Saturday, January 7, 2023

December Deep Freeze

 Yikes! Just what we were hoping wouldnt happen - an intense deep freeze and early in the winter season yet. Thats not good.

Mid December hit the Okanagan and our area with terrible cold..the kind that will set you back a season or two. Yes there was some intense cold with lows in the -30c range experienced from Kamloops to Salmon arm and Vernon to Kelowna. 

That kind of cold will kill the buds and trunks even on some of the varieties grown in those merlot..gamay..pinot noir etc. Whats worse is that the cold hit so early in the winter that the vines were not as yet climatized to full winter hardiness and even the likes of -20c can cause significant bud damage. Unfortunately, alot of vineyards as far south as Summerland and Penticton that have likely had some damage.

While we didnt get the cold that some places did we still hit -26c which is the coldest temp wevecever had. Our previous coldest temperature was -24.5c. Now most of our varieties have cold hardiness to about -30c at max..but they will probably have some damage as this cold spell happened so early in the winter before they would have reached there max cold hardiness.

We see that Nakusp to the north of us hit -22.5c and this is the coldest they have recorded since 1968. 

We also had drought stressed vines so we may have more damage than if the vines were stronger going into winter.

The winter is not close to being over yet but hoping thats the real cold part has gone by.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Snow on the Vines

 Amazing time of the year as we head into winter. There was really no snow to speak of at the vineyard up until  few weeks ago then it came and stuck. 

When it snows here the snow comes straight down and piles up even on trellis wires and vine canes. 

One of the most amazing things is listening to it is so quiet here that you can actually hear it hit the ground or trees or vines. And makes for quite the beautiful landscape.

We are checking on the health of the vines. It a bit early to do so but the drought last summer hit some vines hard and we are curious about the health and winter hardiness of the vines.

The drought conditions leave the vines less winter hardy than normal so we are hoping there is no significant cold snaps this winter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Drought 2022 New Data

So now that the season is over and we are into late fall there is some data that has come out that plots the 2022 drought across Canada. So to be clear there was drought in some areas of Canada and not in others and really year over year this is the case. So places get rain or more rain than usual and other places get less rain than usual or in our case - No rain for over 4 monthes.

The Manitoba Cooperators agricultural news paper published an excellent map that shows the areas and severity of drought across Canada. In our last blog we discussed the harvest and about the drought and the impact the drought had on some of the grapes this year.

For the most part the grape varieties did ok but some vines really suffered and that impacted the quality of grape and even disrupted the ripening. As always when we have an unuasual event we learn and adjust and while we will adjust pruning on some varieties, we now know that Arrow Lakes Vineyard is parked on some remarkably deep and moisture retentive soil.

The map here shows the drought areas in Canada for the 2022 season and the red areas on the map are zones of extreme drought. Arrow Lakes Vineyard is located in the largest red area in the south west quadrant of British Columbia. We have added a expanded view section, with a yellow star, to show where we placed on the drough map.

Remarkably, no rain and beyond tinder dry but hardly any forest fires in our area this year - bit of a silver lining but for the most part its the passing rainstorms and lightning that are responsible for the majority of forest fires. So goes to say, no rain, no storms, no fires.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Harvest 2022 and the Big Drought

 It is truely an amazing thing growing grapes year to year and watching the subtle and not so subtle differences in grape quality as a function of mother natures influences.

And there it is, mother natures influences pretty much everything and this year was yet another remarkable year that was like no other in the 15 years weve been growing. 2022 started with the coolest May we ever recorded and a cool June as well with an extreme delay in flowering extending into the second week of July!!

Our season usually ends with a frost in the first 7 days or so of October and with that in mind it was hard to imaging that anything but the earliest varieties would ripen. So we were counting on the L'Acadie Blanc and the Evangeline to come through as well as the Leon millot, but Marechal Foch would be a challenge at best as that leaves only about 85 days to get to a low level of ripeness.

Here is L'Acadie at harvest

Given those parameters we cut back both canes and fruit early in the season to give the grapes a fighting chance to ripen. And for the most part they turned out ok. What we did not expect was the really good heat in the rest of July, August, September and October - but what we also had was drought - worst drought in 15 years and to this day we have not had rain at the vineyard since July 6th, so we are nearly 4 monthes without rain. Here is the other thing...we havent had a frost yet as of November 1st!! Crazy year to say the least.

Despite our best efforts to reduce crop load of both canes and fruit we noticed the Marechal Foch was not ripening as fast as the Leon side by side rows with the same crop load. Marechal Foch seemed to be less able to withstand the droughty conditions and by late September we noticed there was a 3 point gap between the Leon millot Brix and marechal Foch brix accumulation. - the Foch  vines were shutting down. As a result they were not going to reach an acceptable sugar content and tapped out at approximately 17 brix with a 15 to 19 brix spectrum depending on the location of vines in the vineyard.

So we will adapt our pruning and bud counts for future years, leaning for fewer canes but retaining more clusters that can be trimmed back if  similar condition prevail.

In the end, the L'Acadie and Evangeline were harvested October 2 and were at 18 and 19 brix respectively..pretty good all in all. We harvested the limited amounts of Leon Millo on October 10th at about 19 brix also, which was good...and yet we could have left those another week.

Some highlights were the new side netting and equipment worked excellent, the white grapes are comming on strong and the newly planted vines came through the drought ok as well. Already looking forward to next season!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

L'Acadie Blanc Has Arrived

 So we have had L'Acadie Blanc in the vineyard for over 10 years first planting it in the test vineyard to see how it would grow. It really has not grown well in that part of the vineyard and struggles with the low moisture in the very sandy and rocky soil. The additional hurdle of low nutrients in the soil there slowed its growth, even with ammendments.

What we did see from the test vineyard is that it is a very hardy vine, disease resistant and easily ripens the grapes in our climate. The draw back was that the clusters on the vines were small and often poorly filled with very low production per vines.

This vine is the queen of the white wine grape varieties in Nova Scotia and produces large crops that are made into wines of various styles that range in profiles form dry wine similar to sauvignon blanc, an off-dry that reminds one of chablis, to sparkling wines that are winning international awards. 

This vine is a favourite of our and despite the challenges experienced int he test vineyard, we took a bit of a chance and decided to plant a small lot of 1000 row feet in the new area in the vineyard where the soil is excellent, a silty sand with more nutirents and holds more moisture.  It worked out well and the vines have grown well in the new area. Last year, the 3rd years since we planted them, we were holping for a small crop but the late spring frost really knocked them back. 

This year we have a nice crop althought we are finding the vines tend to over bear on each shoot (often 4 clusters) and also push secondaries on nearly every node.  Note that the #1 and 2 clusters are often 100 grams, sometimes more. We pruned back to 5 shoots per foot of trellis and 2 clusters per shoot but will need to tinker with this going forward - maybe only 4 shoots per foot. 

We have a sizeable crop for year four and the grapes are ripening very well. As of October 10 they are about 14 brix. What we do know about this variety is it really accumulates sugar fast and should be in the high teens by the end of the month early October.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Shaping Up For A Late Harvest

 So as we approach the middle of September we do our first check on the ripeness of the grapes as that can give us an indication of when we may be harvesting. From the numbers we are seeing right now we can expect the harvest to be delayed as long a possible this year.

We generally harvest the first week of October as we often face a frost event around then. Some years the season extends a little longer and we can let the grapes hange and accumulate more sugar while dropping the acid and making a better sugar/acid balance. We are certainly hoping for the later this year as the current level of ripeness reflects the delayed season we have had from the onset. A later harvest would be welcomed.

Here are some of the Brix levels we have recorded for September 10.

  • Petitie Milo           13
  • L'Acadie Blanc         14
  • Castel                      14
  • Marechal Foch         13
  • Leon Millot           15
  • Evangeline           14
  • Vandal Cliche         14
  • Seigerrebe             14
  • Marechal Joffre       17
  • Sovereign Ruby       14

We had a cool and late year in 2020 an some of the number we recorded on September 13 of 2020 were,

  • Petite Milo         14
  • L'Acadie Blanc     13
  • Castel                  15   
  • Marechal Foch    14
  • Leon Millot          15
  • Evangeline            16
  • Vandal Cliche       14
  • Seigerrebe             15
  • Marechal Joffre       16
  • Sovereign Ruby      14
The numbers above for 2020 were taken three days later (September 13) and those three days can impact the sugar numbers, especially when its hot. So comparing the numbers gives us insite that we are on track for a similar year as 2020 and in that year we harvest on October 10.  We will be targeting for the same this year if not later if mother nature permits and the fall frost is delayed. Here is some of the grapes.

Here is three pictures of the Marechal Foch showing a big spectrum of ripeness from just turning (third from top picture) to faily ripe (top) depending on where they are located in the vineyard. And the classic tell that the grapes are getting ripe is the wasps are into them, the really like the Foch (fourth from top).

Leon Millot showing a similar spectrum higher percentage are more towards the fully ripe stage.

Castel as ripening nicely



Sunday, August 28, 2022

Netting The Grapes

The grapes are colouring up nice and accumulating the sugars. Nows the time the birds will be looking to get into the grapes.

The Castel and Leon Millot are just turning and we estimate we are 7-10 days behind normal. Grapes are looking good.


Leon Millot

Evangeline..from the 3 yr old vines.

We put out drape bird netting on most varieties but use side insect netting on the Evangeline as its both birds and wasps that like to snack on these ones.

Last year we also had skunks enjoying the Evangeline so the bottom wires have all been replaced with electric fencing wire and charged to disuade any critters from wanting to get under the vines.

Weve got a nice crop of L'Acadie comming along this year as the first large planting of those vines are starting to mature. We usually pick these just after the Evangeline and about1 weeks earlier than the reds but we are are going to let them hang this year and pick them just before the reds.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Hot and Dry

Each year is different and you see that some years start out very similar to other years gone by but things can change very quickly. This year was cool in May and June resulting in delayed flowering into the 2nd week of July for some varieties. And since then its been 4-5 weeks since weve had any measurable rain and on top of that its been the second hottest July we've recorded with several days in the 40c area.

The heat has been tough on the new vines as they do not have a big enough root structure to draw moisture and keep the leaves hydrated but they are doing ok and showing remarkable resiliancy. We've made several passes to remove weak, late, and 3 and 4th clusters to improve the overall ripeness of the crop we want to keep. Above you can seea 3rd cluster further along the cane that has now been removed.

The vines have caught up some what and despite the lack of rain the mature vines are doing well and the grape development is pretty good. As of the beginning of August we were already seeing some clusters approaching bunch closure (Aug 5 photo) and we are probably 7-10 days away from veraison and that means we'll be netting soon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Grapes Are Looking Good

 Mid summer and the end of July finds us in a good but bad situation.

The good news is the grapes have pretty much never looked better. Big full clusters, no sign of fungi, very healthy vines and tremendous growth in the heat weve had the past 3 weeks.

On the other hand we were 7-10 days late in flowering and the grape development is about 1 week behind. 

Question is do we have enough heat and long enough season to get the grapes to an acceptable ripeness?

Of course we can predict that outcome but if we have a bit of an extended fall..even for a few days and the heat continues we can make up for some of the early season delay.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Summer - Better Late Than Never

Well following an uninspiring cool spring we entered summer but without the heat. The heat is now here having arrived the second week of July with temps in the +30c area.

Although all the vines are at least 7-10 days late we are now seeing remarkable growth and grape clusters growing very fast. And wow...first time in several years there is no forest fire smoke in mid-July, or nearby forest fires.

Weve been tieing and tucking canes the last few days and canes that were too short to tie are growing fast enough that they were long enough to tie up the next day.

Marechal Foch and Leon Millot look good, in fact everything looks good so far. Foch below.

Oddly we were propegating Evangeline and some Vandal Cliche outdoors and the cool wet weather in spring caused most of the canes, particularly the Vandal Cliche, to rot or push shoots then was that cool and wet.

The growth on the new planting of vines put out last fall and this spring is comming along slowly and the heat should now help to bring the vines into some significant growth.