Posted by: Thomson Vineyards | August 24, 2011

That Cordon Isn’t Dead It’s Sleeping

A winery sent me a Direct Message yesterday and requested that I remove a Tweet when I Retweeted a photo of their Old Vine Pinot Noir that included their own comments about how pretty the red leaves are.

I  had Retweeted the photo with links to UC Extension information on leafroll, eutypa, and virus affected vineyards.

Lovely or Deadly? Virus Affected Vineyard

Early on in my tenure as The Millennial Daughter the Old Farmer pointed out one of my photos and then pointed to a cordon which had failed to put out any leaf area early in the season. He cautioned me to not be posting photos of dead cordons. While I respect his position and others position to “spin” the truth into a positive, I’m no spin doctor.

Old Vines should have a cordon or two which have given up 36 years into their life. Rot and mildew have been persistent issues for growers for two seasons now, forcing them to put more inputs into their production, more material out to prevent or kill fungus, driving costs up, driving organic credibility down. Growers report the abundance of powdery mildew this year from Mendocino to the San Joaquin Valley. Bunch rot is also becoming and issue. Winemakers report that in some vineyards they have to walk three vines before spotting a cluster. A well known Carneros Pinot grower is down by 40%. Extreme mountain fruit will potentially either be full of rot or fail to ripen in 2011 without aggressive thinning. And when your yields are significantly down, there’s not much left to “thin”.

Anyhow, there is an extremely short list of individuals on Twitter regularly Tweeting about actual vineyard conditions, data related to soil/weather/fruit, and attempting to educate rather than market to consumers and the industry at large.

Most of you on Twitter are caught up bitching about receiving sub par wine samples (Oh! Heaven forbid you actually just re gift a bottle to an appreciative friend);  or those of you crying about not being invited to the “In-Crowds Wine Blogger Conference After Parties” (Crash their parties – what are they gonna’ do start a fist fight?) ; or worse, as a winery, you’ve left an outsourced marketing firm or even worse you’ve left your own in-house marketing/front desk/or anyone else who spends 90% of their time behind a computer and not in the vineyard or production facility to push out 20% off codes and tell tourists how lucky they are to have been in your tasting rooms over the weekend. If MailChimp is Tweeting for you. I hope you bring nothing but rotten fruit in this year.

So who’s Tweeting valuable, can’t miss vineyard and winegrape info?

Here’s my unabridged, unabashed, uberauthentic list:


UCCE Farm Advisor
San Joaquin Valley
SJV Viticulture production issues: varieties, pests and diseases, etc.


Steven Beckley
Woodland, CA
I cover issues of interest to the agricultural input industries and consultants. Including both conventional and organic.


Matthew Fidelibus
Parlier, California
Extension Specialist in Department of Viticulture and Enology, UC Davis. Extending Viticulture Information to Raisin, Table, and Wine Grape Growers.


Stillwater, OK
eViticulture is a group of viticulture Extension specialists around the US.

Honorable mentions: @vineyardpro, @doctor_vit@wineisgud4u (who is obsessed with Tweeting out LWP on a particular block of Sonoma Cab)


*If I missed someone who is regularly Tweeting valuable information, send me a Tweet @ThomsonVyrds. I selectively follow back because I have limited patience for following Twitter accounts who whine about how terrible it is to drink free wine, project their Klout score/Wine Influence Twitter rating, or continue to do review after review of the cherry jubilee essence you got off the wine you paired alongside the Pacific Coast Grass Fed Bison Burger, side of truffle fries, even though Asimov told you guys to grow a pair, get out into the vineyards and start writing about W. I. N. E. At least that’s what I heard he told you – because I’m a Wine Grower and not a Wine Blogger and was busy at that time Tweeting out Leaf Water Potential (LWP) readings to winery clients who follow the ThomsonVyrds Twitter stream and to others in the industry who are interested in gauging vineyard conditions in the Carneros Region of the North Coast. Last I checked I’m a close to a buck fifty over a thousand followers and they aren’t all industry people. They are C.O.N.S.U.M.E.R.S Anyhow, maybe I’ll crash your party in Oregon next year. Maybe.

As far as the leafroll, eutypa and the red leaves out there. You can read up about the topic and others related to winegrapes and vineyards at this comprehensive resource compiled by the UC Integrated Viticulture program.  And while selecting good sources of information to direct readers to I came across this UC Viticulture Research doing none other than absolutely tarnishing To-Kalon by calling its heritage clone 31 Mondavi Cabernet out as a “virus affected vineyard”. The audacity. Whether it was split on the Mondavi or Beckstoffer side I don’t know. But you can bet that if it’s on Andy’s side he is selling that fruit at a 30% markup over the block next to it which is most likely a replant showing not a single sign of pretty red leaves.

2011 Old Vine Martini Pinot Noir

In 2009 I attended a seminar dedicated to the split of winemakers who opt out of working with virus affected vineyards and those who actually prefer to work with virus affected vines saying that they produce more complex, interesting wines. And if you are a winemaker who subscribes to the theory that Old Vines, 30 years plus, are favorable over just established vines and vineyards it’s mighty difficult to locate a vineyard that isn’t affected by something.

We’ve got red leaves at Thomson Vineyards. They are some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Carneros. They produce some pretty damn good Pinots and don’t seem to be hindering ripening, flavor, or winemakers selling their finished products in the marketplace.

Because after all, to consumers, that’s their favorite part of the visit to Napa Valley. Snapping photo after photo of beautiful orange and red hillsides of rolling  vineyards and posting it to their Twitter and Facebook feeds, tagging the winery as they go.

If you have no idea what DM, Retweet (officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary this week), or tagging means you can take my crash course here.


  1. Since my vineyard is not a commercial one, I don’t have to spin anything.
    More than anything, I wear my concerns and fears on my sleeves.
    As for those whining bloggers: their daytime jobs are clearly not demanding enough. They need to shut up and make wine and learn a few things before they open their mouths (in expectation of free wine as well as with intent to spew vapid nonsense about wine).

    • Arthur, thanks for your comments. I invite any wine blogger or wine “industry” persona who wants to learn about growing winegrapes and making wine to send me an email at and include their availability for the next 60 days. I need someone to get at some of our super weeds with a shovel and then blog about being organic. I also need someone to begin taking 100 berry samples every 5th row out of 800+ every 3-5 days and then blog about pyrazines and various other actual flavor compounds. My editorial calendar is lengthy…

      • Jennifer. I think that would be a great experience for them. I offered the same to local wine bloggers but they all of a sudden got busy and stuff….. Go figure.
        As for pyrazines: don’t fear the pyrazines, especially in cabs. In 4-7 years in the bottle, they will transform to lovely, bouncy blackcurrant.

      • I’ve recently ditched any winemaker who goes on and on about bell pepper. Take a look at the long term projected weather patterns, La Nina is forecast for a third year in 2012. Maybe in the third year we’ll have just about mastered long cool growing seasons in order to transition to hot! hot! hot! in 2013. It’s a long ways off. I think I’ll keep The Farmer around as a consultant…he likes to remind me that he’s been doing this for over 50 years. Thanks again for the comments!

  2. Jen- you’re getting very niche here. If you ARE speaking to consumers, I’d say it’s fair that many are too confused by the labels, let alone leafroll. THAT SAID, I appreciate that your are attempting to educate, because many probably don’t know that those pretty red leaves are a tell-tale of disease. And, furthermore, that said disease is not necessarily a bad thing.

    What if- hypothetically- bloggers are trashing wines that they feel were made in the winery, nullifying what was done in the vineyard? Would the commentary still be garbage?

    Please don’t misconstrue my comments as defending bloggers- several are indefensible in my opinion (perhaps myself included). However, I see this post as more dismissive of wine bloggers in general. Please know that there are some good ones out there fighting the good fight.

    And feel free to crash my part(ies) in Oregon. They are usually very good, welcome to all who do not suck, and assure that no one will be whining about being left out.

    Cheers! Joe

    • Joe as always thoughtful commentary, I look forward to the day we dig Roundup resistant weeds by hand in the vineyard and finish with a cold beer.

      I can’t wait for the day when I read a post that trashes a winery for ruining fine fruit. In the meantime, if consumers flock to my Twitter stream I’m happy to educate them about what that beautiful red vineyard means for the site, grower, winemaker, and finally wine. I’ve never made any concessions – I’m “here” primarily to sell fruit. Secondarily I’m here to connect with winemakers and those on the production level of the industry (B2B) and if my Tweets attract consumers maybe that tells you something about what it is they’d like to learn more of. **read** free editorial calendar content!

      I also garnish quite a bit of personal entertainment from wine bloggers and enjoy, at times, the ruckus you cause when you TAKE A CHANCE or TAKE A STAND. Admittedly, I’ve tuned you all out since the WBC11. I was tired of reading post after post recapping and re-recapping the damn thing. Wasted valuable energy that could have been spent in the fields explaining to consumers how weather affects lower yields which opens the door for import bulk wine when we can’t manage the industry’s own burn rate – which drives the price of US wines up and the quality down with a dash (25% – or whatever it is) of Argentine wine splashed into “California Cabernet”

      In a nutshell, kindly stop blogging about blogging and any effort made towards education is much appreciated on behalf of the grower and the winemaker!

      Adios Muchacho! XOXO Jen

      • As you should’ve tuned it out. The blogging about blogging can get tedious. However, when the audience consists of a good portion of bloggers, it tends to happen. Personally, I try to keep the blogging about blogging to a minimum, but sometimes I do want to hear the opinions of birds-of-a-feather on common issues.

        In the end, I take issue with staunch opinions of what blogs are “supposed to be”. They- in my opinion- should be about whatever the author wants to write, get off his/her chest, etc. Like any other form of media, I tune it out if I don’t want to read it.

        Where things get complicated is when bloggers want to be taken seriously as members of the media. That’s when all that “write whatever you want” bullshit has to be thrown out the window. Personally, I believe in point one, and have never- for an instance- thought of myself as important, or deserving of that moniker. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many others who- perhaps delusionally- do not share my vision. As for the really good, credible blogs, many are just that. And they- that small percentage- DO deserve the recognition as legitimate media.

        Alas, here I am… talking about blogging. So, who wants to talk about nematodes??

      • Nematodes!?! I’ve sat through a half day session on that one too. Dicey stuff. For now, let’s just see you all start cranking out field posts on harvesting in your local regions. Shh…don’t tell any of your buddies…it’s happening!

        I think people (not just bloggers – you want to get dicey, I’m talking about humans) just barely skim the issues and resort to as I’ve said before the “usual suspects”. Imagine the massive contribution wine bloggers could make to the industry if they were to think of themselves as a band of field reporters. Each filing interesting, complex, 360 views about what is going on in their particular region?

        If some of you would step away from the groupthink going on, contributing to the every mans in it for himself mentality, there’s value in what you could do as a unit. That’s crowdsourcing at its best.

        Just like Twitter should be used for micro field reporting. Your homework Joe is to find a grower in GA and get them to tell you what brix, pH, and TA is and their ballpark window for harvest is. Then Tweet it.

  3. Furthermore, I heartily volunteer to do the sh*ttiest work you can find for me in the vineyard someday… if I can ever get away from my undemanding day job 🙂

  4. Some great comments in here in general, ESPECIALLY about the suckiness of wine bloggers. I agree 100%!

    • Wayne thanks for reading and highlighting the comments in your Tweet. Often the comments, which stimulate conversation, are of more value that the initial blog post.

      Regarding your query last night via Twitter about me being that annoyed with bloggers, I actually was more disappointed in the winery’s response to take down the Tweet rather than educate its followers and twofold – that no wineries have commented on the post – leaving it all to the bloggers.

      This is a missed opportunity for wineries, the industry at large, and underlines one of my many points that people who have no background, no idea or no interest in the production of wine are running the social media and marketing departments; meanwhile consumers are demonstrating that they are more interested in the vineyards and harvest than promo ops and “Thanks so much for visiting” Tweets.

      I wonder, how much should any winery personnel know about vineyards and making wine whether they are public facing or not? How much time should public facing personnel spend out behind their desks and in the actual production environment to “get” what they are Tweeting about?

      Finally, it is to this point: The wine industry is complicated and multi faceted – that I ask aren’t there so many other topics for wine bloggers to write about outside of the status quo that you’ve all been sucked into? Tasting notes, food/wine pairings, social medias responsibility to you and vice versa?

      You sir are an exception, I enjoy that you’ve differentiated yourself focusing on obscure and upcoming producers, varietals, a region which you represent (in my mind – Central Coast); but you cannot deny, the group as a whole is becoming a bit boring and Stepford wife-ish.

      High Five From Carneros – mark your Cal. I’ll be in your hood (Nipomo/Lompoc/SB County 9/18)

      • Jennifer, at times I think some of your writing can come off as harsh, but it is impashioned and well thought out.

        OK, I am going to quote you directly a few times here.

        “This is a missed opportunity for wineries, the industry at large, and underlines one of my many points that people who have no background, no idea or no interest in the production of wine are running the social media and marketing departments”

        – YES!!! See it all the time.

        11:54 “Buy our wine!”

        1:23 “Buy our wine!”

        2:35 “It’s a good time to buy our wine!”

        That is not social media, that is just bad marketing.

        “I wonder, how much should any winery personnel know about vineyards and making wine whether they are public facing or not? How much time should public facing personnel spend out behind their desks and in the actual production environment to “get” what they are Tweeting about?”

        – Exactly. In my position and with the contacts I have, I get asked a lot of questions about social media and what they should do with it. I tell them that who ever runs it, should be just as willing to go shoot thinning with them as they are to attend some swank event. If you don’t know the vineyards and the process, you don’t know the wine! I agree with you fully.

        “Finally, it is to this point: The wine industry is complicated and multi faceted – that I ask aren’t there so many other topics for wine bloggers to write about outside of the status quo that you’ve all been sucked into?”

        – YES, YES, YES! The honest truth is I barley read wine blogs because they are terrible. Why would I read your blog on your thoughts on Napa when you live in PA and I can just go there and schedule a walk on my own? Wine bloggers as a whole, ARE in a rut, writing the same non-sense over and over when there are a million things to cover. I myself am guilty of this and it is time to step up my game.

        Thank you for the kind words. I have heard comments like yours a lot, and I don’t take it in an egotistical way. Really it is sad to me more people are not using their sites to look for genuine producers instead of reviewing every wine Gallo or the Terlato’s or Constellation sends them. I take a lot of pride in trying to find honest people to support and I usually succeed.

        You have a strong voice, and while you and I differ in fervor at times, you hit things right on the head and I love it!

        Alas, on 9/18 I will be at Randall Grahm’s new joint. Figures. Soon we shall meet, I would love that.

  5. Us real farmers with 1500 beef cattle, 800 youngstock, 650 laying chickens and 11000 acres to monitor are kind of sick and tired of these wine makers complaining like sissies. You’re large scale gardners. If “tough weeds” is the dirtiest job you can muster, spare me your sob story.

  6. Wine bloggers suck when they blather on without checking essential facts – or bother to learn anything about the subject of their blogging.
    They suck equally as well when they present only one side of an issue or choose only that evidence that supports their opinion and worldview.
    Wine bloggers become mouthpieces when they parrot and regurgitate whatever mystical, hippie B.S. dished out by everyone from the tasting room pourers to the owners – without questioning, challenging or checking it.
    The problem with wine blogging is rooted in those two things AND in the fact that people blogging about wine start doing so when their interest is fairly nascent and their knowledge, understanding and experience with the subject matter is scant.

  7. Jen – I thought I was being pretty straightforward in my tweets re: our vineyard. Tyler Thomas (@DonelanWine) is also honest.

    @DakotaDan – you can think of me as a large-scale gardener if you want to but you might want to re-think doing it in a disparaging way. I’ve got over 37,000 vines that I have to take care of every day of every year – Jen & The Farmer have more. Grapevines aren’t annuals; this ain’t alfalfa. We do everything by hand. I don’t even have an ATV to get around on. That said I readily admit vines are easier to care for than your stock. But “sissy”? really?

    • @jkellyca (John Kelly, winemaker, Twitter handle) you always get a gold star for your Tweets. It’s only that I classify you more as a winemaker rather than a farmer! I stand corrected sir and do find your tweets and your data driven blogs of good quality and value…like your wine!

      @DonelanWine along with @RhysVineyards are both significant contributors of value as well. Although Tyler responds and Rhys does not. I find the latter slightly pretentious and off putting.

      667 Pinot exhibits good crop this year, may have slight availability. Let us know if you need a supplement! Thanks always for reading and commenting and in this case straightening up @DakotaDan in his britches

  8. I appreciate the list of twitter folks to follow, thanks.

    Disappointed to see a few folks generalizing about people; all wine bloggers are not the same.

    From what I can tell when I look at the list, attendees of this year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference are not categorically representative of the wine blogosphere. It appears that a significant number of attendees fall into the “newbies & enthusiasts” category.

    People writing about wine (using blogs or other e-media outlets) are part of the industry now; it’s up to the wine industry to cull the wheat from the chaff (to use an agro-term).

    • Alana: I think the wine industry already separates who is and is not important to them: based on who helps them move their inventory and does the best job at passing on their branding message. In this sense, wine writers are not journalists, but an extension of the wineries’ PR program.
      Is that what it means to be part of the wine industry?
      Does that serve the reader/consumer – or the wine industry?

    • Alana thanks for reading and commenting. Do you know how many of the attendees at the Wine Bloggers conference were winemakers? Winery operations staff? Or involved with the production of wine in either the vineyard or the winery?

      Is it curious to anyone else that those who work in the wine industry, whether in operations or not, don’t know enough about grapes, vineyards, and wine production to be able to in an elementary fashion know what red leaves stand for in the simplest forms: Typically old vineyards, sometimes historic, first plantings in the Napa Valley and thus virus affected?

      Joe of SuburbanWino commented that consumers can’t even understand labeling let alone vineyards. I woke up this morning thinking vineyards are so much more tangible than labels. I should think that consumers actually care more about understanding vineyards rather than labels – hence a redirection of wine bloggers efforts into things that matter.

      Just some thoughts as I motored down HWY 29 – which they are repaving in time for harvest trucks to tear ’em up some more!

      Thanks Again.

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