
We use this cover crop to attract beneficial insects to help keep pests at bay. Since we started using this blend several years ago, we have not had to spray for any unwanted pests. An insectary cover crop is a must in any organically farmed vineyard. The blend we used is made up of Persian clover, white yarrow, coriander, baby’s breath, rose clover, tidy tips, crimson clover, California bluebell, California poppy, Chinese houses and birdsfoot trefoil.
The vines are growing extremely well, and it looks like there are many flowers that, if all continues to go well, will turn into many clusters. Dare I say it, there is great potential for the season, and, wait for it, I am happy.
If you have any free time over the next few weeks, please come to the winery for a visit ; the scenery is beautiful and the weather is going to be lovely.
17 2011on November
at 2:02 pm
There’s more than vines growing in our Chardonnay vineyards. Viticulturist Aaron Fishleder describes the first tarantula sighting.
One of the best parts of my job is spending time in the vineyard. I love it out there, but I suppose it goes without saying that a viticulturist would love spending time in a vineyard. There is always something interesting to see when the crew is working in our blocks.
I was surprised when one of our managers, Brad Sorensen, sent me a picture of a tarantula. The crew found the large spider in our Barrow Lane Chardonnay vineyard in Coombsville. Since my adventures in the vineyard started in 2000, I’ve seen two boars, a mountain lion, a few bobcats, and many, many deer. Our tarantula takes the cake. It is, by far, one of the most interesting creatures that I have seen in our vineyards, and I’ve seen exotic birds and monkeys out there, too … but that’s a story for another day.
29 2011on September
at 9:19 am
Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Besides being experts in vineyard care, our farming crew is particularly adept at handing out nicknames. Viticulturist Aaron Fishleder (a.k.a. “Paton”) explains.
It’s that time of year again: harvest is getting underway. Soon, the vineyard crew will be hectically filling bins of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon for processing at the winery. While this is a busy and stressful time of year in the valley, it is also a time of great comradery and friendship.
The members of our vineyard crew spend so much time together that we’ve become a family. We know each other’s idiocrasies and aren’t afraid to have fun with them. (For instance, if you ever meet Rafa, feel free to ask him about his interest in alien abduction.) One of the results of this closeness is the nicknames the guys give one another.
I am not sure if there are any rules for assigning the names. Our Vineyard Manager, Brad Sorensen’s nickname, “Diego,” was given to him because the guys could not pronounce his real name. Oddly, “Diego” follows him wherever his goes.
I find that most of the crew’s nicknames are for given for life. Alfredo, who is one of our supervisors, has had the same nickname, “Burro” since the 1970s. I suppose a lifelong nickname is both a curse and a blessing. If you are lucky enough to be given a cool name, then you are set. All one can do is pity the poor person given a weird or funny name.
Take, for instance, another of our supervisors, Jose Luis, who originally started with our crew as an irrigator. At first he was given the name “Pipas” (Pipes). Jose Luis had that name for several years until one day he stepped on a nail and spent the next week limping on his sore foot. His nickname was quickly changed to “Pato,” which means “duck.” Too bad, Pato.
I, too, had the benefit of going through a name change. When we first started our farming crew in 2003 my nickname was “Patas Largas” (Long Legs). While I am a tall guy, this was not exactly a name that made me proud. After a few years, as the crew grew and we started farming more acres, my name changed. I am now known as “Paton” (Big Feet).
OK, so I can see how on the surface “Paton” does not seem any better than “Patas Largas,” but one needs to understand there is more to the name than making fun of my large feet. It is also a sign of respect. The word “patron” means boss. My guys told me they gave me my new nickname because it plays off of the fact that I am the boss. When I asked why my nickname could not just be “patron,” my foreman laughed and said, “You are already the boss. We can’t let your head get too big.”
I laughed. He was right. It could be so much worse for me. Ask Juvenal, aka “Bisonette,” (Little Bison) or Rafa aka “Pelón” (Baldy), who have two of the worst names on the crew. So Juvenal is as big as a large mammal. Is it a really good idea to risk making him angry? It’s not poor Rafa’s fault that he lost his hair when he was a young man. Wait a minute, do you think the aliens have something to do with the loss? A topic for my next blog.
26 2011on May
at 9:08 am
In this guest blog post, Viticulturist Aaron Fishleder talks cover crops—one of an organic farmer’s most important tools!
Come springtime, there are more than grapes growing in our vineyards. In fact, if you’ve got a gardener’s eye, you’ll spot various vegetables and flowering plants growing between the vine rows. More than a source for your next salad or just a pretty view, these plants actually do a lot to get our soils—and vines—ready for a great harvest. Using these cover crops is one of the more important aspects of our organic farming program.
We use these extra crops for a variety of reasons, but the most important is to improve organic matter and nutrition in the soil. Plants such as bell beans, peas, vetch, and barley use seasonal rainfall and nitrogen from the atmosphere to grow and add biomass. Incorporating this blend into the soil adds nutrients important for vine development and increases beneficial microorganisms that help the grapes mine nutrients from the soil that would otherwise be difficult to pull out on their own.
Cover crops are also a great way to control pest problems in the vineyard. White sweet alyssum, California bluebell, and California poppy are three of the more than ten flowering plant species we plant to attract beneficial insects to our blocks. Since we started using this blend in 2007, the populations of problem insects have dropped off significantly. Radish and mustard are used to help control nematodes, a microscopic worm that feeds on grape roots—a common problem in many vineyards. When these plants are mowed and disked into the ground, they act as a biofumigant and release a gas that kills the pests.
So the next time you’re in the valley in spring, take a look around you and know that the bright yellow mustard, red clover, orange poppy and spiky, green barley plants are doing more than adding to the natural beauty of this region—they’re helping keep our vines healthy and resilient. And, as we know, healthy vines produce wonderful wine!
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