January 2nd, 2013

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HAPPY NEW YEAR from all of us at Flying Leap Vineyards. We are all very thankful for 2012, as it was a very good growing year at our fields. The holiday season was a very busy time for us in all aspects of the business, and we wanted to send out a New Year’s blog posting to update you on many of the activities going on at our farms, winery and new ventures in Arizona wine. As always, we thank you for your interest in Flying Leap, and we hope you enjoy following our progress.

We are very close to releasing our 2011 vintage, and believe me – we wish we could have done so in December! On one of our blog postings some time in the future, I will share with you some <<colorful>> narrative about all of the regulatory hoops we have to jump through to produce and sell wine. While we hope you’ve enjoyed learning about how our vineyards are designed, built and established, it is really another full novel to expound on the regulatory habit trail we maneuver through to bring you our wines. But again – for another day.

— Vineyard Winters are Construction Time —

We are in the midst of our southern winter season, and our vines are all sleeping (see photo-290.JPG, attached, showing dormant & pruned Graciano vines with a snow storm approaching in the west over the Dragoon mountains). We’ve nearly finished their winter prune, and the lateral vine cordons we worked so diligently to establish last season are now secured to the trellis with flexible tie tape. I’ve attached a picture I took out at Block 1 on New Year’s Day, showing a scene from our Mourvedre acreage (see 20130101_Dormant_Mourvedre.FLV, attached). In this picture, you can see some interesting things. First, notice that the vines’ lateral arms are now formed horizontally onto the stiff cordon wire – this was a primary goal for us in 2012. Second, notice the spurs are clipped down in such a way that there are just a few buds left. If you look carefully, you can see the small white buds near the root of the spurs in the photograph. Each “bud” actually contains three buds – a primary, secondary and tertiary. The primary and secondary are fruit bearing, and the tertiary is normally vegetative (i.e., leaf), but not always (tertiary buds can produce any part of the plant). Protecting these small buds is one of our #1 priorities, as they can be damaged by spring frost, and even the stiff winds in the Kansas Settlement can rip them from the spurs when they start to grow. If these tender buds are damaged, it can significantly reduce our crop yield (even completely destroy the crop) and/or quality of the fruit itself. Primary buds are primo – secondary will do the job but total fruit yield will be reduced. Bottom line – the fruit buds on our vines are really, really important.

In the last blog posting, we spent some time going into the active frost mitigation we are investing in for our field, which will help protect our buds from being damaged in the coming Spring frosts. We are installing a massive frost fan on the west side of the Block 1 field this year (we are installing a second in 2014), which will raise the vineyard floor air temperature by as much as 6 degrees in a radiant frost event under ideal conditions. That work is now complete, and we are ready to install the machine at the end of January. Stay tuned, because we’ll send you some really cool pictures of the installation (concrete, big cranes, wiring, engine installation and fuel system work – yeah – cool stuff!). We finished cutting an 80-foot “lane” into the heart of our Block 1 field, and drove down all new end posts and completely installed a new irrigation branch to go around the lane so that it would be completely clear. We re-strung the trellis wires on both sides of the new cut-out and completed the irrigation finishing touches. The whole thing turned out really slick – we’ve attached a picture, titled “20121214_Wind Machine Cut Out Nearly Done.JPG”.

— Vineyard Cleanliness —

Keeping our vineyards clean is not just to keep them looking pretty. Weeds and debris, rotting wood and vine bagasse (clipped vines) are all structure to collect bacteria and host “disease vectors”. These include various bugs and small creatures that like to feed on the sweet wood of the grapevines. They have funny names, like “spittle bigs” and “glassy-winged sharpshooters”, and controlling their numbers is key to keeping our vines healthy. Debris in the field has other downfalls. Grapevine bagasse, for example, is green inside and very flexible. It gums up our plow discs, and it even gets wrapped up in the axles of our trucks, quads, trailers and tractor. It’s almost impossible to run a disc through a row covered with vine clippings – you can do it, but you’ll spend a lot of time unwrapping and cutting vine bagasse out of the tines and axles (we are speaking from experience!). Cleaning the vineyard also removes weed seeds and reduces the volume of seed that can grow in summer. So, we are in the process of cleaning our fields. I’ve attached a photo of the work in progress (see 20130101_Block 2 Cleaning.JPG, attached). In this photograph, you can see a large pile of vine cuttings piled up in our mid-vineyard clearing. This is just the bagasse from 6 rows of grapevines. All of the Block 1 vineyard is cleaned. We will let these green piles dry, then burn them in the early spring. Interestingly, if you look at the far horizon in this picture (beyond the tractor), you can see the Chiricahua mountains blanketed in snow. The scenery out in the Kansas Settlement is simply stunning – serene, peaceful and really takes your breath away … even more so during the winter when our surrounding mountain ranges are snow-covered.

We also have put down our first application of winter pre-emergent herbicide on the entire vineyard floor. This took us 3 days to complete, and we strategically sprayed the floor just days before we got several days of steady rainfall last month. Pre-emergent herbicides are miraculous in that they interrupt the seed germination process and keep our vineyard’s weeds under control. But, they require water (i.e. rain) to activate and incorporate them into the soil itself. If pre-emergent is sprayed on dry soil and there is no water within a few weeks, it will blow away in the wind and have no effect whatsoever. So, you have to really watch the weather forecast closely and when mother nature foretells a good, solid rain, it’s time to put down pre-emergent, which is exactly what we did in December. Weeds are a tremendous problem in vineyards in the Kansas Settlement, and removing them by hand with the hoe is very expensive. Weeds rob the vines of water and nutrients, and they restrict fruit yield and create a total mess of the place.

— Flying Leap’s Logo is Complete! —

After much weeping & gnashing of teeth as well as literally over a year of this-that-then back to the drawing board, we finally zeroed in on Flying Leap’s logo. I’ve attached a file with our logo on it for you to look at. See what you think and let us know your thoughts. Our new company logo is a triskelion motif consisting of three interlocking leaves representing Flying Leap’s tie to Arizona agriculture and the enduring friendship and commitment of business purpose of the Company’s three founders – myself, Marc Moeller and Tom Kitchens. The “Celtic Knot” is also a symbol for Mother Earth, from where our crops come from. The individual elements are purposefully and slightly different – the upper left leaf is also symmetrically the letter “F”, while the interlocking peers are an “L” and a “V”. This is a creative play on the company’s name, incorporated into the interlocked triskele. The logo is rotated in such a way that the overall shape bears similarity to a three-bladed propeller, signifying the aviation background of the three founders. The logo is embossed in copper, which represents the state of Arizona and matches the color of the star emblazoned on Arizona’s state flag.

We have a major announcement to make at the end of January that we are very excited to share with everyone, and we’ll be crafting a great blog posting at the end of the month to share this great news with you. In the meantime, we leave you with a New Year’s promise to continue growing the finest quality wine grapes, crafting the most delicious and wonderful wines and providing you – our friends, with a personal connection to our vineyards and winemaking operations.  Happy New Year!

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