Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another season is coming

As I sit here on a Saturday afternoon in February while viewing some flakes of snow accumulating on the lawn, my thoughts wander to the vineyard. As we have purchased the ties for pruning and have wonderful pruners by ARS in the barn ready for cutting, there is a hint of anticipation in my gut. The vineyard always presents a thrill of victory and a feeling of the unknown. As most farmers would tell you, each season has its unique character. So we go into another season with a lot of excitement. We plan to plant another acre of vines, plant a large garden of italian veggies that are starting in the basement and most of all creating a hoop house for olive trees. This is going to be a lot of fun and a new adventures. Bring it on!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Well, as you may know, growing vinifera in the Midwest is a risk reward equation. The risk obviously is if the winter weather would get to say, -12 to -15 F degrees below zero, then we would probably have 100% primary bud death. We would have to retrain the vines from the trunks or a bud from under the earth of our hilling. Well, on Jan. 10 we got between 0 and -11 at the vineyard. We will see when the pruning begins exactly what damage we got. Since the vineyard is between Lee's Summit and Warrensburg, well Lee's Summit got zero and Warrensburg got -9 last nite. So maybe we got -5 or so.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Harvest 2009

Harvest 2009 started with the harvest of Chardonnay the week after Labor Day. Unfortunately, due to the persistent rain all season and the restrictive pruning done in the spring, we had a lower crop than 2008. We will be only about 1/3 of the 2008 season. This next year I will adjust the pruning to return to the four cane pruning instead of the 2009 pruning to three canes.
Harvest 2009 of Viognier was two weeks after the Chardonnay pick. Again, some of the fruit was discarded due to the rot. However, Viognier is not as rot prone as Chardonnay which makes it a good variety for the cold climate Midwest. The rot free fruit, about 95% of the pick, was very nice and aromatic. After the pressing the juice smelled like Sauvignon Blanc and was very delicious. The resulting wine will be excellent.
Cabernet Franc TK:
The Harvest of 2009 of Cabernet Franc To Kati block hit a milestone. For the first time, I got a pure 24 brix, other years got 23, 23.5 but never 24. This was achieving a goal that started 12 years ago and even though this 2009 growing season was very cool, the grapes came into the warehouse from the field at 24 brix, about 6.8 TA, and 3.7 PH. Due to the presence of Malic in the TA, we bumped the acid about .5/grams per Liter to adjust down the PH and made wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon TK:
The harvest of 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon was conducted in the rain. The forecast changed on us quickly so we harvested in the rain a nice crop of Cab Sauv., sugars came in 23-24 and the seeds were very brown. The crop levels were about the same as last year.
Cabernet Franc SR:
The harvest of 2009 Caberent Franc in Stealth Ridge was a lot darker fruit then the 2008 medium bodied CF. I noticed to due better fruit exposure that we got more consistent darker fruit in the SR bloc. The sugar levels were 23ish and some of the sugar might have been diluted due to the rain as we harvested.
The 2009 Malbec harvest was light due to the decision to not net the vineyard section. All the Malbec was blended into the Malbec that we processed from out of state.
Petit Verdot:
The 2009 Petit Verdot harvest was very nice. Sugars at 23-24 levels. I got to tell you that PV is the most interested grape in the vineyard, it is generally 2 weeks behind in veraison, but seems to check up due to the small size of the grapes. The seeds in PV were very dark like the fruit. This ripening was a proof of concept for me. I will probably plant a 1/2 acre of PV next year.
The 2009 Harvest of Mourvedre was very interesting. Due to the lower crop levels, we achieved 23-24 brix in sugars and the pepper notes of the wine were still there. So I am trying to figure out this pepper. Where is it coming from? The soil or is it from the exposure to the road. It is directly by the white gravel rock road and gets a lot of road dust. Or would this be road pepper? We will know a little more as the other section of Mourvedre comes into 3rd leaf next year.

I was very frustrated with the growing season. The rain amount and frequency created 25% more work in weeding, trimming the vines and spraying for mildew. Boy, in 12 years I cannot remember so much rain. Hopefully, it won't happen for a few years so we can have a little easier time. Again, this year was a test of high pressure, and we fended off the rot for the most part and had a wonderful year.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bird Netting - Essential Task

As we have moved to veriasion, here in Missouri our red grapes must be bird netted. A fortunate thing is that I have a commercial on-line store that sells bird netting, and other landscape products. The bulk of my sales is bird netting.

Over the years I have had my losses from birds eating my grapes. On year, the birds wiped out about 75% of my grapes, other years, I had very little left. In 2007, I figured out the iron-clad method of bird netting. That is using S hooks to secure the trunks and poles in the vineyard. Here is a link to my website that actually has a step by step tutorial :

Unfortunately we have to net our vineyards, however, since we will be hanging the red grapes until the first or second week in October, we need a secure way of protecting our investment.

See ya.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Out of the Rot woods

In Missouri and much of the Midwest, grape growers have had the most rot pressure in the last 10 years. We have had rain every week and the challege of black rot on the grapes has been intense. Normally, we spray 7 days before bloom and 7 days after bloom. Studies have shown that this period is very important to eliminate rot pressure for the rest of the season. Thereafter, we spray on a two week interval. This year we have had to up the schedule to every 1.5 weeks. This interval plays havoc on my schedule since I generally tend the grapes on the weekends. I have had to go to the vineyard during the week and spray. In spite of all the spraying, we still got a little black rot! I am estimating a 2%-3% loss of crop due to black rot. Not a lot but still a little loss.

The good thing right now is that we are starting to accumulate sugars in the grapes. Grapes fend off black rot naturally once the grapes get to 6-8 brix. We are right there. So we are out of the rot woods.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wired Management

We use three pairs of wires (catch wires)for our Vertical Shoot Positioning trellis. Our fruiting wire is at 28" , the first pair is above this wire at 12" and next two pairs are again spaced at 12" above the others. These wires are taken down at the beginning season. As the growth of the vines grows, once the vines are 4" above the catch wire position, then we begin putting the wires up. We are currently at the growth of putting the first two wires up.

Moveable catch wires eliminate the labor of tucking the vines in the catch wire system. Additionally, the vines tendrals would have to be broken in order to tuck the vines.

We recommend the VSP system especially for vinifera growing. It is the best system and we are darn happy to have it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Planting Cab Franc 214 ENTAV INRA

On Saturday morning my vineyard assistant Alonzo and I planted 200 Cabernet Franc 214 Clone on 101-14 rootstock. Here is a picture of the tag on the bundles of 25. The day was not particularly a good day. It rained about 1 inch and we planted in the morning while it was still raining. These Cab Franc vines were taking the place of Chardonnay which was ripped out the week before. I used to use 3309 rootstock on all my varieties but a few years ago I switched to 101-14. This rootstock is less vigorous and has a better hardening in the fall therefore increasing the cold hardiness of the plants.