Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Vintage: Red, White, and Rose'

We had a good year for the grapes in BC and from them produced three wines this year.  We have a red Leon Millot varietal, a blended white, and a St. Croix rose'.

The wines are young and have been cold stabilised and cleared but they will have to cellar for some time to mature.  Out of the carboy they were all nice, however, the St. Croix rose' needs about 6 months of cellar time but can be drank early.  The Leon Millot needs about a year in the cellar, and our trade mark "Arrow Lakes White" blend needs about 1-2 years.

In a months we'll open the St. Croix rose' and a month later the Millot, then the white after to see how they are developing.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

2013 St. Croix rose' wine Edmonton cold stabilising

The St. Croix finished fermenting on the 71B yeast and started to settle out quickly.  I racked it into a new carboy and it is now out in the cold garage and in the process of cold stabilisation.

Cold stabilisation is storing the wine at a temperature between 0 and -4c for at least two weeks and helps with both the clarification of the wine and reduction of tartaric acid by precipitating it out of the wine as tartaric acid crystals. You can even go to colder temperatures but below -8 the wine may freeze depending on the alcohol content and wine chemistry.  Tartaric acid crystals are not uncommon in bottled wine and are sometimes referred to as wine diamonds.  You may have found these in some bottled wines when you pour out the last remnants of the bottle and some granular sediment pours out also.  These wines were likely bottled before cold stabilisation was done and after the wine was bottled it was exposed to cold temperatures at some point and the tartaric acid started to form crystals in the bottle. I don't find these "wine diamonds" appealing in my wine so try to eliminate them. Here is the St. Croix rose in the 11 ltr carboy and you can see the crystals have formed at the top surface.
One of the issues with growing grapes in cold climates is the likelihood of high acid content in the juice. However the cold climate is also convenient for conducting cold stabilisation on the wine as in late fall after the fermentation I can just set the wine out in the garage as the temperatures in late October/November and December in the garage are perfect. Cold stabilisation is one method to help reduce the acid and simply storing the wine in the cold temperatures causes tartaric acid to precipitate out of the wine.  They form throughout the wine and sink and here you can see they have formed on the surface of the wine at the top of the carboy (photo below) and if you were to bump the carboy they would sink to the bottom;
and also on the bottom of the carboy.

One of the added benefits of the tartaric acid crystal forming on the bottom is that the crystals actually can form a mat that seals over the sediment on the bottom and makes it easy to rack to the next stage.  Our next stage will be racking the wine once more, adding a slight amount of liquid sugar for touch of sweetness and also sorbate to prevent new fermentation of the sugar.  We'll bottle after that.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Leon Millot Crush and Pess 2013

The Leon Millot fro the vineyard in BC were nice this year and after crush the juice was 21 brix and 3.2 ph.  Nice parameters for making wine.  One thing that is great about this grape is the juice is very highly coloured and after 3 days fermentation on the skin I pressed the must and the wine colour is very dark already.  The new wine press from Musca wine supplies worked great.

We're going for a lighter fruity wine this year as part of the experiment of growing the grapes is also experimenting with styles of wine that the grapes can make.  The

Edmonton Grapes Another Good Year 2013

Despite the cooler summer, abundant rain and all the hail we still ended up with 37lbs of St. Croix from the vines in the back yard in Edmonton (Approx 20' of trellis).  They are not as ripe as last year but we were planning for a rose' from early on so we didn't need the grapes as ripe as last year.  Also, last year was an exceptional year for heat and the vines were slightly under-cropped so we were able ripen then to nice levels for red wine. As we picked them and again before crushing we removed the grapes that had been destroyed by hail.

So we have about 11 ltrs of juice for the St. Croix rose.  The juice is 15 brix and ph 2.8 and this variety has good varietal flavour already at this level.  So, I'll chaptalize to 17-18 brix to get a light 9-9.5% A/Vol wine when its all done and use 71B yeast to help reduce some of the acid as well will conduct as a cold stabilization to precipitate more acid.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Evangeline Grape

We've have the Evangeline growing for a few years now and this year we got to see how it performed.

This grape is a cross between Seigerrebe and St. Pepin.  It was created in Canada in Nova Scotia and it is as early as Seigerrebe, has the beautiful muscat flavouring but is cold tolerant to about -31c and has some disease resistance to both powdery mildew and downey mildew.

It is very  vigorous grower and put up huge canes this year on our vines.  The clusters are long and loose and the berries are the biggest of all the varieties we grow - about double the diameter of Marechal Foch.

This variety is the latest to break bud and to flower but among the earliest to ripen.  This year it flowered on July 3-4th and we picked them about 65 days later on September 8th at 18 brix and 2.9ph (see it pictured here on Sept 8th).  Had to take them before the wasps did.  We left a few bunches on the vines and the wasps didn't find them and on October 5th we recorded 21-22 brix and 3.3 ph.

This grape is fantastic, it is already growing (not commercially) in Nova Scotia and should be considered for marginal growing areas like Vancouver Island, south interior BC (West Kootenays) and (East Kootenays) especially where cold winters, short seasons, and late spring frosts are an issue.

Great Grape Harvest for 2013

We had a great year for growing this year and despite the 8 week drought in late September to mid-September the vines did great.  We had about 1030 C degree days growing. 

They have had 5 full growing seasons in the soil now and must have good roots, especially in the Ravat 34 and Leon Millot that have been around the longest.

The wasps were the biggest factor in Harvest and they took virtually all the Lucy Kuhlman and Colmar Precoce Noir.  These are among the earliest grapes we have.  However, the Evangeline (KW96-2) is really early and we picked it on September 8th at 18brix and 2.9ph as we did not have enough wasp netting to cover them.  They are among the the latest to bud out and the latest to flower and the earliest to harvest with giant juicy bunches of grapes.  We left a few Evangeline bunches in hopes that the wasps would miss those and then we could see the numbers at full ripeness.

Some of the numbers we got this year harvested Oct 5 as follows;
Variety                                          Brix             PH
Leon Millot                                    22               3.2
Ravat 34                                         18               3.0
Acadie Blanc                                  19               3.0
Petite Milo                                      22               3.1
Evangeline                                      21               3.3 
Castel                                              22               n/a
Foch                                                21               n/a
Triompe                                          21               n/a

Monday, September 23, 2013

Edmonton Grapes Nearly Ripe

2013 hasn't been a warm summer in Edmonton, and we've had more rain and hail than we've had in years.  The hail was particularly troublesome and caused extensive damage to the leaves and grape clusters.  The leaf damage has resulted in a bit of a delay in ripening and the cluster damage has meant we've been trimming damaged fruit as we see it so it doesn't rot and damage the whole cluster.

Here is some nice St. Croix clusters,

Having said that were getting there and a few more weeks and we'll have some nice grapes for a rose'.  This year were going to crush and press and go straight to a rose'.  The juice from the St. Croix is quite highly coloured as it is and will be a darker colour for rose. The St.Croix is at about 12-13 brix right now so if we're lucky we'll get it up to 16-17brix over the next 2 weeks

We've had other challenges recently aside from the hail and rain as the birds found our grapes and we've had to net them.  Despite the netting, a few seem to get in here and there and one can see the advantage of a higher cordon for training the vines and netting that is secured just under the higher cordon.  Our vines are close to the ground and the netting drapes to the ground and is anchored here and there with ties.  But the birds seem to find there way under the netting.

We didn't have enough netting to cover the Joffre so we actually picked it on September 21st at 18 brix and 3.0 ph.  Pretty amazing early grape.  We only got about 3 lbs from the vine but the birds must have already taken 2lbs. Have it frozen until we pick the St. Croix and will add it to that lot. Considering the die back for this variety in the -35c temperatures over the previous winter, this is great.  Joffre shouldn't withstand much colder than -30 but we did have some good snow cover and it was early to harden off last fall.

On the other hand the Acadie is looking good and is already at 14-15 brix.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

New Grape Press from Musca Wines

At our test vineyard we have so many varieties but don't produce a huge amount of grapes from any one variety except Leon Millot.  Often we'll only produce 11 litres of wine from the small batches.  Problem is we have a #45 grape press and it is really too big for small batches of grapes.

This year we have purchased a new grape press from Musca Wines Ltd.  .  Musca is based in Ottawa, Ontario and offers a complete source of wine making supplies including wine presses. Their prices are the best I could find on the internet, their service fantastic, and they will deliver across Canada.  My new #25 press, cost only $286 (including delivery to Edmonton) and arrived in about 5 days.  if you need wine making supplies it is worth your while to contact them.

Wasps Destroying the Grapes

The early grapes, high sugars and heat are the perfect conditions for wasps to invade the vineyard.  Usually we don't have this issue as the grapes are just coming into ripeness and high sugar as the cold weather is approaching.

This year is an exception and the wasps were destroying the grapes.  Fortune would have it that i still had the old nets that i started with from Kootenay Covers.  They have small aperture openings that do not let the wasps or larger insects in.

Instead of putting out the bird netting I put out these nets instead and hopefully it will keep the wasps away. Thus far they had nearly taken all the Lucy Kuhlman grapes.  I swatted a few of them and they are all full of grape juice, and they are easy to hit as they are so full of juice as to be barely able to fly.

Unfortunately in this case the vineyard has grown and I did not have enough of the Kootenay Covers netting to cover all the vines.  What was interesting is that once I covered the all the grapes I could, the wasps then went on to locate other grapes in the vineyard that were still exposed and began to eat those ones - even those that normally would not have attracted them as they are not yet quite as high in sugars as the Lucy Kuhlman.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Grapes Looking Good Sept 2013

With excellent heat the vines are really far ahead in terms of ripening the grapes this year. 
Here is where we are at for Brix as of Sept 8, 2013
Grape              Brix     PH
Castel              15
Leon Millot     17        2.8
Evangeline       18       2.8
Ravat 34          12
Foch                 15
Lucy Kuhlm     15
Triompe            16
Acadie               14
Colmar              16
Petit Milo           16

Here is some pictures;
Ravat 34

Leon Millot

Evangeline (this was a smaller cluster, most are a lot bigger than this one)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Grapes Starting to Turn Colour August 18th

Here is Leon Millot on August 18th showing the berries are just at the front end of starting to turn colour.  This photo is from my neighbors yard, who also have Millot growing.  Unless we were to get an early frost this is excellent as in a normal year we'd have another 40-50 days of the growing season left. Can only hope.
We've been really struggling for rain this year.  We''ve only had about 1.5 inches of water since the first week of July, however, its raining today and looks like we're in for at least an inch over the next few days.  Been smoking hot also, and will likely have a 20.5c or 21c average for August - again about as hot as we've ever had it. If we get a normal September/October were in line for 1000-1100 degree days growing.  The vines are showing a lot of water stress, so a few inches is in order forsure.  

Grapes Comming Along Well August 2/13

We had a great month for heat in July average about 20.5 degrees making it about the hottest July in 6 years of recording.  The grapes are really doing well and have filled out, some are moving to bunch closure but are being held back by the lack of moisture.

Here is Leon Millot

Here is Ravat 34

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Vineyard Expansion

After five years of growing we have both a picture of the climate, soil, and what vines work and what do not. When we started out we wanted to plant a vineyard with Leon Millot, Castel and Acadie Blanc and we know now that the Castel does not like our sandy soil.  On the other hand the Leon Millot is doing quite well, remarkably so considering we've virtually applied no fertilizer or soil amendments to our 85% nutrient void sandy soil.  Interesting is that I've read several accounts that the Kuhlman varieitiees like the sandy soil, so for reds we've got lots to choose from including the Leon Millot, Foch, Lucy Kuhlman, Joffre, Triompe D'Alsace, and Colmar Precoce Noir.

Two and Three summers ago we opened up the area to the east and the west of the vineyard to see the lay of the land and if it was suitable for grape growing and discovered that we have approximately 4 acres of land suitable for grape growing.  We've also another 1-2 acres on other parts of the property, but for now this area remains forested.

This summer we are beginning to prepare the land we opened up for planting of approximately 0.5 acre of Leon Millot for next year 2014 and perhaps another 0.5 acre for 2015.  We are looking at 4-5 foot spacing and 7 foot between the rows - similar to what we've used in parts of the experimental vineyard (4x7).

We are also liking how the Foch and Acadie is working out and are looking ahead to potential plantings those varieties in the next few years however in all cases we're moving into the use of fertilizers and soil amendments to bring the vines into heavier production earlier.  Presently we are 5 years in with the Leon Millot and are obtaining approximately 200-250 grams of grapes per row foot - target is 1 lb per row foot.

We are beginning to add fertilizer this year in a relatively small amounts but already we've seen the vines take off more than other years. The challenge is now balancing the annual fertilizer amounts giving them just enough to get the enhanced growth and at the right times.  Last fall we added fertilizer to the ground after the vines went dormant, we added some at pruning time and again at bud break.  We'll not add any more until dormancy for this year.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bloom Time at the Vine House 2013

We had above normal temperatures for May at an average of 13.5c and average temperatures of 15.5c for June and this has pushed all varieties into an early flowering season.  We were a week early for bud break and that has carried over in to at least a week early for flowering as of June 29th.  Last year we had the coolest May June in the past 5 years and flowering didn't occur until the 10th-14th of July.  Having said that after the cool beginning we had normal heat over the summer and an average September and still had the best juice chemistry on the grapes.  So given the earlier start this year that should help things along even more - will just keep the fingers crossed for some mid summer rains.

The vines are looking great, with the Leon Millot and the rest of Kuhlman's doing well (Foch, Lucy Kuhlman, Triompe, Colmar, and Joffre). Petite Millot is also doing well as usual and the Acadie blanc is comming along. The Evangeline is maturing and were getting a few more cluster and the Ravat 34 looks good with nice growth but again you have to stay on top of the the buds as the secondaries over populate the growth very quickly.  Seyval Blanc is finally comming along and the Vandal Cliche and St. Croix is looking good for second year plants.  Castel is still struggling on our soil (which is very sandy) and Regent (winter die back) just doesn't perform at our location, nor does the blattner varieties, cabernet Foch (grapes don't mature) and cab-Libre (grapes don't mature, winter die back).

Here are the various flowing picture as of June 29th.
Leon Millot


Triompe D'Alsas

L'Acadie Blanc

Evangeline (KW96-2)

Ravat 34

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cool weather but Edmonton Grapes Flowering Early 2013

It has not been a warm spring leading into summer.  May was normal and June has been below normal but we've also experienced alot of cloud cover.  The Joffre in Edmonton is doing phenomenally well this year.  Came through the winter virtually unscathed by the -35c cold we had, nearly full bud survival also.  Probably 80% survival rate.  Every bud has between 2 and 3 clusters and even the secondary buds that have come from the same point as primary buds still carry 2 cluster per shoot.  In the picture below you can see the primary bud/cane with 2 larger flower clusters on it and from the same location the secondary bud/cane with 2 smaller flower clusters. See picture below;

What is amazing is that they are showing the first signs of flowering as of June 24th.  This is about 1 week earlier than normal and given the cool weather, probably more like 10 days earlier. See more Joffre photo below.

As of today the St. Croix was also showing the first signs of flowering, again about 5 days early.
I think that after 5 winter and going into the 6th growing season, these vines are stronger more mature and this has an effect on the winter survival rates and the earlier movement to flowering.  Will probably have a similar early effect on ripening of the grapes.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Edmonton Grapes Bud Break 2013

We had a relatively mild winter in Edmonton this year with a few cold nights into the -35c range in December 2012 but overall no too bad.  We also had good snow cover through the winter right through till the mid April point and as such the vine received good insulation from the cold.  At the end of April Mother Nature flipped the summer switch and we hit +31c in the first week of May and the vines are a bit advanced so far heading into June.

I left the St. Croix and Acadie Blanc on the trellis this past winter year to see how it would make out without laying the canes down on the ground.  Not the best year to make this test as it we did not have the extreme cold snaps nor prolonged cold.

Looking at the emerging shoots on the vines this year I see some amazing results.  The St.Croix (now coming into 6 years old) came out great again and has two clusters per shoot on nearly every primary shoot, even secondaries produce with this variety.  Some of the flower clusters this year are huge and I attribute this to the health and maturation of the vine.  The acadie is only in its second year since I moved it and it has 1-2 clusters per shoot on each shoot.  This is not supposed to be that hardy of a vine but it has no problem with the Edmonton winters, especially if the canes are layed down to the ground.  No need to bury them if they have a bit of snow cover. The Evangline also look good with decent survival rates considering I moved the 1 year old vines in early summer. St Croix photo below;
There were two big surprises.  First the Joffre completely survived the winter.  All primaries are budding out that were covered in snow and 18 inches from the ground.  All of the shoots have at least 2 clusters and many have 3.  Secondaries are popping up all over and they have 1-2 clusters also.  This builds on last year when we had several buds produce fruitful shoots and again like the St. Croix I suspect both the health and maturation of the vine (now coming into 5 years old) contribute to the climatization of the vine and increased fruit production.

The other surprise is an Edelweise that I had planted and dug out and moved into a large planter pot.  It had not been performing well so I dug it out with plans to move it or throw it out.  However as summer passed I did not have a good place for it and was not inclined to make room for this "underperformer".  Having said that, I left it in the pot in the garden and forgot about it and there it stayed over the winter and to my surprise not only did the vine and the otherwise exposed roots survive the winter - the emerging buds are also fruitful (which it has rarely been).  I'm going to grow it in the planter and see how that works this summer. See Edelweise photo below;

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bud Break 2013

The warm winter has been followed with a warm May, at least fro the first two weeks that have averaged about 13.5c.  With the warm weather we've got bud break on some varieties at least a week ahead of normal. We have also been able to see what varieties are looking well going forward in to bloom and what varieties don't seem to do well at our site.  Again Petite Milo is most advanced, followed by Lucy Kuhlman, Acadie, Foch, Leon Millot, and Colmar.  The Ravat is slower to emerge and it appears that it is just the way this vine grows and probably gets this from its Chardonnay parentage.

The varieties that are doing well are Leon Millot, Ravat 34, Acadie Blanc, Evangeline, Lucy Kuhlman, Marechal Foch.  St. Croix and Vandal Cliché look like they are going to be good but are only into year two.  The varieties that were not sure about yet are Marquette, Castel, Joffre, Triomphe, Baltica, Seyval Blanc, Colmar Precoce Noir.  The varieites that are not performing well are Regent, Zweigelt and Pinot Noir.  We also had Agria a few years back but it performed poorly - a lot like Regent.

Here are some of the varieties as of May 19th, 2013.

Ravat 34 (2 clusters|) compare to last year this time

Petite Milo (2 clusters) compare to last year this time

Acadie Blanc (3 clusters)

Evangeline (1 cluster)

Colmar Precoce Noir (2 clusters)

Leon Millot (1 cluster here, usually has 2 clusters)

                              If we get by the next week without a frost were are well on our way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring Pruning - Vine Health 2013

Did the first round of pruning in early April this year - should have been in March at the latest but time and weather were a factor.  Remarkably we haven't had any snow on the ground in the vineyard since the early part of March and already the weeds are coming up and making a go of it.  We also had a stretch of warm weather at the end of March where the day time highs were touching 20 c.  

So it should not have been to much of a surprise that when I did the pruning that the canes were bleeding already.  I checked the data logger and this has been the warmest winter we've had since we started taking winter temperatures.  The coldest weather we had was -18 one night and there have been a lot of obvious freeze thaw events when day time temperatures exceeded 5 to 10 c and night time then would dip down to between -5 and -10.  We also had very little snow with barely 2 feet of cover through most of the snow pack season.

The freeze thaw events and the vine stress experienced by some vines last summer have combined to cause significant damage to the canes of some varieties.  Most notably the Colmar and Triomphe suffered the greatest cane and bud damage.  Interesting they are from the same parental cross.  In the same row the Lucy Kuhlman and Marechal Foch suffered less with the Foch doing better between the two.  The winter should not have been very hard on the Foch but the water stress leading into winter did not allow the vines to prepare for winter very well.

Having said that virtually all other varieties have come out from the winter in good to great shape.  The Ravat 34 again is tremendous and the Leon Millot has the best survival rates that I've seen since I planted them. 

Castel looks good and was already into scale crack.  The Acadie, Petite Milot and Evangeline also look good and the Marquette and St. Croix were superb.  On the other hand the Vandal Cliché has died back to the ground on many of the vines and yet this vine is supposed to be hardy to -35c and my vines are young.  Again, I expect the freeze thaw cycles may have had a big effect on this variety also.

Marechal Joffre again had some die back along with Regent, Seyval Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zweigelt but again these varieties had varying degrees of stress going into the fall.

The oldest of the vines, the Ravat and Leon Millot did excellent and they are now 5 years old with well developed root systems and this effect on their winter survival is evident.  As the other vines mature I expect the winter survival rates will improve.

With any luck we'll have bud break the 3rd week of May (normal) and no late spring frosts.  In any event we double prune and have left a little over double the bud count for the vines.  If we do experience a late frost, then hopefully we'll have enough remaining buds to produce a decent crop and otherwise well prune back the rest of the buds 1-2 weeks after bud break.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ravat 34 wine - vintage 2012

We have had some success with the Ravat 34 grape at our location over the past 4 years.  Year over year this variety has produced well.  It sets fruit well each year except the 2012 year where we had the extreme high temperatures during flowering.   Generally speaking this variety struggles to exceed 19-20 brix and it is strong, vigourous and disease free - no spray required at our site.  At our location, the grape needs about another week of warm weather to ripen better than what we usually can produce however, even at 14-15 brix this variety already shows strong varietal flavour.  Under 15 brix there is some slight herbaceousness - green pepper, but very slight.  More ravat info here

Usually when we pick this variety we find that the must brix is at least 1 brix higher than the brix on the vine.  This year when harvested the Ravat 34 in early October it was showing about 14.5 brix on the vine but in the tank the brix was nearly 16.  The must also showed 1.1g/ltr T.A and the ph 3.0.

The grapes were crushed and pressed, 25ppm potasium MBS added, chaptalized to 20.5 brix from 16 brix, and fermented with KV yeast until dry at about 22 degrees celcius.  After about 10 days primary fermentation had nearly slowed and the wine was transfered from the fermentation vat into a carboy to finish secondary fermentation again at 22 degrees celcius.  The secondary fermentation took another 10 days and the wine was racked and another 25 ppm potassium MBS added. 
The wine cleared quite fast and it was cold stablized for 4 weeks at temperatures between 0 and -6 celcius and significant tartaric acid crystals precipitated out of the wine.
In the glass, the wine is very nice, honey dew and slight pear aromas, clean tasting, lemon grass with very very slight herbaceousness.  Of the most common white wines in production it most closely resembles Sauvignon blanc.  This is somewhat at odds with it's parentage which is Chardonnay x Berliandi.  What ever the case this is a really nice wine.