Monday, August 26, 2013

Harvest 2013 Begins!

Warning: I pulled an all nighter by accident; too excited about harvest beginning! So this blog post might seem rather...delirious.

I dragged myself out of bed at 4:30 after finally falling asleep around 4:27 to meet Jim in the vineyard. He had been there since 1 AM, so I really couldn't complain. First pick: our Mesa Pinot Noir for our sparkling Blanc de Noirs. Since this is my favorite wine, it's a thrill to see it get started every year. The fruit looked really gorgeous - tiny berries, tight clusters. There is apparently a little more botrytis this year due to these tight clusters (if a berry breaks, this can cause botrytis to rock and roll), so the pickers have been more careful than usual looking for this.

Clarissa likes the bins to be super clean, so two guys oversee the clusters being put into the big bins and pick out anything that doesn't make the cut, plus leaves and stuff. The thing that always amazes me about picking crews is how fast they go. Literally, they're a blur! I get in the field and cut about 3 clusters, and they've already filled up a cajone.

This morning was cool and the fog strangely didn't roll in until around 5 AM. How gorgeous does this fruit look? Lucky harvest 2013...will this be some of our best wine yet? Time will tell!

Happy Harvest, everyone!

Monday, August 12, 2013

It Was Just Meant to "Bee!"

Jim and his vineyard assistant, Will, came running into my office the other day all excited!

"Will found a beehive in the vineyard! Can you move it?" Jim asked.

Wow. Wowwowwowwowwow. Ok, so I've had multiple opportunities to move wild hives before through some other local beekeepers, but haven't had a chance to learn because I've been at Pepperdine every single time something like this has come up. Now, just a few days out of school, and there's a hive of Riverbench bees just for me! Ecstatic!

Immediately I emailed and called my local bee resources, asking for instructions, advice and help. They responded with all of the above and, most surprisingly of all, seemed confident I could handle it alone. The hive was small and completely exposed, just hanging right off of a vine. They all talked me through various methods, and I decided to go for it.

Last night was the night (you want to move them at night so most of them are "home"). I suited up, got my supplies, and drove out to examine the hive. With just the light of Jim's trusty headlamp, I found that the hive was actually attached to three separate grape clusters. I started dissecting, cutting the clusters one by one. The hive buzzed but not a single bee moved.

Then the action started. Once I cut away one cluster, the hive became unstable and started to fall. I got the bucket underneath and caught it just in time. A few more clips and most of the rest of the pieces fell in, too. The bees remained relatively calm until I covered the bucket with a lid to seal them in. The buzzing that ensued was angry and not just a little terrifying.

I carefully transported them in the backseat of my car, then dumped them into their new home. About 15,000 bees were at this time flying all around me, landing all over me. My gloves were black, completely coated in them. The light buzzing sensation on my hands was pleasant, though I was still a little nervous about hurting them or messing things up.

I closed up the hive, let the rest of them fly off, and left the scene. They were still there this morning, buzzing around and holding my bucket hostage, but they seem to be settling into their new home. Their view is really gorgeous, actually, overlooking Block 44 and the San Ramon Chapel.

Successful bee extraction #1. (I hope.) That enough excitement for this week.

Note: I'm an idiot and didn't take pictures. I thought I'd have time but things got crazy pretty quickly. Next time.