Thursday, December 25, 2008

Disco Mania!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 25: Holiday Greetings From YOV!

Hey, thank you!  We have had over 1000 visits to YOV Blog!  But what to talk about now to keep you coming back!?  Grapevines?  Bees?   Our newly installed energy efficient tank-less/soon to be solar hot-water heater?  Baby goats!?!!

Well, no baby goats yet!  But we have big plans for these guys and very soon.  As soon as the all the leaves have dropped from the grapevines, we are going to let the goats graze in the vineyard to control the weed growth!  They have done an excellent job in their own pasture manicuring the grass.  And without the grape leaves to attract them, we think that they will not bother the dormant, bare grapevines and help trim back the winter growth of weeds.  No more weed wacking, YEAH!  Additionally, we will get a bit of natural fertilizer deposited, thank Big Mac, Ellie & future little crew!

Since it is a presidential year and with  the enormity of electing our first African-American president, I couldn't help but mention that East Bay Congressman George Miller had a lottery of his constituents for a couple of tickets to the Obama's inauguration.  And one of the winners was a UCD wine making student from Vallejo by the name of Jeff Baccus.  I note this as whichever winery hires this young man, they will have a perfect built in marketing campaign:  "Their wine is made by Baccus, the living god of wine!", otherwise known as Jeff!

Well, we will be firing up the old RV for an adventurous trek to the hamlet of Remote, Oregon which is a little town halfway between Roseburg and Coos Bay for an old fashion Christmas Family Reunion!  Let me tell you, Remote is really in a remote part of southern Oregon, where Kristen's brother-in-law's mother has an Inn with cute little woodsy cabins, an RV park and camping facilities.  They primarily cater to hunters, who frequent the local woods for elk, deer & alike, but they let a tree hugger like me visit 'cuz I'm family.

As we sit by the warmth of our fire decorating our Christmas tree and toasting with a bit of eggnog, our whole family is wishing the very best to you this holiday season and hope you have an enjoyable & restful time with family & friends!

Best regards,

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 24: Autumn Turns To Winter

Hi all:

Down here in the vineyard, the leaves are turning from their bright summer green, to a brilliant yellow & finally to a dark, rich maroon.  Indian Summer, our California Autumn, is slowly slipping away and the cold afternoons are upon us.  Winter is approaching in only a month .... and it is time to think about pruning.

After all the leaves have fallen, probably late in  January, we will plan to prune all the growth down to one main cane, which will become the trunk of these first year vines.  In my spare time, I have been reading all the "How To's" from agricultural extensions and alike, but the best source for pruning that I have found, so far, is a book (and a DVD!) from a UC-Davis trained horticulturalist, Lon Rombough, who now resides in Oregon.

Hey, following up with our little friends, the gophers (not!), Landscape Pest Control, who specializes in small vineyard and landscape pest control, has treated the vineyard for our little problem.  So now we are on the watch for any intrusion back into the vineyard over the next 30 days by these burrowing demons!  We have one mole living in the vineyard, but moles are beneficial as they are insectivores, so he gets to stay!  The rest of you guys, stay out!!

Wishing you well from down in the vineyard,

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 23: Our Bountiful Horn 'O Plenty

Well, the Autumn harvest has come and gone at Young Oak Vineyards.  In our first "crush", we picked our 2008 crop (in less than five minutes).  Yes, that is our entire 2008 grape harvest in my left hand!   At least we had a few grapes to get a taste of what is to come!

Notice the more purplish grapes toward the middle of the cluster, which are fully ripe, as opposed to the darker blues ones, which could have stayed on the vine a bit longer.  But both are very sweet.  My neighbor, Mark Vernon showed me another indicator as to the grape's ripeness by looking at the color of the seeds, which were still a bit green in shade on the dark blue grapes indicating not fully ripened.

In other harvest news, our bee man, Alan, came by the other weekend and we got a chance to see how our hive is fairing.  As we have just had our hive installed this late summer, we are not going to be able to harvest any honey until next spring.  But just to be sure that the bees are doing well and have enough food for the winter, we checked it out recently.  After my youngest daughter, Suzie and my son, Scott, suited up, we were ready to open the hive and see how things are going!  I stood about 10-12 feet away and amazingly the bees were not riled up by our intrusion. 
Alan showed us the different frames where honey was being stored or eggs were being laid for new bees.  The hive was in pretty good shape considering its move from Roseville to our house, about 150 miles (240 km).

In goat news, our female, Ellie Mae, is now confirmed pregnant, as we took her down to our local vet, Adobe Animal Hospital.  She was quite a hit with the staff and the patrons, with everyone petting, poking and prodding her belly.  But the ultra-sound confirmed at least two beating hearts (other than Ellie's) and an X-ray showed two distinct fetal skeletons and possibly a third.  At any rate, we are going to have the best Christmas Nativity manger scene in the neighborhood!  We just have to find a newborn baby!

All in all, things are going pretty well at the vineyard.  The Autumn rains have allowed us to stop our weekly watering.  But our constant vigil against the gophers continues.  With the colder weather, the vine canes have turned color from their bright green to a rich red-brown as the older green leaves are starting to turn color as well.  I am staying warm by the fire this weekend and wishing you well from down in the vineyard.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 22: Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts!

Well, those dastardly little devils have taken down five more beautiful, mature grapevines!!!!  I can only think of the old Boy Scout Song that I mention in the title.  Fortunately, I talked with a neighbor who had a similar problem when they were starting their vineyard.  In fact, they lost their entire vineyard to gophers and had to replant the next year.  Hopefully, we can avoid that when my neighbor's Gopher Guy, "Landscape Pest Control", recommends a treatment for my vineyard!  I will keep you posted!

Hey, one of the great things I get to do as a science teacher is experience a lot of wonderful displays & events involving science.  So, two weeks ago I was able to fly on the "Vomit Comet" with three other fellow science teachers from my school, along with a group of math & science teachers from all around California to experience weightlessness just like the astronauts!  We invited news reporter Bob Redell from NBC channel 11 along and he got alot of great footage of my fellow teachers and our department chair, Joe, with some great sound bits (sic joke!).  You get to see me fly like "Superman" and one of our chemistry instructors, Pat, eats M&M while floating in "Zero G" weightlessness, not to mention Joe's minor stomach problem.

I recommend everyone go do this!  The company "Zero G" flies out of Las Vegas where you too can experience it too.  It only costs $5,000 per person.  And for $15,000 you can fly on the "Platinum Plan" with Astronaut Buzz Aldrin and have dinner with him afterwards!  Or you can do what Martha Stewart did and charter the entire jet for $150,000 and take 35 of your friends along for "the most incredible birthday party ever"!

I went a cheaper route and didn't pay anything, by becoming a teacher and applying for a grant with the Northrup-Gruman Foundation, who pays for science & math teachers to experience weightlessness to enhance their teaching and get their students excited about careers in science & math !  I have already used some of our weightlessness experiments that we did in "Zero G" in my classes and I am planning on many more this year!

Hope you are enjoying our beautiful fall weather.  The crush is on and it would be time to pick my grapes if the birds hadn't eaten all 40 of them.  Oh well, we are hoping for many, many more next year!  (Note to self:  get bird netting before next year!)

Wishing you a most wonderful "Indian Summer" from down here in the vineyard,

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 21: What's The Buzz?

Our featured artist today is the enigmatic "Sade" (pronounced shaw-day). Born in London, her father, a Nigerian Economics Professor and mother, a British Nurse, she was raised briefly in West Africa and then in the U.K., Sade started out in the fashion business, tried modeling and finally landed in the music industry. She was is several groups before getting a record contract as "Sade" (the band), comprising of herself & her great backup band. This cut, "The Sweetest Taboo" is from their second album and is one of my favorites!

05 The Sweetest Taboo.mp3

We're going to take a break from summer music until sometime in the future. Thanks for taking the time to listen. Hope you enjoyed it!

What's buzzing at Young Oak Vineyards? Well, we found a great beeman who is trying to re-populate bees in Northern California, one backyard at a time! Allen Larson will bring a beehive to your backyard, service your hive and give you a minimum of 24 pounds of honey a year, but more like 40 - 50 pounds typically. So, we purchased a hive and had it installed by the southeast upper corner of our vineyard (that's the very front of our place, down the hill to the left of our driveway above the vineyard).

Although, I have often thought about building hives and doing bees, this is a quick & easy way to get started to help your allergies by eating local honey, help your grapevines or other flowering plants assure pollination, help our bee population recover from the "Colony Collapse Disorder" by spreading hives to new territories, and (and this is the big one) you don't have to do the dangerous stuff! But for the daring, Allen will suit you up, so you can assist him when he is servicing your own hive(s)! Check out Allen's website at:

Hope you get the buzz,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 20: Back To School!?

Hi all:

This post's featured musical artist is the consummate "Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks".  Dan went to high school in Santa Rosa and hit the San Francisco music scene in the late 60's. This cut, "I Scare Myself", is his signature piece, although I like his original "The Walkin' One & Only" when I want to tap my foot a bit!

Well, the grapevines are continuing to do well.  I noticed the Pinot Noir vineyard on Concepcíon Road, about a mile or two from my house, is now fully laden with grapes.  Last year, the vineyard master there told me that they typically pick in late August to early September, because the Pinot Noir grapes mature earlier here in Los Altos Hills due to the warmer climate, compared with some of the other coastal valley regions known for Pinot Noir (Remember the movie "Sideways"!). Mark Vernon, Ridge COO, mentioned that they usually pick 4-6 weeks after the grape turn to their dark color.  Well, we only have a couple of handfuls of grapes on our vines this first season as you can see in the picture below!  Maybe I will make a couple of glasses of grape juice for Kristen and I to toast you all!

I found a great description of the laboratory equipment & techniques from the Hardy Wine Company in Australia, used for the measuring sugar content of grapes and determining when to pick.  I have been exposed to this information in the past, but it will be interesting to re-learn about these methods.  By the way, the Hardy Wine Company, founded in 1850's, is now the largest winemaker in the world.  Through mergers and acquisitions, they recently changed their name to Constellation Wines Australia.

On a related note, Ron Mosely, the owner of Vinescape and the installer of my neighbor Mark's vineyard, will be teaching in the new Viticulture Program at Foothill College starting this Fall '08 term.  The "Establishing A Vineyard" class, which I would love to take, is on Fridays, so, unfortunately, I won't be able to attend.  I think I will try to sit in on at least one class, though.  Additionally, Foothill is offering a winemaking class on two Saturdays this Fall (Sept. 27th & Oct. 4th), which I am planning to register for!  Check it out and maybe we can take it together!!

See you after class,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 19: Here's My Card!

Hi all:

This post features the music of our famous, local Menlo Park residents & internationally known performers, "Tuck & Patti". Tuck is originally from Oklahoma, went to Stanford and performed in the LA music/TV scene. Patti, from San Francisco, is classically trained and met Tuck in 1978 while auditioning for a band he was in. The band didn't happen, but Tuck & Patti did and they have been making beautiful music ever since! This cut is "Time After Time", popularized by Cindy Lauper, but I like Patti's soulful version best with Tuck's great guitar work!

On a personal connection, we last saw Tuck & Patti perform at the Peninsula School Benefit a couple of years back with a tremendous improvised "scat" by Patti on "Tears of Joy". After the performance, as we walked to our car, my youngest daughter, Suzie tripped, fell & skinned her knee. As I helped Suzie up, Patti came running over the driveway with a folding chair for Suzie, helping her up & consoling her about her skinned knee! Thank you, Patti!!

What's going on at the vineyard, you ask? Well, ..., I got new business cards!!!

Otherwise, the plants just keep growing & growing! The grapevine that my daughter, Suzie was holding in my post of July 27, 2008 is now taller than me! I just have to watch the watering, not too much nor too little. And finally, there is the possibility of mold causing August rains! If it gets damp, I am told I need to dust the grapevine leaves with sulfur powder.

Hey, the new August 2008 issue of the "Wine Spectator" has their annual "world's best restaurants for wine" review. Seventy three restaurants received their top accolade and the nearest ones to Young Oak Vineyards are in San Francisco: Fifth Floor in the Hotel Palomar on Fourth Street, Michael Mina in The Westin St. Francis Hotel on Powell and Restaurant Gary Danko on Point Street.

Several peninsula local restaurants received the "Award of Excellence" or the higher mark "Best of Award of Excellence", including:

John Bentley's in Redwood City,
Bella Vista and The Village Pub in Woodside,
Marché in Menlo Park,
Fleming's Prime Rib Steakhouse & Wine Bar,
Il Fornio, La Strada, Lavanda Restaurant & Wine Bar,
Mantra Restaurant & Lounge, Quattro Restaurant & Bar,
Sundance The Steakhouse and Zibibbo all in Palo Alto!

One aspect of their listing is restaurants featuring "inexpensive pricing" with one local restaurants noted, Woodside Bakery & Café!

You can go to select the Dining & Travel tab and press the Free Restaurant Search button to search for restaurants all around the world. Here's to the enjoyment of the rest of your summer!


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 18: More Grapevines!!

Happy Summer Everyone!

Well, here we are in the middle of the "Dog Days of Summer", but it has been a really mild summer temperature wise, so far.  To make things even cooler, our featured music is by Paco de Lucia, considered to be the King of Modern Spanish Flamenco Guitar. He was a child prodigy, making his first public performance at age 11 and is probably the fastest Flamenco guitarist ever.

Paco recorded this wonderful piece,
"Entre Dos Aguas" in the 1976 at the ripe old age of 29. (Hey guys, ... remember how psychedelic you looked with your long hair, your favorite paisley shirt, bell bottom pants & side zippered black boots, ... Oh wait, ... that was me!)  Well, this isn't Paco's most dynamic piece, but it is one of my favorites!  Push the play button to watch this short 5 minute video or listen while you read my blog below!  Olé!!

Now, about the goings on's at Young Oak Vineyards!  Ridge Winery has been planting some Cabernet Franc in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which they use as a blending grape.  And they have some leftover grapevines with no place to plant them.  These are potted grapevines with leafy foliage, more developed plants than the root stock/grafts we planted back in March.  Mark Vernon, Ridge COO, has generously offered some of their extras, as I have room for about 25-30 more grapevines at the bottom of our field on the south side.

Although somewhat obvious from its name, it has been recently confirmed, by DNA analysis, that the Cabernet Franc was crossed with the Sauvignon Blanc grape, to give us the Cabernet Sauvignon grape sometime during the 1600's in southwestern France (i.e.: Bordeaux).  Early planting records in the Loire Valley suggest that the Franc grape originally came from Brittany, consistent with the cooler climate found there.  I am excited to see how they will fair on my hot Los Altos hillside!

Just to make things fun, we have added a "billy" & "nanny" goat, to our menagerie.  The "nanny" goat is due pretty soon, so we will have a herd of "kids" to keep the weeds trimmed in the "North Forty".

These guys are pygmy goats from a herd in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Felton, where Big Mac (black) was the dominant buck & Ellie (tan) was the matriarch doe of the herd.  They are very gentle and come right up to eat out of your hand.

Ellie is a little stressed about leaving her herd behind & bleats a bit.  And Big Mac is a little skittish, but very gentle.  I think they will settle down in a few days. Definitely have to keep them away from the vineyard, though!

Well, I gotta go milk the goats now, but I'm having a little trouble finding Big Mac's udder!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 17: Water Consumption

Hi all:

Hey, It's my son's birthday! Happy 28th Birthday, Scott! He is currently off traipsing around Kyrgyzstan on a holiday! But Katie, my 16 year old daughter, will be visiting Scott in Finland in a week, where he currently resides.  He has planned a world-wind trip for them, flying to Budapest, then by train/car to Bratislava, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich & Frankfurt, visiting friends along the way! Then flying to Estonia to ferry back to Helsinki! Sounds like a
John Candy Movie  or Mel Brook's  If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium!

Closer to home, just look at those grapevines! My youngest daughter, Suzie, is 5' 7" and several of the vines are almost as tall as she is.

As we had in Palo Alto, we have the wonderful, but contriversal
Yosemite/Hetch-Hetchy West Bay water up here in Los Altos Hills. Since we moved here, our home water usage has been about 8 WU per month (water units, where 1 WU = 100 cubic feet of water). Hey, that is on the lowest usage billing tier, for anyone who is checking on my water conservation during our drought, by the way! Also, we don't have any landscaping, just weeds!

Well, after the March vineyard planting, our water usage has gone up to an average of 18 WU per month with a high of 30 WU during the May/June 2008 heat waves. Cutting to the chase, it was costing $25.63 per month, on average, to water the grapes
by hand, using about 7,500 gallons a month. This has really allayed my fears of horrendous, multi-$100 water bills!

Also, we started using the drip system over 4th of July weekend, watering for 4 hours (at one gallon an hour) every 4-5 days or even longer. That would be about only 6,000 gallons a month. That is a reduction in our current usage by about 20%. We will just have to wait & see if we have any $20.50 per month bills in the future!

The featured musician of this edition of the Young Oak Vineyards Blog is
Ottmar Liebert with "Bullfighter's Dream". Ottmar is a extremely talented German guitarist, first starting as a rock musician, then becoming one of the world most foremost Nouveau Flamenco guitarists. He has a great website with a diary blog (just like me!!), lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, US and is into environmentalism, Buddhism & photography among his many other creative talents & interests!

Bullfighters Dream - Ottmar Liebert
Drinking Mojitos & wishing you well from down in the vineyard,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 16: Wine & Music !!

Hi all:

One month into summer and I have so many projects still to complete. But the grapevines just keep growing & growing down in the vineyard and there has been no sign of the deer coming back after we patched the "hole" in the fence. It is truly amazing, considering we just planted these vines 135 days ago. My watering system still has some bugs in it, but I am slowly addressing the non-cooperative emitters and the faulty plastic tubes as the former clog and the latter leak.

Needless to say, I have had more time to work on the old Chateau du Sphar. Daughter Suzie now has new halogen track lighting washing her walls and soon her sister,Katie, will have same. Perhaps, Kristen will even get new bedroom lights soon!!

As you have probably noticed by now, I have added a music widget to the "Young Oak Vineyards Blog". I find this initial piece by
Pat Metheney, Sueño Con Mexico, to be very soothing. Pat is a most eclectic guitarist who experiments with many different styles & sounds. I hope you will enjoy it.Sueño con Mexico.mp3 - Pat Metheny -
Forgot to mention a couple of weeks back, we attended a very enjoyable wine bottling of a Petite Sarah blend at
The Bacchus Winemaking Club in San Carlos. Very Interesting facility located on Industrial Road off of Whipple Road. The owner also bottles his own line of award winning wines as the Domenico Winery at the same location.

Wishing you a wonder-filled mid-summer from down in the vineyard,

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 15: Vino Locale

Hi all,

Since I have finished the vineyard watering system, I now have time to do other things, like go to lunch with my dear friend,
Lynn Fielder. We went to Vino Locale, which features meals made from local foods, featuring local wines & local artwork. Lynn displays her jewelry creations there and is instrumental in selecting the featured artists.  (Click Lynn or Vino Locale to see their websites.)   It was great catching up with Lynn. Her family has a Finnish heritage & connection, hosting a Finnish exchange student a few years back, which has been a great contact for my son Scott, who did his masters there and now resides in Helsinki.

Lynn & I had a fabulous lunch and sampled a flight of local Pinot Noirs. We started with the "Crostini Sampler" with home grown pesto and a wonderful pâté, followed by delicious grilled tri-tip sandwiches and completed with petit mocha cheesecakes.
Vino Locale has a great wine cellar of small (& some not so small) local wineries within a 75 miles radius of Palo Alto. I highly recommend a visit to this wonderful restaurant !!

Regards, John

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 14: The Trellis's Are Up!!

Hi all,

Hope you all are enjoying a great 4th of July weekend! Having the summer off has allowed me to do a lot of projects at home, and we have made a lot of progress in the vineyard as well. We have finally put up the trellis wires and now you can see why we put the posts in at an angle, to pull against 75 feet of wire and eventually the weight of the fruit ladened vines! I must say, the vineyard is really taking shape!

Many vines have reached over two feet in height and a few are even four feet. Several vines have developed green, unripened grapes berries about one centimeter in diameter (that's 0.4 inches for you non-metric folk).

I had intended to use grow tubes to protect the grapevines from the critters, however, Ron of Vinescape suggested I just allow the grapevines to grow unpruned and unfettered, to allow the root system to fully develop over the first year. Generally speaking, the root system below the ground is about the same size as the foliage is above ground. To use the grow tube, you have to prune the grapevine down to only one shoot, which you would train up as the trunk of the vine. For this we will wait until the late Fall / Winter season when I will learn about pruning.

A couple of days ago, when I was working with a couple of my amigos, five deer came wandering into the vineyard under my neighbor’s deck. This answers my question of how these guys have been getting in and browsing on the grape leaves. Now that we have plugged that leak, hopefully we have eliminated our deer problem!

Keepin' it "Safe & Sane" in the vineyard!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards - Vol. 13: Neighbor Mark Vernon Reports Big News!!!!!

Hi all,

Mark Vernon, Ridge Winery COO and neighbor extraordinaire, has reported to me that "green things" (leaves) are emerging from the sawdust inside the milk cartons, which you can see to the left.   

, Mark!  That heat wave probably got the grafts & rootstocks going PDQ.

Regards, John  

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Young Oak Vineyards-Vol. 12: Emerging Tendrils!!

Hi all,

Working down in the vineyard this Memorial Day weekend, I was reminiscent of another life, in another world, at another time thanks to the recent Moffet Field Air Show.  As I looked up to the blue sky, I saw a B-17 Bomber lumbering by the clouds and I thought I could be a Frenchman working on his vineyard in German occupied WWII France watching the Americans looking for a German tank convoy!  Here's to the men & women of our armed services, past and present.

Above you can see the new grapevine tendrils (v shaped structures in my palm) emerging from the new leaf grow looking for something to grab onto, coil around & support future growth.  It is amazing  & miraculous how the cells of the plant differentiate into new and different structure just as our stem cells differentiate into the different tissues and structures of our bodies!

Now that I have received my "Gripple Tool" & my pink "Grow-Tubes", I have a flurry of work to do to put in the trellis wires in the next couple of weeks to help encourage that growth.  So we will have lots to report in the near future.

But this weekend I just had to go camping at Foothill Park with my youngest daughter, Suzie, and some of the great Escondido families to share stories around the campfire!  Hope you too had a great Memorial Day weekend.  Wishing you and your families are all well, especially those with members in the armed services.

Regards from down in the vineyard,