Category: Wine

What does it mean to “hand bottle” wine?

Abbassi Vineyard Chardonnay that has been hand-bottled in our off-grid winery

The Terragena team often talks about our handmade wines, and that is something we’re serious about – our grapes are harvested by hand, and our winemaker is involved in every step of the process, including bottling.  What does “hand bottling” wine look like?  Well, we’ve tried the funnel-and-hose method before, but we have to say we’ve found a strategy that’s a bit more reliable and involves minimal mechanics so as to be off-grid friendly and gentle on the wine.

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An Unexpected Postscript to our Harvest Story

Terragena Nebbiolo at Lost Coast

Nebbiolo Grapes at Lost Coast Vineyard

We thought we were done with grape harvest for the year.  We had made it through the long days, equipment failures, and other adventures that popped up at our off-grid winery, and we were ready to cozy up with some warm beverages in front of the fire.

It was totally unexpected when our friends at Lost Coast Vineyard offered us the opportunity to harvest some beautiful nebbiolo grapes.  Talk about an offer we couldn’t refuse…

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Going Beyond the Wall

Abiqua Wind Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Recently Chris took a roadtrip up the coast of California, through Oregon and Washington, and all the way to Victoria BC. It was a fantastic time traveling, visiting friends, and hiking all over the place. We also stopped in a bunch of wineries in the Willamette  and Rogue River Valleys in Oregon. Oregon has become well known for its excellent pinot noir, but what really blew us away was the pinot gris we tasted there.

And – it occurred to us – Oregon really isn’t that far away from the Terragena winery. Could we get some of those delicious grapes and make an Oregon wine in a California winery?

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Harvest 2016


Harvest prep: trucking barrels to the winery

The 2016 winemaking season has been particularly exciting for the Terragena team because this has been the first year we were able to make all of our wine at our off-grid Humboldt County, CA winery.  As luck (and the weather) would have it, the grapes across Northern California were ready a bit early this year, which left us a rather short timeline for preparing the winery space for winemaking.  Major thanks go out to Michael and Maria for their organizational and cleaning skills; they took the space from cluttered/disorganized to spotless-and-winemaking-ready in record time.

We harvested our first fruit of the season from the Abbassi family vineyard in the early morning hours of August 19. Our winemaker/truckdriver/proprietor Chris was on site at 3am to pick up the grapes and bring them from the vineyard in the Sonoma Carneros region all the way up to our Humboldt winery.  Everything was on schedule and Chris and the chardonnay grapes were headed northward when, at about 7am around Healdsburg, things got interesting.

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If you’ve gotten your hands on a bottle of Terragena wine, you may have noticed that we number each bottle by hand on the back label. But, you’ll never receive a bottle with a number less than 43. Not unless we like you a whole lot.

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Vineyard Pond and Irrigation Water System

irrigation water lines run across each vineyard row and individual dripper lines run to each vine to ensure that the water goes exactly where it needs to go

Way back in 2008 we started this adventure with a dream of planting a vineyard, and in 2013 we finally planted it. This is the story of the irrigation – or life support – system of the young vineyard. Though certain sections of our vineyard may be dry farmed in the future, the vines started out as a mere 4 inches tall and needed a little help to grow strong. So, we built an off-grid irrigation system to support the vines while they become established.

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High Lifter and Our Water System

Terragena water glass 2

The Terragena Vineyard fresh water system was developed slowly over the course of several years. The Terragena property includes steep hillsides and the top of the Fish Creek valley. The source for our water is an artesian spring located in the bed of a smaller creek that feeds into Fish Creek, several hundred vertical feet in elevation below the yurt clearing and vineyard house. We are grateful to have a year-round spring on our property, and we found some creative ways to pump the water up to where it is needed at the house and yurt.

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Eastern European Adventure


Our friend got married in this palace in Hungary. Not bad, huh?

A friend of Chris’s family got married recently in Hungary. She had a lovely wedding near Lake Balaton, and Chris and I had a blast. Did you know that Hungarian wedding receptions last all night? Neither did we. Do you know what Pálinka is? We didn’t either, but we sure do now.

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Crush 2012

We got back to the Terragena estate winery the same night as harvest. Even though we (Chris, Nickie, and Justin) had spent all day picking in the sun we had to crush the grapes while they were still fresh so they could begin their journey into the best possible wine. Harvest days continue for 20 or more hours. Justin was up by 3 am and didn’t quit working until at least midnight. Three cheers for the driver!

There was a little side story between leaving and arriving that I didn’t mention in my harvest post. Big Red (our affectionate name for the vineyard truck) decided to have a conniption about an hour or after Justin left the Holden-Mapley vineyard, and Justin ended up pulled to the side of the road praying for someone to stop and help. He was hanging out of the cab holding jumper cables. Someone eventually did stop, but Red wouldn’t budge on a narrow winding strip of road as the darkness was falling…

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Grape Harvest 2012

In the fall of 2012, Chris and Justin (a member of the Terragena team at the time) drove the vineyard truck and trailer all the way to the Holden-Mapley Vineyard in the Alexander Valley AVA to pick Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon in the wee hours of the morning.

That year was outstanding for viticulture in almost all of California, and the fruit looked amazing. They picked grapes alongside a small crew of professional pickers, who are always much faster at hand-picking grapes than any of us amateurs. In total, they harvested about a ton of grapes, enough for two barrels and a little extra to keep the barrels topped off over time.

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