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My Favorite Vineyard Day

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We have a new face on the blog! Lynn Pedone will be working in the vineyard, with Dave Vella and his crew, as she pursues her studies in Viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College. A little background on Lynn: she’s a recent East Coast transplant, has lived all over the world growing up in a military family and has previously worked in the world of business and finance. She’s now hoping to settle into her “last career stop until retirement” in the wine industry and is looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about vineyard maintenance with Dave.  Lynn will be writing a weekly blog post about her experiences working in the Chateau Montelena vineyards.  Read her latest post below:

One day last week I spent my morning at Chateau Montelena working on some Petite Syrah vines.  The Montelena Estate vineyards are exclusively Cabernet Sauvignon and old Zinfandel; the Petite Syrah vines are experimental (maybe the winemakers will try them in some new blend?).   Arriving at the vineyard at 5:50 a.m., I learned that the rest of the crew was working offsite.  I wondered what I would be doing, since that meant I would be working alone.  Did they actually trust me to work on my own in the estate vineyard with no supervision?  Beto asked if I would like to work on the four rows of young Petite Syrah vines that needed a little “tidying up” – vines creeping out into the row middles needed to be tucked into the catch wires and trimmed above the top wire.  Sure!  I said, happy to have any opportunity to use my pruning shears.  I love pruning and cutting and trimming and snipping – as someone who has never really worked in a garden of any kind before, I had no idea how empowering it is to “discipline” a vine….maybe it’s because I can’t seem to establish the same control over my two obstinate Pugs.  At this stage, when the vineyard seems to be growing like crazy, the vines are like unruly children.  Fortunately, and unlike my dogs, they respond well to just about anything you do to them!   It was a glorious day in Calistoga – very warm, but not too hot – with a soft breeze and a postcard-blue sky.  As I was talking to the vines in the peaceful silence and listening to the birds chirping, Mr. Barrett rode by on his little motor scooter, and it made me happy to see him out and about.  After a bit Dave Vella, the Vineyard Manager, stopped by to ask how things were going for me.  In addition to what I was already doing, Dave suggested I start “dropping” berry clusters – in effect, pruning to leave just one cluster per shoot.  When vines are young, this allows them to put their energy and resources into producing berries with more concentrated flavors.  Montelena purposely keeps their vine yields low because smaller crop yields produce wines with more intensity and complexity.  I was excited about this new task, until I started trying to decide which clusters would live and which would die. The problem, I discovered, was that by and large, all of them were beautiful and soon I realized I was spending far too much time trying to pick and choose and that it probably was not an effective use of my time.  Where there were clear and obvious choices, I snipped off the “lesser” bunches, but I have to say that I did not enjoy murdering those little clusters that will never grow up to become fine Chateau Montelena wine!  All in all, though, a perfect day.  Next week I plan to focus on my co-workers – the people who make up the great, hard-working vineyard crew at Montelena.  See you then.


  1. I’ve loved reading your blog. We are coming to the Napa area in September and wondered if you let amateur photographer’s walk around to take photos. We are coming from Michigan and love the architecture of your buildings. We are coming during the week of Sept. 2-9

    Thanks for your help.

    July 15, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink

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About Our Authors

George Blanckensee

An expert event planner and an avid basketball and sports fan, George can tell you about all the best off-the-beaten path eateries.

Kali Clark

A Napa Valley native, Kali returned to the area after a stint on the East Coast and can be found documenting the latest happenings at the Chateau. When not behind the camera, she likes to experiment in the kitchen, travel, and enjoy the outdoors

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