Thursday, April 12, 2018

School Horticulture Science Presentation

So one of the things we really like to do is to pass what ever knowledge we've learned or gained by experience over the years. We have been doing presentations on our version of sustainable vineyard practices for a few years now. Gardening clubs, Horticulture Societies and schools are often calling seeking presentations and this past week we were able to entertain presentations for a local school in assisting them with their horticulture science module for their junior high school students.

Arrow Lakes Vineyard has not used pesticides or herbicide in the 10 years of operation. We employ particular vineyard management practices that we don't foresee ever having to use these things and these practices are part of the presentation. We also use minimal water that we call sustenance watering. Its really only providing water to the vines to ensure they stay alive and healthy as the rest of the water needs come from rainfall. Weed free rows ensure that all the rain that falls goes exclusively to the vines and is not utilized by mid-row grass or weeds. Our water is also pumped by solar power or gravity fed so we have no power requirements to deliver the water to the vines.  This is just some of the stuff we talk about in a very practical sense using the real world example of Arrow Lakes Vineyard.

We follow this up with showing the students how to grow grape vines from cuttings and each student gets to start their own cutting and try to grow it into a grape vines. Hopefully they will all get to take a vine home to plant at the end of the school year in June!

The energy and enthusiasm of the students and teachers is great, and it surrounds the understanding of our impact on the earth in everything we do on it. How what we put on our crops has a much wider impact than the soil immediately where the inputs are dispersed is top of mind for these students. The consciousness they have around water conservation and pollution is exceptional and really positive to see. I credit the students for their understanding and mindfulness of these issues and their teacher for obviously making these significant learning points long before I came along to present.

Well done!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

So Much Snow and Cold Too

Amazing to see the difference year over year. We would normally have done all our pruning by now but the snow pack is unbelievable this year and much of the vines are under snow still. Environment Cnada says there is 140% more snow than normal in the Kootenay snow pack on the top of the mountains and for sure we see that in the vineyard. 

Not only that it has been much cooler than normal.  Normal March temperatures are about 3.5c average but we had 2 this year so while we have had so much more snow we are not getting any heat to melt it away.  Environment Canada says expect a cool spring as well for the next few monthes.

Here is a photo from March 25 2016 when we were preparing the vineyard for new vines and a photo of the same area this year March 29, 2018. Most of the second year vines can not even be seen under 2.5-3 feet of snow that is still out there.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Drought Effect on Grape Vines

So 2017 was an amazing year for heat, we had about 1100 degree days celcius of heat which is about the most we have ever had. The problem was we didnt get any rain, really, no rain for 3 months. The final rain in the sping was about 1 cm on June 14th and we didnt see any more rain until September 15th. The vines suffered tremendously in the heat and water stress. Here is a picture of drought on grape vines (not from Arrow Lakes Vineyard).

Arrow Lakes Vineyard irrigates each vine but only as sustenance watering as we embrace the climatic nuance that is imparted on wines by the year to year variance in weather. Given the extreme of the 2017 drought period irrigation was only capable of keeping the established vines from perishing. Even with watering, we lost some of the new Castel vines planted this past year as they didnt have established root system able to support the vine in the heat. So there were positive and negative results from the drought. Some bennefits of the water stress was a higher than normal sugar accumulation in grapes and reduction in malic acid more than normal from some varieties as they matured earlier with a smaller crop than usual. For some varieities I'd say 2017 was a great growing year as this translates into production of wine.

It was also interesting to see what vines flourished even under these conditions. For instance, most of the Kulhmans did ok (Leon Millot, Foch, Triompe), Castel also did ok, but Colmar did not, nor did Marquette. For white varieties, the Evangeline, Ravat, and Petite Milo did well but the L'Acadie and Seyval struggled.

The damage that concerns me is that which you can't easily see. What Im talking about is the physiological damage to the vine that does not readily appear as wilting leaves, small sized grapes, or stunted cane tip growth etc. Two things of concern are the vine health going into the fall and into dormancy and the bud developement that occured during the drought period. Both of these are going to affect the next years (2018) crop.

So with such a drought and accompanied vine stress the vines ability to both produce carbohydrates and uptake nutrients during the growing season are impaired. As the vine prepares for winter it transfers the carbohydrates to the canes, roots and also the grapes (as sugar). So the concern is that there is less production of carbohydrates that get stored and the vine does not have the normal amount of carbohydrate reserves for bud break in the following spring. We can't do too much about that except ensure we dont over crop the vine in the spring. We usually leave a few extra buds per foot of trellis until danger of spring frost has past but we may decide to forgo that this year so we don't short the buds we plan to keep of the necessary carbohydrates they need.

The second concern is around the bud development. So the buds that will be producing canes with grapes this year come from buds that were formed on the canes grown the year before. So last years canes that developed during the drough may have buds that are less developed or have less fruitful buds due to the vine stress and lack of nutirents avaialbale during thier formation. In particular, the buds that develop further up the cane, as the drought became more severe over the summer, likely suffered development problems due to low nutrients and vine stress. So for last years canes, the buds that developed at the start of the season, say the first 2-6 buds on the cane in advance of flowering time are likely to have a higher bud survival rates and greater fruitfulness than buds further up the cane. This is not just my supposition, there is a 2016 Cornell University report that supports this. In contrast, in a normal season its often the buds further up the cane, say from bud number 6-12, that are most fruitful.

So here is the thing, we often prune our vines with long canes of up to 12 buds, but if the buds further up the cane are dead or low in fruitfulness then our crop will be poor.  So for this year we will be going to spur pruning on many of the varieties. We will also leave an extra bud at the vine head for renual canes in case we want to go back to long cane pruining the following year.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Sovereign Opal : Great Wine & Interesting Grape

One of my favorite Canadian wines comes from Conviction Vineyard and Winery in British Columbia. This wine is a variatal made with the Sovereign Opal grape and quite simply it tastes awesome but there is so much more to the story of this wine. This goes back to my last blog about the story behind the wine, or art, as I drew some  comparisons. Since then I had a few people ask about the wines I like and this one immediately comes to mind.
This is a friendly summer time wine, muscat fruity, slight residual sugar, and always well balanced in acid. Perfect for summer time patio sipping but equally matched to fish or seafood and Indian spice dishes. I've enjoyed this wine for many years and discovered it when the winery was known as Calona Winery. The winery has been rebranded as Conviction winery and year over year this wine is made perfectly and consistently. This wine has medalled so many times at national and international wine competitions and for those who have enjoyed it you know why.
So hear is some other really interesting details about this grape. The only place in the world that Sovereign Opal grape is grown commercially is at Conviction vineyard winery in BC.  So this varietal wine is rediculously rare. This green hybrid grape was actually "born and raised" in British Columbia. It was created to be a cold hardy wine grape as a part of a government grape breading program in the 1970s by crossing Marechal Foch and Goldmen Muscat varieties. Another grape that came out of this breeding program was the popular blue fresh esting grape Sovereign Cornation that is widely grown in BC.

Arrow Lakes Vineyard is testing the variety Sovereign Ruby (see link), a muscat variety also produced through this breeding program. Pretty interesting pedigree behind these grapes and particularly the Sovereign Opal wine and to me that makes this wine even more likeable.

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