Sunday, February 18, 2018

Art & Wine - More Than A Matter Of Taste?

So I'm often discussing the taste of wines and my taste in wine and often the topic of Art comes up. For wine, the most popular and well known variety that we grow is Marechal Foch but many people haven't tried it know what it tastes like. Hybrid grapes can have similar flavour profiles to vinifera (Pinot Noir, Zinfandel etc) but each one has their own flavour profile - no different than Pinot Noir is from Zinfandel. Taking it further, the style of wine making, location, annual climate conditions all play their part and can change the flavour vintage to vintage. Reds that are light and fruity against bold and tannic, sweet tropical muscat to crisp and floral really comes down to taste and everyone's taste preference is different. Art shares the conversation here as people have specific preferences, Landscapes - Wildlife - Abstract etc.
What appeals to someone may not appeal so much to another. For me, wine is very much about the taste. If I like the taste its good wine, but I am also particularly interested in the back story - so how did the wine come to be? You may have heard the phrase "great wine starts with growing great grapes". The type of grape used, its history, how it is grown, the climate conditions, vineyard practices are key to the wines end result. The vinification of the grape juice is the second half of the story... the craftsmanship in the winery, were the grapes grown by the winery or did the winery buy the grapes from another vineyard or import from another country, the fermenting style, oak aged or not, yeast type, blending of varieties - all big parts of the story and collectively impact the wine. Even if I don't particularly like the taste of a wine I often have a great appreciation for how it came to be.

Similarly with paintings, its the final piece that everyone sees, and it either appeals to the individual or not. But in the same manner as wine I have great appreciation for how the art came to be. There are so many ways the art could be produced, did the artist paint on location, did they replicate a photographs or use photos for reference. Did they take the photos and immerse themselves in the moment with the animal or scenery? In creating the image on canvas did the personal connection to the imagery impact the final outcome. Perhaps even an emotional attachment to the subject matter or a cause. Consider the type of medium the painting is produced on, canvas or board, paint type, self stretched canvas or framed by the artist or commercially framed. Again the final piece is the culmination of a number of variables and while I may have less an appreciation for the aesthetics of some art, I often have a great appreciation for how the piece came to be.

Carleen before heading to the beach.
Consider the amazing painting above. The painting was created by Carleen Ross co-owner of Arrow Lakes Vineyard. Its titled "Faith", it is a huge 38 inch x 48 inch. The painting is part her 2018 series "Green With Envy" and she captured this image of a green sea turtle labouring to get over the sharp volcanic rock before plunging back into the ocean. She took this photo among a series of photos while working on location in Hawaii, enduring long days on the beach, sunburn, and dehydration.

Nasty Sunburn
She has said this experience transformed how she sees and represents these creatures on canvass. It has invigorated her drive for delivering awareness about the the plight of endangered sea turtles and she works to assist sea turtle organizations in Canada, California and Hawaii. I love this painting, and I also love the story behind it and how the painting came to be - it changes how I see the painting, how it makes me feel, and the experience in looking at it.  A very positive enhancement.

For me the sensory appeal, be it to my eyes in the case of art, or by taste in the way of wine are the first important impressions. But the story behind the wine or art can be fascinating and enhance the relative experience. With wine, it has an impact, good or bad, on my impression of a wine long after the taste is gone.

Friday, January 19, 2018

2017 Castel "Ohhh my...."

So the 2017 Castel wine was finished and sitting for a few months now. Its remarkable how much it changes in such a short period of time and while the changes are rapid in the first few months, after about 6 months the changes slow but they do continue. Already this wine is nice and you can see how its developing very well. 

Castel has a very distinct and interesting flavour and if you haven’t tried it (chances are you haven’t as its quite rare) its really worth tracking some down. It has strong blackberry and ripe plum flavours, coffee – very different than the Kuhlman Hybrids (Foch, Millot). Kuhlmans are stronger on the cherry, strawberry fruit and this is more towards the Baco Noir spectrum or flavour. There is also a distinctive woody-earthy flavour that I have not found in any other wine and it stands out and really makes Castel special. I have noticed a very, very, slight hint of this same flavour in some Pinotage which has some similar pedigree.

The Aromas include plum, fresh tobacco, coffee, spring forest. Definitely more complex than many other hybrids and the wine is inky dark red.

So for 2017 we had a very unusual growing year with 3 months of drought that started June 14th and ended September 15th. The grapes developed smaller than usual, flavour on the vine were strong, and the sugars were exceptional with Brix around 26 for Castel and lower malic acid than usual.

We just sampled some of the 2017 Castel vintage to see how its doing and have just blended it with a little Leon Millot. In the glass again inky dark red with slightest purple hue – not blue typical of hybrids. As soon as you bring it to your nose you can recognise how nice this wine is…the aromas are strong and inviting and typical for Castel. The taste is even better, I’m expecting a alcohol blast as its at about 13.5-14% but no. Reaction - “ohhh my…”. Think the unusual hot and dry year has had a positive impact.

Of course, like Art, everyone’s tastes are different. I’ve always really liked Castel and this is a good example.  Best ones I’ve had come from Nova Scotia. Gaspereau Vineyards and Domaine De Grande Pre Winery make wonderful Castel wine.  

Monday, October 30, 2017

Red Red Wine

The reds and whites are now in the last throws of fermentation. The whites are in fact long completed and are now clearing nicely. Again Ravat 34 is such a nice grape to work with as it ferments nicely and clears so easily on its own.
We have the same red varieties on the go with Foch, Leon Millot, and Castel. We also did a varietal with Triompe D'Alsace that so far is really appealing. Lots of changes to come yet to the wines as they drop sediment and move into the aging process but so far they all are all comming along well.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

10 Years of Climate Data - Time Flys...

The old saying could not be more true "time flys when your having fun" and ten years have gone by since we started capturing climate data at Arrow lakes Vineyard. In 2008, we started capturing climate data. This was the year after we planted the first Leon Millot vines in 2007. So after 10 years of climate data we have a good picture of the climate conditions at Arrow Lakes Vineyard. Its no secret that the vineyard potential in the region is excellent and Sunset Ridge Vineyard in Nakusp is a great example. I think when you combine this information with other regional climate info, like what is being done though the Arrow Lakes Grape Growers Society in Burton, one can see that the area from Nakusp to Edgewood is excellent for growing grapes.

We have posted the annual climate data on the blog from the start so anyone could see first hand what is happening climatically at Arrow lakes Vineyard. Over the years we've also made some observations about what has been valuable in making the best out of our vineyard site. So here are the 10 year details and averages for Arrow Lakes Vineyard followed by a few observations;

Monthly Averages
May. 12.7c
June. 15.9c
July.  19.9c
August.  19.4c
September.  13.9c

Avareage Annual Degree Days Growing is 995 (celcius)
Coldest Day in 10 years is December 18, 2008 at -25c
Average Annual coldest day is -20.3c
Average Frost Free Days is 152

1 - Using wind break to block or divert cold air from entering the vineyard has increased the heat accumulation from 5-10% over the summer. It appears to have limited the depth and duration of winter deep freeze events. It also appears to have limited the likelyhood of late spring frost or early fall frost.

2 - Clearing the land and increasing the size of area cleared seems to have increased the day time temperatures in the cleared area. The bigger the cleared area the more noticeable the change.

3 - Cultivating the area between the rows brings the vines into bud break faster than areas with out between row cultivation (with grass). It also appears that the bare cultivated ground heats up faster during the day and continues to radiate heat in the evenings for some time. This has proven very important in the fall during the ripening period. In addition, the rain or other moisture that falls or accumulates (such as dew) is absorbed into the soil and used by the vines instead of being used by surface grass or weeds.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Grape Harvest 2017

Grapes were excellent quality this year considering the drought we had. Harvest was on Sept 30th and the despite the late season rain there was no berry splitting on any of the varieities which is reflective of how dry the soil was. Here is some of the Ravat 34.
This was the best year we've had for sugar accumulations and in testing ph the numbers are excellent as well. Two standouts this year were the Castel that came in at 25 brix and 3.1ph and the L'Acadie Blanc which was 24 brix and 3.1ph. Here is the sugar numbers on several of the others.

Red Grapes Type Followed by Brix
Leon Millot     21
Marechal Foch     20
Castel     25
Marquette     22
Triompe D'Alsace     22
Colmar Precoce Noir     23
Lucy Kuhlman     22
Regent     20
Pinot Noir     18
Zweigelt     20

White Grape Type Followed by Brix
Ravat 34     19
L'Acadie Blanc     24
Evangeline     22
Petite Millot     21
Seyval Blanc     22
Vandal Cliche     21
Sovereign Ruby     22

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Netting the Grapes Aug 24

So the grapes are developing well and looking good as of August 24. We had to net the grapes as the birds and wasps were already getting into them. The Evangeline are already high in sugar and we "lost" alot of them to our farm hand Mike who helped net the grapes this year. The Foch are about 85% coloured up and Leon Millot are 95% coloured and overall thisng are looking good. The Ravat again are outstanding and looking forward to making wine with these ones again this year.
Here is Evangeline
 Marechal Foch
 Leon Millot
Ravat 34

Not "Organic" Just Old Fashion Farming

So its been the hottest and the dryest summer we have ever had. The grapes are still good but the vines are suffering from the drought a bit. One of the things we do at Arrow Lakes Vineyard is cultivate between the rows to eliminate the weeds. Then we allow a small strip of weeds and grasses to grow right under the vines. This is in stark contrast to many other vineyards that have grass between the rows and clean strip under the vines but its a vineyard practice that has been successful in many organic based vineyards.

We are not a certified organic vineyard but we have been practicing pretty much organic style of farming not unlike the way my great grandfather farmed over 100 years ago.  He didn't have spray for fungus or insects or weeds, just the plow to keep the weeds down. So far the practice has been good for us as this is the 10th summer of growing grapes and we have not had a bad insect or fungus problem.

Not to say we haven't had some insects attack the vines but the grass and weeds that are allowed to grow up into the vines has also allows for a mini ecosystem for spiders and other preditory insect that keep bugs like leafhoppers to a minimum. As for fungus, we have occasionally had a touch here or there but what we have had has not been problematic as most of the test vines are fungal resistant - so we haven't had to spray for fungus.

The value of cultivating between the rows has eliminated pretty much any competition for water from weeds or grass. Any water in the soil or that happened to fall goes pretty much straight to the grape vines. So we need very little in the way of supplimental irrigation.

Not to say this could all fall apart, we could get a bad insect attack or huge fungal pressure some year(s) - you never know what the next year could bring but after 10 years so far so good.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Forest Fires & Drought Conditions But We Are Still OK

So the summer has been very hot and dry and with serious forest fires. We just got 1cm of rain on August 14th but that makes it 2 months since last rain and July was by far the hottest month we’ve recorded in 10 years. The good news is the vines, while stress are still doing ok and the fruit is developing. Some of the grapes are smaller than usual but no fruit dropping and overall it looks good.
We have drip irrigation for each vine but the amount are so low as to be sustenance really so the vines are getting water from the soil. So this is where cultivating between the rows has really paid off in this year in that the vines have no competition from weeds or grass for the water that is in the soil.
None of the vines are dropping fruit and the Leon Millot and Marechal Foch look good and the Leon Millot is just turning colour. Triompe D’Alsacce also is doing good and Castel is holding its own. Marquette, Regent, St. Croix and Precoce Noir are struggling in the heat and drought. For whites the Ravat 34 again is doing great, it does like the sandy soils and has a tremendous tap root. The Petite Milo and Evangeline are also doing well. L’Acadie Blanc is having a tough time in the droughty conditions.
Here are some of the grapes as of Aug 13th
                                                              Triompe D'Alsace
Leon Millot
Marechal Foch
Petite Milo
Ravat 34

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

2016 Arrow Lake Vineyard Foch wins Gold Medal

We just found out that our 2016 Marechal Foch wine won a GOLD MEDAL at the 2017 Wine Maker International Amateur Wine Competition in Vermont, USA!

Screen Shot 2016 09 07 at 10.57.43 AM

This is the biggest amateur wine competition in the World and had 2500 wine entries from 7 countries including Canada. We have liked this wine year over year and have done lots of blind taste tests with friends and family but it is really nice to get a unbiased third party perspective from accomplished wine judges as well.

Our Marechal Foch was entered in the Red Hybrid Varietal Category.  We are really please at this outcome becuase we had a hand in both growing the grapes and making the wine. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bud Break is a Bit Late 2017

So as of May 22 the vines are just budding out and are a bit late. Late is not much for our location as over the past 10 years the spectrum for bud break is usually between May 17-23. So we are a bit late but nothing to worry about as some good heat in June and the vines will catch up quick. So the Castel, Foch, Petite Milo have pushed buds furthest. Castel pictured Below;

Bud survival is good on all varieties which is nice as we had a 1 week stretch of about -21 to -23 celcius this past winter and even the Arrow Lakes froze over in parts - so we were not sure what spring would bring. Usually get just 1 day in around the -20 celcius range. The one exception was with the Leon Millot that we experimented with an 50% increased crop load (12 shoots per foot instead of 8 per foot). On these vines the canes died back significantly.

At spring pruning we usually leave extra buds until we know what the bud survival rate is and to ensure we get past a potential late frost. The photo above shows 2 canes bent over onto the trellis for long cane pruning and as you can see virtually all the buds survived and we have now made it past the point of any late spring frost. So we will now get back into the vineyard and shoot thin to the desired crop level for each variety.