Thursday, 2. May 2013
Winery owners, winemakers and managers are a creative group of people. We have seen numerous creative ideas while visiting and writing about more than 900 wineries.
It is always exciting to discover what these creative people are doing in terms of building wineries, planting vineyards and creating wine experiences for visitors. As we’ve traveled we have encountered many ideas and experiences. However, we also learn about special ideas through the Internet and email. Each week I hope to provide a look at some of these ideas. Perhaps you will find something that will inspire you or you might enjoy. This week I’ll start with Coquelicot Estate Vineyard in California.
A Ladybug Release Party at Coquelicot Estate Vineyard
Many wineries and vineyards are using organic or sustainable methods in the vineyards. Numerous wineries use organic and sustainable methods; however, this is the first time we have heard of a ladybug release party.
On May 19 from 12 to 5pm Coquelicot Estate Vineyard is hosting a Ladybug Release Party. This special event is centered around the use of ladybugs rather than using pesticides in the vineyards. The ladybugs control pests in the vineyards. Thousands of ladybugs will be released during the event.
The event includes:
- Release of thousands of ladybugs
- A vineyard tour
- Multi-course BBQ
- Live music
- Wine lectures
$79/adult & $25/children
$59/adult & $12/children (Club Members)
For more information, call the Coquelicot Estate Vineyard tasting room at 805-688-1500.
If you plan to attend this unique event, be ready to take plenty of photos.
Thursday, 11. October 2012
We received an email from Dave Zuchero at Tin Lizzie Wineworks that the Stagecoach grapes are going to be harvested today. The Cabernet Sauvignon is measured at 25 brix. That level will produce a 13.75% alcohol wine. Interesting to note that the degree days, as measured in Oakville in Napa Valley, hit 2410 mark on October 10th. Cabernet Sauvignon likes 2400 heat degree days and it looks like vineyards in Napa Valley hit that number, just another piece of data. Possible more important is the lack of rain in the area. In 2009 when we first made a couple barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon with grapes sourced from California, there was several inches of rainfall prior to the Cabernet Sauvignon harvest. Although harvested a week later, the grapes did not loose all the water they picked up.
What happens now? The grapes will be placed in lugs and the lugs will be loaded onto a refrigerated truck. The truck drives the almost three thousand miles across the country. Our Cabernet Sauvignon is scheduled for destemming on Saturday the 20th, bright and early in the morning. That is assuming that the truck can make the 3000 mile trip in a week. Back in 2009, we destemmed at Tin Lizzie on October 31st (pictured). This years weather is putting us eleven days ahead of 2009. It may be too early to judge the wine before we even receive the grapes; however, we are excited. The weather in Napa Valley has been great and the 2012 season is shaping up to be a great vintage year.
Tuesday, 18. September 2012
We visited a Pennsylvania winery, Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery, yesterday and found the winemaker, Kevin Durland out in the vineyard with Gary Toczko, owner and vineyard manager, working in the vines. It is encouraging to see a winemaker in the vineyards. These vineyards were within a few feet of the winery. The vineyards for the wine we make is often thousands of miles away, so spending time in the vineyards is not practical.
Kevin mentioned that the winery will begin to make more cases of certain varieties; however, he will need to get the wines into distribution. Currently some of the local restaurants carry his wines. However, being located in a small town, he needs more distribution outlets. We have heard winemakers and owners lament about distribution for years. The reality is that only so many wines can be sold from the tasting room. Go beyond that amount and you need to get the wines distributed.
Kathy and I have a discovered a similar challenge. We are getting ready to send our first wine-related book to our publisher. Like a winery, we will make the most by selling the book ourselves. However, there is a large world out there and like many wineries we will need to get the book into distribution. Our book should be available for the 2012 holiday season. Vineyard workers and winemakers face many challenges. Authors also face challenges. Occasionally, those challenges are similar.
Saturday, 19. November 2011
We have been enjoying the autumn show of vineyard colors for some time now. Last week in the Lake Erie North Shore wine region of Ontario, the last colors of vineyards were beginning to fade. This week in Sonoma and Napa counties in California, the vineyards are putting on their show.
Although we spotted a few vines that are still green, there were many that showed different hues of yellows and darker reds. One spectacular vision was during a vineyard walking tour at Michel- Schlumberger. The Sonoma Vineyard Walk was sponsored by Zephyr Adventures. The group on the walk were attendees at the Wine Tourism Conference held in Napa on November 16th and 17th. The walkers ambled up and down rolling hills. From the higher vantage points, one had views of many of the vineyards. Different varietal grapes showcased the blocks where they were planted. The scenery was spectacular and offered many photo opportunities. While on the walk, we stopped several times for discussions about the land and vineyards.
As we enter the final weeks for vineyard foliage, check out your local wineries and vineyards. Catch the colors that different grape varieties offer. My favorite vineyard color captured in a photo was at Mormoraia in San Gimignano, Italy.
Monday, 29. August 2011
Last week we visited wineries on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and two wineries in Delaware. Reports of the hurricane (Irene) and tropical storm potential was a concern at some of the wineries. At one winery on Thursday they were about to pick their white grapes which had ripened early; the winemaker was in no hurry to pick the reds. We had tasted a couple of the grapes and the seeds were brown but the winemaker had recently tested the brix level and knew they were not ready.
All week we wondered what was happening to the wineries along the coast. According to some experts, it takes a week of dry weather for grapes to lose the water they absorb from rain. Of course that depends on the soil and drainage capability in the vineyard.
While I was growing up on a small farm, some might call a gentleman’s farm, I remember the agony of adults wondering if the cut alfalfa would be dry enough before a rain. For a long time, my mother would remember the summer, my oldest brother died and how she prayed to him and God that the already baled hay would be in the barn before the rain. Those prayers were answered.
Farming and grape growing have a lot in common. Both are subject to Mother nature’s innate ability to change on a whim. Too much rain, too much sun, too much wind and a variety of things which mankind cannot control can all affect the final crop, whether it be corn, hay or grapes.
Winemakers might say that the biggest difference between the the farmer growing grapes and hay or corn, is the affect that pruning and harvesting can do to the quality of the end product – wine. However, cheese makers can also make the claim that what the cows, goats or sheep eat can affect the cheese produced from the milk.
Consumers should understand the difficulties farmers and wine growers face in growing great products. Mother Nature always has a hand to play.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Friday, 17. September 2010
The weather this week has been unusual on Leelanau Peninsula. We were not sure what to expect so had brought a variety of layered clothing. The only thing we forgot was an umbrella that would have come in handy yesterday. Today is still a question mark.
What’s really interesting is the attitude of the winemakers and vineyardists in this cool climate area. They are enthusiastic about producing quality wines that are reflective of the terroir. The winemakers know that not every year will be ideal. However they are willing to work within the parameters of this terroir just as every wine region does. On Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas, the winemakers will not release a wine that is considered inferior.
Friday, 25. June 2010
I just finished reading an excellent article suggested by the website Drinklocalwine.com. The article Indigenous American Grape Varieties, A Primer by David Mark Brown is available on Plate Press. The author begins with the question, “Can American Vitis species produce wines that compare with those made from vinifera on a global stage?”
In this article, Brown emphasizes the six species in the Vitis genus, which are native to North America. The six included in the article are rotundifolia, vitis rupestris, vitis mustangensis, vitis labrusca, vitis riparia and vitis aestivalis. For the wine lover, look for names such as Muscadine, Scuppernong, Concord, Niagara, Baco Noir, Marechal Foch, Frontenac and Norton.
Brown included a photo of the oldest known grapevine in North America. It is a muscadine grapevine located on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. This immense grapevine is called the Mothervine.
I found Brown’s summary very interesting and agree with him. “So make an effort to discover which hybrids and native varieties are best suited to your region and sample the best that your local wineries have to offer. You may be surprised to find that your new favorite wine has no European heritage at all.”
As you visit local wineries be on the look out for some of these unusual wines and decide for yourself which ones you enjoy.
Saturday, 22. May 2010
Ah, if I only had life to live over again, what would I choose to be? A viticulturist of course!
I just spent a delightful morning planting a row of Petit Manseng. Of course, the weather was perfect, not too hot or too cold. A light breeze swept through the rest of the vineyard that had been already planted by the owners of Tin Lizzie Wineworks in Clarksville, Maryland.
Randy, who owns the farm, had obviously seen me down on my hands and knees carefully placing each vine into its designated predrilled hole and adding the right amount of soil. Terry came along adding water, more soil and mounding the soil over the graft. All too soon the row was completed and we are back home.
While in the vineyard, Randy asked me if I would want to farm all day, every day. I hesitated before answering. I thought about the hardships that traditional farmers face, the tricks that unpredictable Nature can play on harvests, the long hard days and the low pay. Then I though about the quality of life and the delight of communing with Nature and how my parents had lived on a small farm to ensure that they could always feed their family if there were ever another Great Depression. So my answer to Randy was “yes,” despite the hardships the farm life has much to offer that people too often miss out on. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting wineries and vineyards talking with winemakers and vineyardists.
Saturday, 15. May 2010
The Green Winegrowing Handbook was created by Paul Dolan Vineyards and Parducci Wine Cellars. Not only is this handbook about about organic and biodynamic vineyard practices but it is printed on 100% PCW Recycled Paper with Soy Inks. Obviously they practice what they talk about. The handbook is only 48 pages long including room for notes.
Being short means that it’s a quick reference and not one of those 3oo page books with a great title but long and onerous to read and put into practice. Chapter 1 is Sustainable Farming and Winemaking. Chapter 2 is entitled Organic Farming and Winemaking and Chapter 3 is Biodynamic Farming and Winemaking. Descriptions of several preparations used in Biodynamic farming are also discussed. These preparations described include Horn Manure, Horn Silica, Yarrow, Chamomile, Stinging Nettle, Oak Bark, Dandelion, Valerian and Horsetail. The glossary at the end of the handbook is descriptive of terms we often hear in relationship to organic and biodynamic concepts and is a quick reference for anyone who wants information about them.
Be sure to visit these websites to learn more about what they are doing in the organic and biodynamic sphere – www.parducci.com and www.pauldolanvineyards.com.
Friday, 14. May 2010
I find that I am more interested in visiting vineyards now that I am going to plant a row of Petit Manseng in Maryland. Before I was interested in a vineyard’s architecture, vines and grape development for photography purposes. However while in Mendocino I started paying attention to trellis systems, pruning techniques, organic farming and biodynamics.
Usually when touring a vineyard we hope into a truck or SUV. Sometimes a smaller automobile will takes us through a vineyard. We have had vineyard tours in Tuscany and California (Suisun Valley, Lake County and Mendocino County). Of all the tours, only in Mendocino were we treated to a tour of the vineyard in a horse drawn carriage at McDowell Valley Vineyards and a tour of the vineyards in a Mercedes at BARRA of Mendocino Winery. We found the horse drawn carriage ride through the vineyard to be quite comfortable. It was also easy to take photographs and video. The ride through a vineyard in a Mercedes was also comfortable and I thought about my brother driving his Mercedes through a vineyard…
After visiting the wonderful grape growers in Mendocino County I have new plans for my row of Petit Manseng. First, I plan to hoe the row rather than using RoundUp. At the ends of the row, I’m thinking of placing wild flower gardens to attract insects. Perhaps I can plant my vines a bit closer together to give me a ten-foot strip at the row’s ends. I can also start making compost to spread under the vines next year. Much can be learned about farming and grape growing from those who have grown grapes for most of their lives. Now I’m interested in finding a female cow’s horn. I’m very curious about biodynamics.