After getting off to a slow start, the grapes at Two Terrier Vineyards seem to be taking hold. First off, we had an odd spring with lots of rain, then no rain. Then the grapes, when planted 2-1/2 years ago, were planted late due to an odd and rainy fall. So while this should be the third year — the first harvest year — it’s really only the two-and-a-half-year mark. So we’re either ahead or behind ourselves. But finally this year, things seem to be shaping up.

When I say things are shaping up, I don’t just mean with the Cabernet. Cabernet is the tough guy of the wine world. Throw it down in a vacant alley, neglect it, kick it, and Cabernet will probably kick you back. As Miles said in Sideways, “Cabernet is a survivor.”

What we’ve really been worried about are our Rhone varietals: the Mourvedre, Grenache, Cincault that we are hoping we’ll learn how to blend into our version of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. (Chateauneuf-du-PUP, maybe?) Our vineyard manager said these vines are a little finickier and varietals they haven’t had as much experience with as Cabernet. In fact, Cabernet has nothing to do with Rhone style wines. But as the cash crop of Sonoma Valley, we couldn’t not plant. If we sell half our Cabernet grapes, we’ll just about pay for the maintenance on both vineyards.

So back to the Rhone varietals. When the vineyard management company warned us that they would be finicky, I pictured swooning delicate grapes that would have the vapors at every cloud or temperature change. But they seem to be coming on as robustly as the Cabernet, judging from the look of the berries above.

A little research into Mourvedre finds that the grape is also called “Estrangle-Chien” or “The Dog Strangler”. Doesn’t sound like a timid grape to me. It’s supposed to punch up the taste of the Grenache, but the Grenache, as well, seems to be showing Arnold-like muscles.

Don’t know about those Frenchie versions, but we grow ’em tough in Sonoma.