I was sitting down in front of the fire with my mom and her laptop the other night, and as we were scrolling through Facebook, I noticed some of the gratitude posts that other folks were posting.  That got me thinking that I have so much to be thankful for: I have two amazing parents, acres upon acres to run on, winery guests galore to greet everyday, and an abundant wealth of wine knowledge to share with all of you!  As it goes, one thought leads to another, and it occurred to me that it has been ages since I wrote one of these buggers for you. October was a whirlwind and posting on the blog never managed to get crossed off the list. For that, I apologize, but I would also like to share with you my own personal gratitude post.

Mom and Dad – I already talked about how great my parents are, but I think they deserve another mention.  Without them, I never would have had the chance to meet any of you! When they started the wedding venue, that precursored the birth of this vineyard, they set a ball in motion that led to the creation of this fun venue space located in what some might say is the middle of nowhere.  In doing this, they have created a space that has led to countless unions, evenings spent with family, nights filled with food and fun, live music performances, Capernaum proms, retirement parties, Christmas celebrations, paint nights, terrarium creations, and so much more, but most importantly, the dream of what this building could be has led to the formation of so many very special friendships, and that is what I am most grateful for. 

Ryland – Even though he is my nephew, Ryland is the best friend I could ask for.  We run and run and sniff out whole heaps of trouble. I wish he lived here all the time, but I know Taylor and Laura would miss his presence in their Richmond home.  Dogs just add incredible value to your life!

Mac & Olive – These are my kittens.  I say kittens, but they have actually been here for 11 years now, and they keep me wonderful company.  Sometimes I go outside in the mornings to lay in the sun, and they give me ear rubs to my heart’s content.  I don’t even have to fight them for my food – mostly because I gobble it down as soon as Mom dumps it into my bowl.

Karen & Scott Weeks – What were once our neighbors have quickly grown into our friends.  These guys take time every weekend to ride their horses down to see me, and I love seeing their quivering noses and sniffing their barn smells (the horses that is, not Karen and Scott).  

Brides – Every once in a while a bride will ask me to join them in a photo, and that makes me feel ultra special.  My favorite picture recently was when a bride came in with her horse to pose at sunset in front of the peak. (Did I already mention I like horses?  It might be because I am almost a miniature horse myself :-))

Steve & Gina – If you know me, you know I love warm fires, and these folks are the ones I have to thank for keeping the B&C fireplace stoked during those busy evenings when Mom and Dad can’t tend it. These two have been some of our biggest fans since day one, and we always look forward to seeing them walk through the door on Friday evenings with dinner and reading material in hand.

Amy & David – Can a dog ever have too many toys? If you ask me, the answer is always no.  Luckily for me, these two believe the exact same way. One of my favorite new toys they have gotten me is the green dragon.  I could count how many times I’ve chased it around the rooms down here, but I would run out of toes! Whether they venture out on a Sunday afternoon or a random weekday, we are honored to have become a staple of their week!

Rachel – I can be a little stressed sometimes (mostly just from the idea of so much food coming through that I am not allowed to eat), and Rachel makes sure to visit twice a week to keep me relaxed and meditated.  Sometimes she even allows me to teach the class – I am a pro at down dog! If you haven’t had a chance yet, please come join one of her classes on Wednesday @ 5:15p or Saturday @ 10:00a.

Wendee & Morina – Even though Zumba hasn’t taken place in a while, whenever we did have it, I always had fun joining in.  This old dog can still shake a leg! Keep an eye out for Zumba making a reappearance in the spring.

Mikey – Mikey, Mikey, Mikey.  I would say I am grateful for his yummy food, but that wouldn’t be exactly true.  What is true is I am grateful for the yummy smells his food brings, and I hear that other people (who are actually lucky enough to eat it) are grateful for his cooking at our wine pairing dinners.  Did I hear Mom say that we have something family-style planned for December? I will be stealthily scouring for dropped morsels!

Tamara – Tamara does the most amazing botanical creations I have ever seen; now granted, I don’t get off the farm much, but I think her arrangements are creative, unique, and innovative.  What I love most is that she never puts them anywhere that I can knock them over with my tail. Lucky for all of you readers, Tamara offers classes at our vineyard every few months. The next one coming up is the Christmas Wreath Workshops.  You can find more details on our events page.

Sharon, Dietrich, and Brydgeworks – These are the incredibly talented guys and gals who have supplied our tasting room with the locally inspired artwork that decorates our walls.  There is one particular painting that I think is the most handsome of all, but I am not going to tell which one that is on here; maybe you can come in this week to make a guess?

Sunsets over the peaks and Friday night regulars and the musicians who come to serenade me – Is there anything more beautiful than watching the sunset over the Massanutten Mountain when you are surrounded by people you love?  I haven’t discovered anything that beats it yet, and I think I must be the luckiest dog in the world to be able to share the beauty with all of the ladies and gentlemen who come out to see me most Fridays!

Brix & Columns - Six Penny

Joyce – Each week we get a visit from a woman for whom everyone is grateful.  Without her, I wouldn’t have sparkling floors to walk on and doors to smudge up by pushing them open with my nose.  Every week, whether we have had a weekend filled with events or not, Joyce comes in and cleans the building. She sweeps, mops, and scrubs to make it all brand new for the next round of festivities!

Gene – This is one man that I absolutely love running through the vines to find.  Gene is out at the crack of dawn working in the fields to do all of the things that vine management entails: pruning, trimming, weeding, inspecting, measuring, cultivating, tying, leaf pulling, mowing, harvesting, and so, so, so much more.  He keeps our vines looking incredible and he learns more each day and is so generous in teaching us all of what he knows. I don’t know what we would do without him!

Jacob – Now this guy has been working here for years!  Living right down the road made us a very convenient spot to start his first job, and lucky for us, he loves the world of farming.  Jacob takes care of most of the mowing around the property and is a godsend when it comes to setting up for weddings. He recently raised a steer in our barn, and we were honored to purchase it from him at the Rockingham County Fair.  We are incredibly grateful for his willingness to work hard, but even more so, we are honored to be witness to him growing up into such an outstanding young man.

Staff – Do I have the most awesome co-workers or what?  They always make sure to look out for me and ensure I can easily get in and out of the tasting room when I need to, they tell me where Mom has gone when I can’t find her, they wipe my slobber when it needs wiping, and they always make sure to spread my bed out in the corner.  Of course, sometimes they remind people that they aren’t supposed to feed me, but I try not to hold that against them! Most days, when I come to work, I lay on my bed that is near the tasting bar, and I hear them share some of the facts that I’ve written about in my blog, so I know they are fans of mine, too! 🙂  Recently we have had two more lovely ladies join our staff, and I am always excited to see Kiera and Sarah each time they come in. I have heard through the grapevine that Donna is going to be coming back in December, and I am also looking forward to Kelly getting back on a more regular basis after the holidays. I especially love that Heidi brings Hazel by to see me at least once every week, and I am honored that Sherry named the dog statue in her hallway after me.  When showing appreciation for the staff, I would be remiss if I left out Erin. She has been here since we opened, so you probably are familiar with her face, but you likely don’t know that she is the one who helps me type all of these. My paws aren’t quite as nimble as they used to be and these keyboards are so doggone small that if it wasn’t for her, my blog posts would be more “lijsdesfjiogerjioger” and less “Winston here!”

Shout out to cream cheese – If it wasn’t for this creamy deliciousness, there is no way Mom could get me to take the medicine I need to stay healthy enough to visit with you all!  Side note: this medicine is also why it is so important that you don’t feed me everyday people food. It makes me sick, and then I can’t keep down the proper dosage. I hate the days that I am not feeling well enough to come down to greet everyone!

Kerus – Is there anything in life that warms a heart more than giving back to others?  I am grateful that Mom and Emma got a chance to work with Kerus Foundation a few years ago because that mission trip led to the partnership we have today.  For those who don’t know, every bottle of Kerus wine purchased gives $5 to this foundation. Kerus is a Greek word that means to do something with all of your heart, and that is exactly what Jennie and Marcia have accomplished with their foundation.  They do  global AIDS education – focused mainly in South Africa – and our sales have raised $5,000+ for them since we started selling it in April. Their work has been so successful that the South African government is now partnering with them, and we are honored and grateful to help them on their mission.

 

I know at least some of you saw the harvesting fun that we had over the past few weeks. For us folks in the wine industry, the harvest is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work pruning and training vines, examining and treating any pests, wrapping rows in netting to protect the grapes from becoming meals, and carefully watching the sweetening process to make sure grapes are harvested at exactly the right time.  This year, Mother Nature had a different harvesting date in mind, and when there was a prediction of 20 inches of rain coming, we decided to rush the harvest on our grapes even though the brix levels weren’t quite as high as we wanted.

If you’re like me, you are more than a little curious about what happens to the grapes when they leave the farm here at Six Penny.  That actually depends on which grape you are following!

The first thing that happens to all of the grapes is that they get sorted.  The best way to get the bad grapes out of the cluster is by shaking them lightly.  This movement dislodges any grapes that might be damaged. Grapes are then placed on a table and examined to pick out any other damaged or underripe fruit.

At this stage, some of our chambourcin grapes will be put in loose layers and placed in a special drying barn; this process allows them to concentrate their sugars to create the deliciously sweet Port style wine that is a holiday favorite.

After sorting, the grapes are put into a machine that crushes, destems, and presses the juice out of the grapes.  The grapes may be separated from their skins depending on if they are destined for white or red wine. For some red wines, the stems and seeds will be included in the next step of the process to increase the tannins and structure of the wine.

Fermentation takes place in large stainless steel tanks that open at the top and have valves in the bottom.  This allows for the juice to be piped over itself at regular intervals to stir things around.

After fermentation is complete, some wines are bottled immediately and some are transferred to oak barrels to age for up to several years before bottling.  

I’m still learning the wine-making process, so forgive me for my lack of detail and bear with this old dog as I learn my newest tricks!

 

 

Boy, oh boy, have we been busy here at Brix & Columns.  Hurricane Florence was scheduled to bring a deluge of water to the Shenandoah Valley, and Jeanette didn’t want to risk letting the grapes stay on the vines.  Mom, Gene, and everyone they recruited to help them worked all day for many days to get the grapes picked and properly stored.

Just before that busy week, Mom, Dad, and Erin met with Mikey from Mashita to plan the menu for the food and wine pairing dinner.  I’ve not had Mikey’s food because “This food is not for you, Winston,“ but he has come to a couple of Friday night music events and his food smells REALLY good.  Unfortunately for me, whenever I get close to tasting it, Mom walks right around the corner. It’s like she has a sixth sense, or something.

Anyways, during the food meeting I made sure to stay close by just in case anyone needed me to do some menu testing…. No such luck.  I did notice something though – when they tasted the wine to determine if it had the proper characteristics to appropriately complement the food flavors, they were swirling it, smelling it, and even slurping it.  What in the world! I never take that kind of time with my water. I just enjoy drinking it straight out of the 5-gallon bucket without swirling it or sniffing it any more than is necessary.

After a little research, I discovered that there is method to the seeming madness of wine tasting.  As long as you remember these 5 “S’s”, you will have more memorable tastings and continue to expand your understanding of wine characteristics and your personal tastes.

See – Color is your first clue into a wine’s integrity.  The hue can guide you to determining the varietal used to produce it as well as the level of saturation.  This is best achieved by looking straight down into the glass. Next, view the wine from the side to measure clarity.  Good wines should be sparkly and brilliant; if they are less than clear, it is a sign of either unfiltered or shaken up wine or a wine with some sort of issue with its chemical composition. Finally, tilt the glass to examine the color near the edges of the wine.  It shouldn’t appear pale or discolored. Thinned out color suggests a wine with less oomf and discoloration indicates that the wine is past its prime.

Swirl – Swirling the wine in the glass, by keeping the bottom of the glass on the bar or table, allows you to see the legs of the wine as they roll down the sides.  Thick legs are evidence that the wine is full of flavor and high in alcohol content.

Smell – Sniffing the wine is best accomplished by holding your nose slightly over the glass, after giving it a good swirl, and taking a series of short smells instead of one large one.  Allow your brain to process after. Not only can this alert you to any flaws in the wine, but a thoughtful sniff can also clue you into the fruit flavors, herbaceous characteristics, and even hints of the terroir in which the grape was grown.  Smelling the wine is also a great way to determine the barreling process used on the wine, and it can also give clues about the fermentation process used. A great example of this is the buttery smell that Chardonnay takes on when taken through malolactic fermentation.

Sip – At last the moment has come that you have been waiting for: it is time to taste the wine.  Take a small sip into your mouth, tilt your head slightly forward, and breathe air in through pursed lips to bring the air through the wine.  This allows you to fully taste the wine by incorporating both its smells and flavors.

Savor – Now it’s time to savor.  Use the previous techniques to choose wines that are harmonious, well-balanced, appropriately complex, and, most importantly, pleasing to YOUR palate.  

At this point, I would propose we add a 6th S.

Sitting – We have a lovely patio for you to sit on while you enjoy all of our wines, and if you stay long enough I am sure I will be down to greet you and do my own sniff test on any goodies you might have brought!

Oh boy, oh boy, yesterday was an exciting day here at the vineyard.  All of the staff came over after closing hours for a bit of on-site training.  The field trip started with a reminder to all staff that, due to recent treatments, they may not to eat directly from any vines except Chambourcin.  This was a very important reminder to our staff, because they seem to love all things eating and drinking that have to do with wine – and to be honest, who doesn’t?

The journey around the vineyard started in our Chambourcin vines (coming into the vineyard they are the rows on your right hand side).  We have about 2 acres planted of this grape, and it is growing exceptionally well. I’ve heard Mom say that this varietal will “fruit itself to death”  and she has talked about “dropping” half of the fruit clusters. It took me awhile to figure it out, but apparently the Chambourcin vines just keep producing grape clusters even when it saps all of the energy out of the vines.  One way the vineyard managers can circumvent this in the vine’s younger years is by aggressively cutting off clusters and leaving just a few on vine. We are going to harvest our Chambourcin in about a month as we want it to fully ripen before harvest.  We would like the grapes measure about 23°-26° Brix and we estimate that we are going to get about 3.3 tons out of that lot.

Next we stopped by the Vidal Blanc vines.  These are the prolific vines growing on your left when you are driving toward the vineyard. I heard Dad remind everyone that during the height of the growing season, vines can grow up to 6 inches a day.  In my world, that means they are growing one whole Winston every week! Mom and I walk the vineyard rows every single day to make sure the grapes are ripening correctly and to keep an eye out for any of the pesky wildlife that likes to eat our delicious grapes.  Last weekend we saw something a little disturbing. Our Vidal leaves were exhibiting signs of downy mildew. The first sign is yellowed spots scattered around the leaf, if left unattended, these spots will grow larger and the leaf will start to develop downy white spots on the underside of the leaf.  We treated the vines immediately, and we expect them to have returned to full health and vigor by the time we have our harvest our acre for approximately one ton in about couple weeks.

Our Cabernet Franc vines are a short walk down a few rows – you might be able to recognize them looking out from the tasting room because they are the only vines in the lower vineyard that aren’t wrapped in the protective covering.  The grapes on these are very small – even smaller than the Petit Verdot whose name would suggest otherwise. There is quite a lot of growth happening at the bottom of these vines, and this is the root stock coming up as the plants establish themselves.  It will be another month or more before they reach prime harvesting specs.

Next it was back to the truck and on to the upper vineyard.  To get there, we needed to drive around the barn and through a ravine that we have designated as a CREP area.  This area can get a little washed out during heavy rains, and we almost always need to put it in 4wd to make our way up the hill.  Thankfully, Dad finally listened to me and hopped out of the truck to lock all of the wheels into position. The road we were on deposited us directly next to the Petit Verdot.  These grapes grow in very tight clusters and require the full length of the growing season to really come to their prime ripeness. Gene is pretty sure that we will get about 2,000 pounds out of these vines.  I know that sounds like a ton (pun intended) of grapes, but it doesn’t actually translate to that much wine. One ton makes averages about 2.5 barrels and one barrel is equivalent to 300 bottles of wine.

We will be harvesting both the Viognier and the Chardonnay in the next few weeks.  The Viognier vines look pretty bare, but they actually have quite a bit of fruit hidden beneath its leafy cover.  The Chardonnay clusters are even smaller than the Viognier, but I heard discussion that they have a much more delicate skin.  I would tell you for certain, but grapes are actually poisonous to dogs, so I steer clear as much as possible.

After touring the vineyard, everyone went back to the tasting room where Mom had an absolutely delectable spread of food.  I tried hard to sniff everything out so I could tell you details, but all I heard was, “No, no, no.” Apparently Italian food wasn’t on my menu last night.  The rest of the folks seemed to really enjoy the lasagna and chicken marsala from one of my Mom and Dad’s favorite restaurants, Romano’s. They even deliver to the vineyard!

For dinner, all of our wines were on the table including some of the old favorites like the 2015 McGahey and Cab Franc.  Our Port style even made an appearance for dessert! I think everyone had a really great time and everyone (except me) ended the evening with full bellies and tastes of delicious wines.  

A special thank you to Gene, our vineyard manager, for having such a growth mind set and bringing such energy and care to our vines!

 

When Mom and Dad brought home a load of Cabernet Franc last month, I kept hearing them talk about bottle shock…  What in the world?! The only thing I want to be shocking about the wine coming from Brix & Columns is how delicious it is!

Apparently this “bottle shock” can manifest in a couple of different ways.  Extreme agitation, like our Cab Franc encountered during the bottling process (barrel to bin to bottling machine to bottle), can cause the wine to taste differently than it should.  Other times, bottle shock comes about due to the wine being transported over a long and/or bumpy journey. Although this phenomenon hasn’t been scientifically proven, the idea behind it is that because all of the elements of wine are so integral to each other, by disturbing the settled wine, the flavors are disturbed in turn. Most noticeable in newly bottled and significantly aged wines (10+ years), the agitated bottles can be quickly calmed down by simply letting them lay still for a few days.  With older wines, you may want to store them upright for a day or two before drinking to ensure that all sediment has settled back to the bottom of the bottle.

While doing my research about exactly what causes bottle shock, I was interested to find that there was actually a movie called “Bottle Shock” that came out several years ago.  The shock in this movie is not to the wine, but to the world when a California Chardonnay beats out a French Chardonnay in a blind taste test. I know I may just be a dog sniffing his way around the wine world, but I think that Virginia wines are well on their way to becoming world renowned.

Check out the movie and see what you think – I will be watching it as soon as I can figure out the tv remote.  In the meantime, look for our two newest reds that are coming out soon, now that they are over the bottle shock!

You may have seen that one of our wines is taking a trip this week. I would love to vacation, but for some reason I always seem to get stuck at home instead. “You’re too big, Winston,” they say, or “Why don’t you stay home and guard the house?” I guess it never occurred to anyone that I might want to go chase waves at the ocean or gaze out at beautiful landscapes while I stand majestically on the mountaintop. Oh well! One of the most wonderful parts of my job as mascot and wine maestro of Brix & Columns is that I get to meet people from around the country (and sometimes the world!); and I think that the people you meet on your journeys are by far more important than any sights you can see.

When Erin took the bottle of Petit Manseng on her trip this week, she packed it safely in a WineSkin that kept it cushioned, and sealed tightly to prevent any accidental leaks. We sell reusable ones in our tasting room, and we definitely recommend that you pick one up the next time you are planning a trip, either for vacation or to go visit loved ones. Being the cultured canine I am, I also have a few other tips on how you can make sure your wine is just as delicious and intact as it was when you left our tasting room with it.

Any time you are planning on visiting a vineyard, it is a good idea to have an insulated container in your car to safely store the bottles as you go from vineyard to vineyard. This has a few advantages:

  • By keeping the bottles contained, you prevent them from clanking around in your vehicle. This keeps the labels from getting banged up, creating too much noise, or even causing a bottle to break.
  • The insulation will help prevent your wines from being damaged from exposure to extreme temperatures.
  • On a hot day it is easy to throw in an ice pack to keep the bottles cool until you get them home.
  • Your trunk is NOT cooler than the passenger area of your car. If at no other time but on an especially hot day, consider storing any wine that you have bought in the passenger area instead of in the trunk.
  • Place your container on a level surface away from vibrating wheel wells to avoid giving your wine “bottle shock”.
  • If you are traveling for long distances in the car with wine, you may want to wait a few weeks before you crack open a bottle to allow any potential bottle shock to settle back down.

Hopefully this advice helps your future travels with wine to go more smoothly.  Now that you know just how easy it is to travel with wine, I know we will see you soon, so you can stock up before you go on the next adventure!

Just one request guys… can some of you research some tips on how to easily travel with Great Danes and share it with my mom?

If there is a wine that has been the talk of the tasting room lately, it is our Petit Manseng.  I hear people talking about how delicious it is and how they have never heard of that varietal before.  Fact be told, people are talking about our newest white ALMOST as much as they are talking about me. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of the grape, my mom has been raving about Petit Manseng wines for years.  Made into both dry and dessert styles, this wine is finding popularity all over the world, but it is especially gaining notice in the Virginia wine scene. Are we watching the next Viognier in the making?

Originating in the Southwestern Region of France, this wine sealed its popularity by being used to anoint King Henry IV.  The characteristic sweet and aromatic qualities of this Jurançon grape found a place in the hearts of all who had the pleasure to drink it. After becoming a beloved Jurançon varietal, Basque settlers took it with them to Uruguay (along with one of our favorites: Tannat) to cultivate there.

Dubbed by Matthieu Finot (winemaker at King Family Vineyards) as a “wet weather grape”, Petit Manseng has loose clusters of small berries that hold up well to high humidity growing environments.  The thick skin and ability to have increased airflow throughout the cluster makes this grape much more resistant to rot than some other varietals. Even though it does have a low yield and needs a long ripening season, many vineyards are choosing to work with the grape because it can be crafted into a wine that is flavorful, ages well, and has enough acidity that sweetness never overwhelms.

The flavor profile of Petit Manseng is composed of a variety of flavors with tropical fruit, citrus, peach, and a slight nuttiness that is most noticeable when it is young.  As the wine ages, the profiles of honey, preserved fruits, and sweet spices become more notable notable. It pairs well with many food dishes from spicy Asian foods to sweet pastries, and it is sure to delight your dinner guests when you present it to the table.

I’m starting to notice a trend: grapes with Petit in front of them seem to pack a lot of flavor and are looked upon highly by wine drinkers as full of flavor and overflowing with potential for greatness.  It must be the exact opposite of in the dog world where dogs with Great in front of their name are packed full of personality and handsomeness.

Let it be known that an old dog can always learn new tricks!  The other night, Mom and Dad had just popped open a bottle of our newest white wine, Petit Manseng, and I heard them start talking about the wine diamonds.  What?! Diamonds in wine? Now, believe me, having been the overseer at many a wedding here at the vineyard, I have seen my share of diamonds, but I have never seen any come in a wine bottle.

“Wine diamonds” is a term that wine industry folks use to refer to the tartrate crystals that form when tartaric acid bonds with potassium chloride.  The resulting product is potassium bitartrate. Before I get too involved, let me start off by saying that there are three acids that are always present in wines: malic, citric, and tartaric. Citric acid is pretty neutral and is used mainly to increase acidity and as a natural preservative.  The malic acid goes through malolactic fermentation which creates the creamy, buttery texture associated with some wines. Tartaric acid stabilizes the wine and helps make it more suitable to aging.

While some people don’t like seeing the tartrate crystals in their wine, please know that they are actually a signal to you that the wine is of a higher quality, has had less manipulation in the processing room, and the wine will age better.  These crystals occur when the temperature of a wine drops below 40⁰ F and the potassium chloride and tartaric acid come together. Formation of crystals can be avoided in two ways: winemakers can use cold-stabilization techniques at the end of the processing cycle or wine drinkers can avoid placing their wine for extended times in temperatures that are below 40⁰ F.

If your wine does develop crystals, don’t be alarmed.  They aren’t dangerous and they don’t have a flavor, but if you want to strain them out simply use a cheesecloth.  As for me, knowing what a sign of quality these little crystals are, I will welcome seeing them in the bottles coming from our winery!

Once you have realized that I am not a Holstein calf or a miniature horse, you don’t have to look very hard to see that I am a big, loving dog with a large, welcoming heart.  Even with all of the loving and giving that I dole out at the vineyard (like greeting you at the car and walking you to the door, letting you pet my soft, soft ears, and sniffing all of your coolers as a measure of “quality control”) there is still room for a little more loving and giving.  Mom and Dad recently paired up with Kerus Global to create a wine that not only gives you a delicious beverage to savor, but it also gives money from each bottle sale to to a global education foundation that is working hard to make this world a better place.

Kerus Global Education was founded by two local Valley residents, Dr. Cerullo and Dr. Ball.  Kerus, which means doing something with all of your heart, is a wonderful organization that is providing support and AIDS education to children who have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in South Africa.  By using the It Takes Courage! curriculum, Kerus works to promote abstinence and faithfulness in relationships in order to lessen transmission rates. They also opened the Kerus Go Amogela Orphan Care Center to provide children who have been orphaned by AIDS academic and emotional support and guidance on making good life choices.  Kerus is making such an impact in the areas that it serves that the local governments have even started working with them to develop government run programs that employ the same educational strategies.

The wine, a Merlot and Chambourcin blend, is a table red and is sure to please everyone’s palate.  Notes of jammy dark fruit, vanilla, coffee, and leather on the nose are only a hint of the richness to come.  Once in your mouth, the complex flavors of tart cherry and ripe blackberry envelop the taste buds in a way that makes evident that this medium-bodied wine embodies all of the best qualities Merlot and Chambourcin have to offer.  The artwork on the bottle is particularly striking. Painted by South African artist Adrian Swartz, it features a stunning depiction of an African Elephant. The original painting is now displayed in our tasting room.

Make plans to come out and try our newest red soon.  Having the double benefit of being a delicious wine and doing a good deed for humankind through your purchase, buying this wine will also serve as your perfect cover-up for the real reason that most people come to Brix & Columns: to see your favorite wine blogger, ME!

You know what they say! It’s a dog’s life! I know I have it good, I’ve got a mom and dad who love me very much, I’ve got rolling hills of land to run around on, and I even have my own blog. You might think that it couldn’t get better than that, but think again. Over the past month I have been lucky enough to have my very best friend (and little nephew) Ryland come stay with me. We were assigned a very important task, and we definitely earned our bones.

Gene, our Vineyard Manager, and Taylor, my big brother, had a lot of work to do on the vines over the past month, and mom and dad sent us out to make sure that they were doing everything they needed to do. We laid in the shaded, soft grass and watched as they inspected each vine to determine its health. They were looking for bud swell and the magical bud break,  As they inspected the growing shoots, they tied them to the cordons to begin training their future growth.

Most people think of the spring season as a time of new beginnings, but the growth cycle of the grape vine actually renews each fall.  That is when the new buds begin to form on the vines as hard brown bumps, and they rest with a protective cover over the winter. In the early spring, as soon as ground temps break the 50⁰ mark, vines begin to bleed.  The roots wake up and pump water through the plant, distributing the needed “energy fuels” throughout the vine. These sugars, minerals, and hormones will all go to work immediately nourishing the sleeping buds and preparing them for bud swell. During the bleeding process, up to 1.5 litres of water can be pumped up through the plant and will “bleed” out of its pruning wounds.

 

Bud swell is the beautiful phenomena that begins to turn vineyards from the winter brown hues to the lush yellow-gold colors of all newly awakened plants.  Robert Frost warned us, though, that “nothing gold can stay,” and to be sure, these golden colors will soon erupt into a lush and vivid green as the bud swells burst into the bud break.  Tightly furled in these nuggets of green are everything the vine needs to make its next year of growth: leaves, shoots, and even the fruit clusters that will mature by the end of the growing season.

As Gene and Taylor moved through the rows examining and admiring each of the individual vines, they tied them to the cordon wires of the trellis to train their growth.  Next on the schedule, is stripping the trunks of their leaves. This will temporarily “de-green” the vineyard, but it is just to ensure that the energy of the plant is being used to produce healthy and vibrant shoots.  Each plant should have only two trunks, and by taking off the leaves, we are making certain that no additional shoots grow where we don’t want them.

I have a few more supervisor shifts coming up, and I will be meeting with Jeanette, our vineyard consultant, so look for a “growing” wealth of information to come!