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!