Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Avio Arc

This posting brings you an update on the warm and fuzzy, four footed (mostly) side of Avio Vineyards. 

We've always had a passion for animal of all kinds.  Since moving to Sutter Creek in 2004, we have rescued or acquired over 70 animals, ranging from guinea hens and peacocks to goats and llamas (and almost everything in between!)  Many of them are still with us, some I’ve gifted to friends, and some have passed away.  Since the beginning of this year, 8 of my beloved animals have passed on, along with many tears.  But as with the cycle of life, although we have lost many of our cherished companions, we have opened our hearts and our doors to many new furry/feathered friends, and welcomed them onto the “Avio Ark.” 

Earlier in the year we started fostering kittens for A-PAL (our local animal shelter) to make them more sociable, thus, more adoptable.  The first litter was of 3 little babies, who barely had their eyes open.  We absolutely enjoyed raising them, as kittens bring such joy and spontaneity to a home.  We wound up keeping one of them for ourselves, and we absolutely adore her.  Then on Sept 6, I saw  two kittens at the front of our property, just inches away from a very busy road.  I tried to catch them, but to no avail.  We did finally trap both of them, and they were feral.  Still too small for solid food, we had to bottle feed them for a while, and attempt to get their sickly and malnourished little bodies back to health.  We were able to get them healthy, and now we are looking for a special home for them both.  

Knowing that I never wanted to have unwanted kittens on my property, I made an effort to trap all of the feral cats in our vineyard, and have them spayed/neutered.  A-PAL pays for all feral cats to be spayed/neutered, so I rented a trap, and began trapping!  I caught 3 cats, 2 females and 1 male.  The two female cats look exactly like one of my kittens, and the other kitten looks exactly like the male we captured. After each surgery, we kept them in a large cage for a day to allow them to heal in a quiet place with plenty of food and water.   Subsequently, all three were released back into the vineyard where we had trapped them.

If you live in Amador County, please know that if you have feral cats in or around your property, it costs you nothing to have them surgically altered so they stop reproducing.  All you need to do is contact A-PAL at 209-223-0410 and they will give  you the details.  Wherever you live, I'm betting your community has a similar program, as well.  Every critter deserves a chance at life -- no matter how "unwanted" they may seem.

Of course I hope that by the time you read this, our kittens will have found their forever homes, but if anyone is interested in meeting my two "formerly" feral kittens for adoption, please send me an email at  They are incredibly cute, extremely loving, very attached to people, and have two distinctly different personalities.  The one thing they do have in common though, is the need for a loving, indoor home, where they will be cherished - and where they can reciprocate, for the rest of their lives. 

Lisa Watson
Avio Vineyards

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Winter in the Vineyard: March - Vineyard Pruning

This month, rather than just writing about what's happening in the vineyard, I put together a video that explains the pruning process. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Winter in the Vineyard - February

There's more to a wine estate, than grapes. This month, the Master Gardners held a class here to teach trainees how to prune fruit trees. Avio has over 100 fruit trees around the estate, all needing to be pruned. During the growing season, we enjoy the fresh fruit; but we can only eat a small percentage of the crop. So, most of the fruit is donated to the wildlife rescue foundation. The rest is given to our (lucky) guests in the tasting room. We have apples, peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines, kiwi, lemon, lime, grapefruit and persimmons. In addition to the fruit trees, its also time to prune the flowering plants like crepe myrtles. We are proud to be able to offer this opportunity to such a worthwhile organization as the Master Gardeners.

Once the fruit trees are done we start on the grapes. As mentioned in January, we are experiencing an el Nina winter which means we are still in for a lot of rain and cold weather - and possibly a late frost. We have to balance a few things when timing the pruning. If we prune too early, and it rains on an open cut (a wound to the plant), disease can enter the plant through the open wound. Also, if we get a frost, and the buds of the plant are young, we can lose the crop - so, timing is everything.

Avio has the benefit of having good cold-air drainage. To put it in layman's terms, on still nights, with clear skies, there is a temperature inversion in which all the cold air sinks to the ground. In a valley all the cold air will "pool" or collect. At Avio, we are on a ridge that allows the cold air to drain down into the valley. It will take 5 weeks for us to complete the pruning leaving the lowest (coldest) areas last to be pruned last. We have started on the zinfandel, and will then move on to the Sangiovese. Both these vineyards are near the top of the property.

For more about pruning grape vines, you might enjoy this information from U.C. Davis

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter in the Vineyard: January

January marks the start of a winery's operational cycle. The facilities are spotless, the harvest equipment has been stored away, and the wine has been put to bed to happily ferment. In the vineyard, the vines are blissfully dormant. Cool foggy days alternate with periods of wintery sunshine. You'd think those of us who work in the vineyard would be sleeping peacefully just like the vines - but you'd be wrong!

There's no quiet time between the end of harvest and the new growing season. January is our rejuvenation month. This is the time of year that we're doing our best to repair, rebuild and replenish the vineyard infrastructure. During the growing season, its difficult to find things like breaks in the irrigation system, broken trellises, etc. The lush vines hide many of these problems. While the vines are bare, we have the best opportunity to get in and make repairs. There are downsides to vineyard work in January. The days are short, and the ground is often too wet to bring in heavy equipment. Since we're expecting a La Nina winter - colder and wetter than normal - we may be racing the clock to get everything done, this year. Of course, I do get a bit of help from Squirt:-)

The other task we focus on in January, is bottling. During harvest and then the holiday season, there's really no time to make much progress in this arena. We plan to hit it hard in January. Over the course of the next few months, you'll see several new vintages appearing, and maybe a surprise or two. You'll just have to stay tuned to find out what we've got planned!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Avio Hot Mulled Wine Recipe

6 whole allspice berries

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

2 whole star anise

3 cinnamon sticks

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, sliced

3 large strips orange zest

3 large strips lemon zest

6-inch sprig of Lavender

2 (750-ml) bottles any Avio red wine (we like Sangiovese)

3/4 cup honey

In the basket of a commercial coffee percolator place the allspice berries, peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, ginger and citrus zest. Pour the wine and honey into the percolator. Attach basket, cover and let percolate for 1 to 2 hours. Serve hot. This ia a little spicy so less pepper corns to taste, or add honey to taste.

If you don't have a percolator, use a large saucepan or dutch oven. Wrap the first 8 ingredients in cheescloth and drop into the wine and honey mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 2 hours. You could even try this in a slow cooker!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wine and Community - Part 1

In these very challenging economic times, many in our community are wondering how they can make Christmas special for their children.  I believe that we have a responsibility to share our good fortune with those who need a hand.  Personally and professionally I have made a point of reaching out to The Amador Interfaith Food Bank to share some of what I have with others.  Our customers have joined us in this endeavor by participating in a food drive at the winery.  

With Christmas fast approaching, the news outlets are reminding us daily that we need to think beyond our front doors.  There are countless agencies in every community who are falling far short of their goals, this year.  I’d like to encourage our Wine Community to rise to this challenge.  Whether it’s a toy donation to Toys for Tots, a food or monetary donation to your local food bank, a warm coat you’re no longer using, or a day of service at a shelter in your community; someone will have a merrier Christmas if you reach out.  There are so many organizations out there doing good works; something is bound to resonate with you.  Please join me in sharing the joy the Wine Community can bring to others.  When you’ve done so, please share your experience by making a comment on this Blog.  Let’s show the world that we can make a difference!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Avio Apple Stuffing Recipe

Wine Pairings: Avio ’07 Estate Aglianico,’07 Estate Sangiovese or ’08 Rose
Inspired by the delicious apples grown on the Avio Estate

There are many brands of stuffing mix.  This recipe is based on one 6-oz. bag.  Other ingredients can be increased or decreased based on your personal tastes.

1 6 oz bag - stuffing mix
2 – Mild Italian uncooked sausages
½ cup – chopped macadamia nuts
1 – medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks – celery, finely diced
1 – carrot, finely diced
2T Olive Oil (for sautéing vegetables) 
1 cup – apple, peeled, cored & diced
½ cup – dried cranberries
Chicken broth or stock - use 1/4 cup less than your recipe suggests
1/4 cup - apple juice

For Casserole style Stuffing: Pre-heat oven to 350° F. 
If you’re stuffing a turkey, use your roasting recipe instructions for oven temperature.

Remove casing from sausages, and cook until brown, crumbling the sausage into very small pieces, as you cook it.  Set aside.

Dice onion, celery and carrot.  In a sauté pan, heat 2 T. of olive oil.  Add onion, celery and carrot, and cook just until tender.  Do not brown.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix, macadamia nuts, butter, sausage, vegetables and stock & juice.  Don’t add all the liquid at once.  If you’re putting this stuffing into a turkey to cook, you’ll want it less moist.  If you’re baking it as a casserole outside the bird, you’ll want it moister.  Pick your purpose, and add the liquids to suit.  The remainder of this recipe applies to casserole baking.

Transfer the stuffing into a glass baking dish.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes. For a crispy crust on the top, remove the lid for the last 10 minutes.