Friday, December 10, 2010

Sunset Ridge Vineyard in Nakusp

There are others in the Arrow Lakes valley that have a keen interest in viticulture and the best example of this that I know is the Sunset Ridge Vineyard in Nakusp (see link on the links section of the blog). Sunset Ridge is a bed and breakfast run by the Scott family in Nakusp and they have established a small vineyard on their property. The vineyard is approximately 1 acre with just a little less than that planted at this time.

The owner, Jody Scott has had an interest in growing grapes for sometime and while there was really no other vineyard template to follow in this area he has shown he can grow very nice grapes.  He quickly found that the area around Nakusp and the Arrow Lakes Valley would be classified as cool climate viticulture. Scott did some research on cool climate viticulture and found some interesting results from grape vine trials being conducted in Washington State near Mt. Vernon. He also spoke to industry experts on Vancouver Island (also a cool climate viticulture zone) and decided on some varieties of grape vines to try at his location.

He planted his first vines in 2007, these were Marechal Foch and Seigerrebe and has since added several varieties to his vineyard including;
-Foch (own rooted,planted in 2007,2008)
-Siegerrebe (own rooted, planted 2007,2010)
-Pinot Noir ( various early clones ,(own rooted 777 and 777 on rootstock 101-14, clone 667 on 3309,clone Pinot noir Precoce on SO4 for vigor),planted 2007,2008,2009.
-Pinot Gris(on 3309) planted 2008
-Gewurztraminer(on 3309) planted 2008.
-Auxerrois (own rooted)planted 2008.
-St. Laurent (own rooted) 2008.
-Gamay (own rooted) 2008
-Zwiegelt (on 101-14,SO4)2009
-Ortega ( own rooted,on 101-14,SO4) 2009.
-Chardonnay(own rooted)2010.
-Cab Libra (0n 101-14)2008.
-Labelle (own rooted,on 101-14)
-48-05-83 (own rooted ,101-14)
-Petit Milo ( on SO4)2009.

As you can see from the pictures below, his vineyard is doing great. In the spring of 2010, Scott took specialized courses in viticulture through the Okanagan College, where he received a Certificate in Vineyard Management. A introductory level course of vineyard management is comming to Nakusp in March 2011 (click here for details).

Scott believes his degree day accumulation falls between 875 and 1000 and extrapolates this from local and regional data sources. These are conservative estimates and the degree days may be up to 10% more than this. The rainfall at this location is approximately 12-14 inches between April 1st and September 30th and the frost free days are estimated at between 150 and 160 days.

He pulled his first crop of Marechal Foch and Seigerrebe in September 15th, 2009. The Foch had a brix of 22 and ph of 3.2 and the Seigerrebe came in with brix of 20 and ph of 3.7. This year was much cooler and later and the Foch was picked a month later on October 16th at a brix of 20 and ph of 3.3 while Seigerrebe was picked ten days later on September 25th at brix of 19 and ph of 3.2.

In the next few years Scott will be getting a clearer picture of how the other varieties perform at his location.
Scott believs there is potential for expanded viticulture in the Arrow Lakes valley from Nakusp on through to Edgewood (60 km south of Nakusp). Recently Scott and Jerry Botti of Burton (25km south of Nakusp) pioneered the Arrow Lakes Grape Growers Society (ALGGS) to provide a forum for those interested in viticulture in this area to collect and share ideas. The ALGGS is also looking to conduct research by way of further grape vine trials in the region and to define the climate in general in this area as well as variations in climate with the valley region.

Jody Scott can be contacted about the Arrow Lakes Grape Growers Society at;   jbscott(at)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Viticulture Course in Nakusp - March 2011

The Selkirk College in collaboration with Okanagan College are offering a five (5) day course on vineyard management practices.  This introductory level course titled "Cool Climate Viticulture: An Introduction" is being held March 30th-April 3, 2011 (Wednesday to Sunday) 9 am - 4 pm at Selkirk College in Nakusp. 
Contact: Chris Faint (Coordinator, Selkirk College) at 250-265-4077 for further details.

This course will cover the topics of;
*The Grapevine - Grapevine phenology. Annual growth cycle of the vine. Stages of development.
*Grape Varieties & Rootstocks - Species of vines for viticulture. Popular grape varieties, their characteristics and strengths and weaknesses. Considerations when selecting a rootstock. Grafting.
*Vineyard Year - The major vineyard tasks from a management perspective.
*Site Establishment & Propagation - Cool climate considerations and its effect on the vineyard. Site selection. Preparing a site. Methods of propagating grape vines.
*Pruning & Trellising - Aims, timing and principles of pruning. Types of pruning systems. Determining yield through pruning. Choice of training and trellising systems.
*Soils & Nutrition - Suitable soil characteristics for viticulture. Soil nutrition and fertility. Soil management. Cover crop management. Grapevine nutrition.
*Irrigation - Principles of irrigation
*Canopy Management - Canopy microclimate. Canopy management techniques including shoot thinning, bunch thinning and leaf plucking. Assessing the canopy.
*Pest & Diseases - Major pest and diseases affecting grape vines and methods of prevention and control.
*Wine Quality - How quality wines start in the vineyard. Methods of harvesting. Analysis of grape composition and quality.

Field Trip to a local vineyard in Nakusp

Cost: $649 per person

The course is usually offered over a period of several weeks in Kelowna or Penticton this makes attending this course difficult for those who live in the interior.  This is the first time such a course has been offered in Nakusp so if you are at all interested in this topic, or starting your own backyard or commercial vineyard, you absolutely should not miss this course.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 Growing Season Snap Shot - Cold Year

The year started off warm in April but checking bud survival rates found the Leon Millot at about 35-40% and the Ravat 34 at about 90-95%.  While the winter had not been very cold, the hard frost (-9) in early October 2009 did much damage to the buds that were not yet into dormancy.  The canes did ok on both the Leon Millot and the Ravat 34.

The vines started budding out the first week of May, however cold weather was in store for May (average 11 c) and the vines really didn't budge much more until the second or third week with bud break officially May 21/22.  Unfortunately this was followed with an unseasonal cold and frost to -3 and -2 on the nights of May 24/25th consecutively.  This killed off the few Leon Millot buds that we had and most of the Ravat 34 buds as well and virtually no crop this year on them.

June (average 15.4) was also cool and while flowering usually takes place the last week of June, it didn't start until the 7th of July.  Normal temperatures from then on would then place harvest for the Leon Millot at about September 30th and the Ravat at about October 5.

While temperatures improved in July (18.5 average) and August (19.0 average), the night time lows were lower than normal and averaged in the 7-9 degree range.  This dampened the growth in the nights and would serve to push back the expected maturation of the grapes later into October.  There was virtually no rain from July 7th until August 8th however, the vines did well.  Much need rain came in August and sporadic rain into September was all the vines required.  The rain from May 1st to September 30th was about 11-12 inches, with most of it at the front end of the season (8 inches in May and June). 

September was average (13.0 average) and we experienced moderate heat in the day and average day night temperatures for our site.  However, while the nights were again cooler than normal it did not set the matuaration back further than what was already expected.  We also received over 2 inches of rain this month.

The grapes were tested on the 24th of September and both the Ravat and Leon Millot were showing brix in the 14 range.  Target levels for Leon Millot is 20-22 brix and ravat is 18-20 brix.  These varieties accumulate their sugars quickly then level off and this means they needed at least another week to get to minimum sugar levels in the 17-18 brix range.  A few notes here about the Ravat 34, even at 14 brix, this variety was beginning to show varietal flavours.  Also, when nearly all varieties across the Okanagan suffered noteable damage to primary buds due to the early freeze in October 2009, the Ravat 34 came through with virtually no damage.  This alone is remarkable see photo on left;

As is turns out, the next three weeks were quite nice and there was another 30-35 degree days accumulated in October until the hard frost hit on October 15th.  This frost is about 2 weeks later than we normally expect (October 1st). From May first till the hard frost in October we accumulated about 870 degree days at 10c base, this is our coolest year yet.  All across the Okanagan and interior of BC the conditions were less than optimum for growing grapes in 2010.  Talking to one commercial grower they say they have not had such a poor year since the 1980's.  Another grower picked their Pinot Noir at 21 brix on Sept 25 last year and at 18 brix this year on October 15th.  While it is not nice for anyone in the business of vinticulture to experience a poor growing year, this year proved valuable for us to see how the varieties would make out in a below normal year.  Hope that this is as below normal as it get for our site.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Planting Grape Vines in Spring or Fall

All of our vines we have started from cuttings. They are usually 2 or 3 bud cuttings about 8" to 14" long. We have had great success with propagating the vines this way in the spring. We've even started vines with 1 bud cutting no more than 1.5"-2" long with some success. However, once the vines are growing well and the roots are taking hold in the 4" x 4" propagation pots, the next step is to decide when to plant the vines into the ground.

We've planted our grape vines in the spring and in the fall. Those we have planted in the spring are transplanted from the propagation pots to the vineyard when the soil and air temperature are warm and frost danger has passed. We do this usually in June. These vines have to be nurtured and you have to ensure they are kept watered, weed free, pest and animal free and to add nutrients as they need them. By the end of the season they usually have grown several feet if not 5 or 6 feet high. Many have reached the fruit wire height of 5 feet by the end of the season. However, we often get enough cane die-back in these first year vines to knock them back to the ground or within a foot of it. The following year they send out new shoots from the base or from buds that survived near the base and these will make cordon height by mid summer.

We've also planted vines in the fall, usually mid to late September when the vines would be headed towards dormancy. In this case we transfer the vines from the propagation pots to larger 1 gallon pots in the spring. We grow them in the 1 gallon pot all summer and this way we can control the growth a little better as we know exactly how much water they are getting, we can easily keep all weeds and pests away, and we can control the nutrients as we know exactly how much is reaching the roots. In the fall we plant the vines out in the vineyard and they will have a huge root ball by then that is too tight from being confined to the 1 gallon pot. So as we plant it in the hole we stretch out the root ball a bit. In the spring we find that the canes die back to the ground or close to the ground. However, because of the massive root ball the vine has, we have seen that these vines usually have excellent growth in the spring on the one main shoot (trunk) that we allow to grow.

Perhaps the greatest reason for us to plant in the fall is that there is a cost saving on the irrigation equipment if we do a fall planting and a uniformity in growth of the vines the following year. Right now in the experimental vineyard we have a drip style irrigation system that works ok but some plants receive more water than others. With growing the vines in the pots all summer they can be watered with a garden hose very quickly when it is needed, they all get the same amount of water, and there is virtually no cost to this. Those that are planted in the spring and irrigated have variations in their vigor and growth rate due to differences in nutrients and water they are getting. (better irrigation equipment and nutrient/soil management would help this).

We have not needed to irrigate our second year vines as they establish a large enough root system in the first year to support a single primary shoot in the second year. We also seem to get enough rain at our site to supply their needs over the summer. I believe this summer from May 1st to September 30th we have received about 10-12 inches, about the same as in 2009, maybe a bit less. Therefore, we've found that if you grow the vines in pots all summer then transfer them to the vineyard in the fall, we have not needed to irrigate those vines at all and we get better, more uniform and more vigorous growth the following spring.

The first vines we planted were Leon Millot in the fall of 2008 after growing them in pots all summer. We have not had to irrigate them to date and they are healthy and vigorous.

This last method (fall planting from large pots) is mentioned in the Organic Grape Grower, (see the links list on the blog), and this is where we got the idea to try it for our site. After three years of experimenting we're starting to see what works, what works well, and what doesn't. Planting 1 year old vines in the fall at our site works well.

see our most recent blog on this topic here

Friday, October 1, 2010

L'Acadie Blanc grape and wine

This is truely an amazing grape. It was created in Canada in 1953 by O. Bradt at the horticultural research station at Vineland Ontario. In the early days it was only known as V53261 and was the result of a cross of Cascade (Seibel 13053) and Seyve-villard 14-287 (This same cross resulted in a sister seedling known as Veeblanc or V53263).

The vine was relatively successful in the trials in Ontario with the resulting wine quality being good to very good. However, in those days productivity was a critical factor and while V53261 was a good producer it did not measure up to what was being sought at that time.

The vine also showed excellent cold hardy properties (-31c), disease resistance and early maturity, requiring about 950 degree days of heat and 135-140 frost free days. With these marginal grape growing parameter, the vine was sent to the Kentville, Nova Scotia Agriculture Canada testing station for further evaluation.
Photo Reference Link

In testing in Kentville the V53261 was found to preform well after winters with -30c conditions doing significantly better than Seyval Blanc in side by side comparisons. The vine was also found to produce quality fruit with lower acidity and better chemistry balance than Seyval in summers with fewer than 900 degree days of heat. Over 18 years of testing this variety as averaged 18.5 brix with TA of 10.5 g/L, with average degree days of 982 c. The vine was found to suit the growing conditions of Nova Scotia quite well and was so names L'Acadie Blanc.

While the short growing season, good productivity, disease resistance, and cold hardiness are good reasons to try this vine. the most compelling reason is the amazing wine that this variety makes (See this link for more detail). It is virtually unknown outside of Nova Scotia but those who have tried it including yours truly can say that this grape makes an exception wine in the hands of a good winemaker.

I've tried several, Jost Vineyard makes a beauty with some residual sugar, somewhat reminiscent of chablis. Domaine de Grande Pre makes an excellent dry L'Acadie. Gaspereau Vineyards also makes a dry L'Acadie and like the other two noted it is very good as well. Other Nova Scotia wineries like L'Acadie Vineyard and Benjamin Bridge are now winning awards for crafting this grape as a sparkling wine.

This is truly a versatile, and an excellent grape vine and it is a shame that it is not offered in the liquor stores in the prairie provinces. I brought a few bottles of the Jost L'Acadie back with me from Nova Scotia on my last trip. We served it at a group wine tasting and in side by side comparisons against a nice BC Chardonnay and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the L'Acadie won hands down, was everyone's favorite.

We planted a few L'Acadie Blanc vines in the test vineyard to see how they work out in our climate and conditions. We really like this one and are hoping it grows well.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Zweigelt or Zweigeltrebe

This is a grape of Austrian origin having been crossed by a fellow by the name of Fritz Zweigelt in the early 1920's. The vine is a cross of Blaufrankisch and St. Laurent. The vine is a very heavy producer and can crop at 5-6 tons per acre.

references suggest that this vine has late bud break and is relatively early ripening, a few days before Pinot Noir and a week after Regent. The vine is also reported by some who grow it (Peter Salonius and Paul Troop) to have some practical mild disease resistance to the common mildews and is relatively cold hardy to approximately -20c. The grapes from the vine is also reported to make very good wine and the Zweigelt I've tried from Arrow Leaf cellars in BC is quite good - of course this is subject to the skill of the winemaker and quality of grapes.

We've got a few Zweigelt vines planted at the test vineyard now after acquiring some cuttings from Paul Troop of Omega Vines (see links on the blog) in the spring of 2010. In general the vines are strong and vigorous, and we'll see how they make out the winter and bud out next year.

This vine is suited for only the best location at our site with the longest frost free days and greatest accumulation of degree days. This would be on the upper bench which is about 100 feet above the test vineyard. The upper bench appears to average about 10 percent more degree days. Our test vineyard seems to be averaging about 140-145 frost free days and 900-950 degree days so it could be extrapolated that the upper bench has about 1000-1050 degree days and perhaps a slightly longer frost free season.

This frost free days and degree days status of the test vineyard is likely not enough for this variety based on trials at Mt. Vernon, Washington where 1000 degree days is recommended. Also, a grower in New Brunswick gets about 900 degree days and 140 frost free days and it barely ripens most years. As such, I've planted one of the Zweigelt vines on the upper bench and will use that to compare the growth stages with that of those in the test vineyard. Going to add a few of the other varieties up there as well (Castel and perhaps transplant one of the Pinot Noir as well) again to see the difference in growth stages between those on the upper bench and those in the test vineyard.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Clearing of the Land - Changing Mesoclimate

In this past spring we cleared out approximately 0.5 acre to open up the area around the vineyard. There were several reasons for this. First the larger opening in the forest should foster a higher degree day accumulation in the vineyard. Secondly it would allow the cool air that gets trapped behind the trees to drain away from the vineyard. Lastly it would provide more morning sun, as the tree to be cleared were those to the east of the vineyard.

We cleared the trees at the end of April and we were finally able to see the lay of the land around the test vineyard. To our surprise we found out that the area of the test vineyard in in a small low spot and is prone to cold air accumulations in spring and fall - naturally this is my luck. This also means that the larger opening we created now provides a greater area to drain cold air into this low spot that the vineyard is in and heightens the frost potential.

So now we were faced with trying to eliminate the amount of cold air that flows off the mountain side and settles in the large opening surrounding the vineyard. There are a few measures that can be taken to mitigate this. First, we have cleared the rest of the trees out to the edge of the valley drop off, about another 0.5 acre. The bench that the vineyard sits on is approximately 100-120 feet above the lower valley below. Clearing these trees out has changed the movement of air dramatically. If you stand at the low end of the clearing at the edge of the valley drop off after the sun goes down you can feel the rush of wind moving down the valley and through the vineyard and the clearing and over the edge to the valley below. Clearing the cool air away is a good start.

The picture below is of the valley below the Lower Bench in winter. You can see the warm air fog that has formed in the middle because the cold air is filling in the low area. The Lower Bench that the test vineyard is on is to the left of and 100-120 feet above the road. There is another bench, the Upper Bench, which is separated by a gravel road and it is another 100-120 feet above the Lower Bench (see image below).

Next we want to limit how much cold air enters the vineyard and the clearing. So we are planting a large wind break hedge at the upper end of the vineyard clearing to deflect the cool air that otherwise flows down the mountain and enters the vineyard. This will take a few years to grow and to have some effect but in the interim we are discussing erecting a mesh or wood wind break to do the same thing. The one we build will not be as high as the tree hedge but should help deflect the cool air to some degree.

We placed temperature data loggers down slope from the vineyard towards the valley drop off and have found that the area just down slope from the vineyard (but out of the low spot that the vineyard is in) registers between 0.0 - 0.5 degree warmer each night. Also, a second data logger placed near near the bottom of the slope registers between 0.5 - 1.0 degrees warmer than the vineyard for overnight lows. Another placed in a clearing on the lower valley bench registers night temperatures 0.5 degrees colder than the vineyard. It appears that allowing the cold air to drain away provides warmer night temperatures in the vineyard but in addition there may be some warm air funneling into the clearing from the bottom end of the slope as it rises up from the valley below.

We have recorded similar but more dramatic readings when we placed a data logger on another part of our property. This area is a smaller bench that is approximately 100 feet above the vineyard. The data logger at this level has consistently recorded night time lows that are 2.5 degrees warmer than at the vineyard location in June, July, and August - no winter records have been taken.

While it is nice to see these warmer night time temperatures at different locations on the property, where we'd really like to see them is in the test vineyard. With out getting into wind machines or artificial heating of the air the best we can do to reduce cold air in the low spot of the test vineyard is to provide a place for the cold air to go. Also we can to try to limit how much cold air enters that area. Clearing the land for air drainage and creating a wind break hedge to deflect cold air should help with these.

At the same time we know that if the vines grow well in the test vineyard, then climatically speaking they should grow great in the other warmer locations.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Kootenay Covers Netting for the Grapes

Its all but certain that sometime some birds are going to find out that there are grapes ripening in the vineyard. We've got several varieties of grapes growing that are both subject to attack by birds and insects (waspes in particular). As such, we were looking for a vine cover that both protects from birds and wasps but also allows the sunlight through so the grapes can ripen. See photos below,

We researched many potential grape covers and there are some that both protect against birds and insects and let sufficient light through (over 90%) but we discovered a locally designed cover through Kootenay Covers
Kootenay covers makes covers for grape vines and fruit trees and their product protects from birds and insects and lets signifiucant light through. I don't have figures on how much light goes through this product but it is substantial and I'd estimate between 85%-95% of the light goes through.
One of the hopes with this product is that it may provide a small degree of frost protection at the end of the season. Even 1 degree of frost protection can make a huge difference in staving off that first frost and allowing the grapes to ripen perhaps another week.

We deployed the netting in late August and did some preliminar tests on the overnight temperature profile between the covered row and the uncovered row beside it. We checked the temperatures hourly after sunset until about 11 pm / midnight and found that overnight lows were the same for the covered row and uncovered row except that the neeted row stayed warmer (1-2 degrees) longer into the night then drops off fast and equals out to the uncovered row after 11pm.

We'll do some more testing as the frost season approaches and report back. So far we really like the covers. They appear to be very durable, easy to deploy and the cost was significantly less than other similar products. Check out this link to Kootnay Covers.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cool Nights in August

As of late August the data logger shows we're having cool evenings at the vineyard. Nights are averaging around 9 degrees for lows. We even had a 3.8 low on the 24th of August. Kelowna had the same at 3.7. The grapes and vines are doing well but ripen slowly. There has been about 1 inch of rain since July 25th but the vines are healthy.

The Ravat 34 continues to do well (pictures below) and on track for end of September harvest.

The Leon Millot is also doing well but some vines have much more vigourous growth than others. The Agria has come along well in the last month since pinching off the laterals, with most of the vines at the 4 foot level and all the vines survived (picture below). The regent is slow but a few more vines showed growth and there are now 7 of the original 14 vines that are alive.

The Castel planted this year are doing well, many are up beyond the 5 foot wire (picture below).

The Blattners look good also especially the Cabernet Libre, as they have caught up and passed the growth of the Petitie Millot and the Cab-Foch. The ortega are slow, poor growth as are the Pinot noir.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grape Update

July has been fairly close to normal in temperature. Days have been averaging 28c for highs but nights have been a bit cool averaging about 8c, which is about 2 degrees below normal. We're on track for an 18c average and if the nights were averaging 10 degrees (normal) we'd have a 19 monthly average. There has been plenty of moisture up until early July but little rain since. Having said that there is still good moisture in the soil at about 4-6 inches below the surface and beyond. The cool nights also dramatically increase the humidity (logger shows in the 80%-90% level) and this moisture in the air and that which collects on the vines is obviously helpful to the plants. I think it helps them rehydrate after the hot dry day and lowers how much water the vines lose at night to the air (transpiration).

The Ravat is doing well and clusters set fruit well. All the vines are at the 5 foot fruit wire and many shoots are several feet beyond that. These long shoots will be the cordon for next year. Here is a picture of the Ravat grapes and vines;

The Leon Millot looks ok, some vines are very vigorous and others not about 50/50. I did some vine pruning to limit shoots to the main one and eliminate laterals to force growth into the primary shoot.

The Agria are comming along they are slow but look healthy. Having said that there is some bug that just loves to munch on the primary shoot and in doing so it stops the upward growth and the vine sends out multiple laterals - think its a caterpillar or grasshopper. Many of the vines look like little shrubs instead. Have done some pruning on this again to try to correct this and bring the primary shoot around so it will grow up to the fruit wire.

The ortega again are lacking vigor. The blattners look ok, with Petite Millot and Cabernet Foch doing well. The Cabernet Libra less vigorous and one plant died over winter.

The Pinot Noir (115) did remarkably well. They were really planted in the worst of conditions and I would have been surprised if a few of the 10 plants survived. Having said that there are 7 of the original 10 vines that are growing. Slow growth, but growing

The Regent did the worst of all only 5 of the 14 vines survived winter and the growth this year is slow. Will try to get some long canes and layer in the spots where the vines died off.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Interesting Vine - Honey Suckle?

Was wandering through the forest on the property and found this beautiful vine and flowers growing up a tree. Not grapes but interesting to see it growing in the midst of a dark forest with thick canopy overhead. I think it is a wild honey suckle.
It is heplful to find this plant and match it to a plant hardiness zone as this provides insight into the long term climate of the area. I had estimated the plant hardiness zone at the vineyard site as 5A to 5B based on the Plant Hardiness Zones of Canada Map. I found a reference to this Honeysuckle vine that grows in the interior of British Columbia in plant hardiness zone 5. Also the plant hardiness zone map noted above list some plant species common to different zones. In 5A Oregon Grape (holly) is common and we find alot of it at our site as well. So we are likely in zone 5A to 5B and these zones can experience winter lows between -29c and -23c. This knowledge is important for choosing what varieties of grape to grow. So far we've experience winter lows of -19c (2007/2008), -25c (2008/2009), and -20c (2009/2010).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Grapes are Late

We are cold at the experimental vineyard so far this year, and cold means late. The cold also had a terrible impact on the developing buds in late May. In an earlier blog I wrote about the -2 to -3 temperature we had in late May. Well that pretty much killed off the emerging buds and now only a few primary buids made it the rest are secondary buds on both the Ravat 34 and the Leon Millot. Good news is that some of the secondary buds produced clusters. You can see in the picture of Ravat 34 below, the dark reminant of the primary bud and the shoot from the secondary bud with a small cluster on it.

Here is a picture of one of a few shoots where the primary bud made it. Two clusters, Nice flowers.

The earliest Ravat clusters are just flowering so this is about 10 days late. Given a 90 day maturity for these grapes, at best, harvest would be about September 31st/October 1st.

The growth on the Ravat and Leon Millot is good (Ravat more even than the LM) and a few of the vines have already reached the 5 foot fruit wire.

As for the other varieties in the trial, the Agria is doing well with 17 of 18 plants comming back. The 5 ortega vines are growing but again very poor vigour. The Petite Millot looks very good, strong and healthy on all six plants, even budding out from last years cane, pretty much the same for the Cabernet Foch but not as vigorous. The Cabernet Libre had only 4 of 6 plants survive. The Regent had only 5 of 14 plants survive and 5 of 10 of the Pinot Noir survived. Now this is what is visible as of July 1st/2nd and some of the vines showed emerging shoots that were only a week or so old so it is possible that the others that appear lifeless may yet be alive and send up a shoot or two.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cold May

Well this was quite possibly the warmest winter on record for this region and a wonderful warm April (average 8.0 and a low of -5.6). December was the coldest month with a average of -6.5 and a low of -20. Our January was warm with an average of -0.5 with the coldest recorded temp of -9. February average was 1.9 with a low of -6. March average was 3.7 also with a low of -6. May on the other hand has been cold and there has been little growth since the end of April. If the warm weather of April had continued on into May we would have had bud break around May 5-7th but the cold came and it was delayed until approximately May 16-18th at the end of a week of really nice if not hot weather. Between May 12 and may 15th we had day time highs between 27 c and 31 c. The buds pushed and were leafing out but then between May 21 and May 24 we had night time lows of -1.4 to -2. The frost that came with the cold damaged some of the emerging shoots but not too severely.

This is the coldest May in the three years I've been recording. 2008 May average was 13.45, 2009 May was 12.0 and for 2010 it is 11.4. But the day time highs have been normal averaging around 21, it is just that the lows have been way below normal. However, the cold has not been just our site. In fact the entire region has been under this cold spell. Here are some local weather stations with their normal May average and the 2010 May average.

Salmon Arm___13.0_______11.9

Were hoping for a quick turn around in this weather but the two week advanced forecast puts the temperatures at average if not just below average to June 14th. At this rate we wont have flowering until the end of June.

As for the vines budding out. The Ravat 34 is doing excellent. Probably about 90-95% bud survival rate and as of May 24th some of the buds were opening enough to show the flower clusters. So the buds appear to be fruitful. The next warm spell should bring them out so we can get a good look. On the other hand the Leon Millot did quite poorly this winter. These vines are in the row next to the Ravat with same soil structure and temperature profile that the Ravat is subject too. However, as of the end of last season the growth of the Ravat was more uniform and where as there were some Leon Millot vine that showed very vigorous growth will other were moderate. All the Leon Millot vines have live buds, some more than others.

In checking the buds to see which were live many were brown and dead but the cane was green and healthy. The winter lows were only -20 this past year so I don't believe the winter cold caused much damage however, the cold snap of October 6th, 2009 may have done some damage. These vines were just at the stage of shutting down and we would have harvested the grapes at the end of September. The cold snap in October was -9 and I think this weakened or killed many of the buds. Any that were weakened may have further died off with the winter low of -20 in December. As such we had about a 40% survival rate.

I recently read that Road 13 vineyard experienced some bud damage as a result of the October cold snap (see the January 29, 2010 posting) and there were similar reports from vineyards just south of the border (see link). What is also interesting is that my Joffre (sister vine to Leon Millot and from the same hybrid cross) also suffered great bud damage as a result of a cold snap of -12 we experienced in Edmonton in October 2009. None of the Joffre cuttings I took budded out.

We'll train the new Leon Millot canes up to the 5 foot high fruit wire and see what happens next year.

The five Ortega vines also are sending out shoots but they are very low in vigor and perhaps do not like the soil or site. I've heard they take a bit longer to establish but by the end of this year (3) we should have some decent growth so we'll watch how this one makes out this year.

As for the Blattners, Agria, Regent, and Pinot Noir, they are all coming into their second year. Most of them have poor bud survival from last years canes but there are new shoots coming from the base of the vines. This is not unusual for first year vines to send out new shoots from the base. As such the Petite Milo looks good lots of shoots emerging. The Cabernet Foch is tentative with a few of the plants showing growth and the Cabernet Libre has no visible shoots as yet. The Regent is slow and only a few plants are showing emerging buds or shoots. The Agria is doing the best of all for these and about half of the plants are sending up new shoots. What is particularly interesting is that they have come through the frost events better than most. As for the Pinot Noir there is no shoots as yet and I believe that many of the plants may not have made the winter -we will see.

Castel 19637 Grape

Many people have not heard of this grape but it has been cultivated as a red French-American hybrid for decades. Castel 19637 or Castel which is it's common name, is a cross between Cinsaut x V. rupestris.

Cinsaut itself is a high producer and can make an excellent wine (good blog details at this link - fun wine blog). In South Africa Cinsaut is also known as Hermitage and it was crossed with Pinot Noir to make Pinotage (Pinot Noir + Hermitage = Pinotage) Hence the name.

The Castel vine is also highly productive and has been reported up top 6 tons per acre. It is recommended for the shorter season areas of British Columbia and rated well in a variety trial held on Vancouver Island in the late 1980's (link - see The Duncan Project). Over the 5 years that grapes were harvested in this study the average Brix was 24, PH was 3.12, and the TA was 1.27. The five year average degree days accumulation was 900 from April to October. These are great numbers for such low degree day accumulations and are similar to the numbers that have been observed from this variety in trials in Minnisota which recorded Brix 23.9°, 3.05 pH, and 10.3 g/l of acidity. The comments on the wine from the Duncan Project were "red, intense colour, full body, attractive, earthy flavour, hybrid character, acidity." It is also widely grown in Denmark.
It has excellent cold hardiness to -30 c and disease resistance against Powdery Mildew and Downy Mildew. It ripens in the same period as Leon Millot about 85-90 days from flowering to harvest. This variety is said to be excellent for the back yard grower as well as the commercial vineyard and is quite easy to manage. It can be trained to several styles including VSP or hanging curtain.

This variety is made into sevaral different syles including rose, fruity red and a complex big wine. The Castel I've tasted from Domaine de Grande Pre and Gaspereau Vineyards in Nova Scotia were both excellent and are very similar to Pinotage I've had from the Soljans Estate, New Zealand. Zanatta Winery and Cherry Point Vineyard on Vancouver Island both harvest this grape. Zanatta uniquely blends it with Cabernet Sauvignon to make champagne they call "Taglio Rosso" (Brut) and Cherry Point makes a varietal from Castel that they call "Forte". Here is a link to someone who has tasted the Cherry Point Castel

Here are some more links to information about this variety.
Castel link
Castel link

Friday, May 28, 2010

Clearing the Land - Frost Pocket

We had the land cleared around th existing vineyard spot in late April and to our surprise we found that the vineyard test spot is actually located in a small low area. So actually clearing the trees here will have a negative effect as it will allow all the cool air from the area recently cleared to pool at night in the vineyard. April was preety warm and the last week or so the vines were about a week from bud break if the weather were to stay the same.

As it happens, the spring and specifically the month of May has been the coolest of those recorded. Significantly so that the the vines as of May 25th were just slightly into bud break and we have had some tremendous variations in temperatures. Mid may we hit 31 degrees high and on the night of May 23th we had a low of -2 with obvious frost that cuased damage.

What is particularly interesting is that I took separate reading from separate data loggers on the 23rd, 24th , and 25th of May to capture the night time lows at the 6" height level and at the 4'6" height level. Here is the night time lows recorded for a few of the dates at the different heights.

Height___ 6"___ 4'6"
May 23 ___-3____ -2
May 24 ___0_____ 2.4
May 25 ___0_____ 2.6

The higher elevation the warmer it is and one or two degrees can make a huge difference. Many vines in the early bud break stage can withstand a -2 low but not a -3 low. This is why a higher fruit wire cordon can bennefit the vines in a area that is prone to frosts.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Treatment of Cuttings Propagation Results

Last fall I took cuttings from my Acadie Blanc and Marechal Joffre in preparation for propagation this spring. Now as these plants originated from cuttings that came from Nova Scotia, the CFIA wanted me to treat these cuttings to ensure that there is no pest on them when I move them to BC.
I took the cuttings in late fall and they appeared good. However, when I took them out of cold storage they were very dry. I probably did not wrap them in enough damp paper towel an they dried out a bit over the 3 months they were in storage.
In early March two CFIA agents came to my house and watched as I put the cuttings through a hot water treatment. Basically the cuttings are immersed in a hot water bath for 5 minutes at about 43 Celsius then they are transferred and immersed in a second bath for 5 minutes at 52 Celsius.
After the treatment I let them sit in water for 24 hours to rehydrate some them planted them in 50/50 peat moss-pearlite mixture. They sat in a climate controlled room at about 10 degree celcius air temperature and on top of a warming mat that kept the root zone at about 26 Celsius.
After 6 weeks none of the Joffre cuttings showed any signs of life and two of the Acadie cuttings did bud out however, they both died a few weeks later.
Now that the vines that the cuttings came from are budding out I see where some of the problem came from. There are only a few Joffre buds on the original plants coming out and they are secondary buds. The Acadie has a few buds on the mother vine coming out but most are dead.
I think that the canes were damaged with the quick hard cold snap that occurred in early October. The temperature dropped over a few days from the mid 20's to minus 12. Also, with the Joffre this vine has a tendency to continue to grow vigorously late into the fall when it should be going dormant.
The result is that the cuttings that were treated did not produce any plants. I don't think the propagation results were negatively impacted by the hot water treatment of the cuttings. I think the cuttings were damaged when I took them in the fall and further deteriorated as i did not keep them moist enough.
Oh well, I will probably try this again this fall.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Regent Grape

Quite possibly you may never have heard of this grape before. I found out about it a few years back while researching disease resistant early red grape varieties. This one was developed a few decades back in Germany by crossing a vinifera variety Dianna, with a hybrid Chambourcin. The result was a red grape that showed tremendous disease resistance and ripens in about 95 days (bloom to harvest). It has been recommended for those short season vineyards where disease resistance is a priority. I have been in touch with the owner of Hollywood Hills vineyard on the west coast and he has been growing Regent for 10 years. He says he has never had to spray this variety and like other accounts, it ripens in about 95 days. (Link to his blog - it is excellent and worth a look). Given the humidity of the area that seems pretty impressive. The grape trials at Mt. Vernon in Washington have also tested this grape and found it can ripen in about 1700-1800 degree days F and ripens about a 7-10 days after Castel 19637 (another excellent disease resistant, cold hardy, early, hybrid)

I haven't found much details about its cold hardy properties but have read a few notations here and there on the net from people who grow Regent (another good blog) and have said it is hardy to about -13 to -14 F. That is about -25 c. Another document says Regent is hardy to about -5 to -10 F, that is about -20 to -23 C. Peter Salonius who grows this variety in New Brunswick recommends covering this vine if you expect winter cold below - 20 c. (He also lists it as being mid-season for his locatiopn which gets about 900 ddg C or 1650 ddg F on average). So perhaps using this more conservative number -20 C or -5 F could be used as the bench mark. We had about -20 c as the coldest day this past winter at our site so we'll be able to test that on the taller canes that were sticking out above the snow.

What I have also found out is that it apparently makes excellent wine. There are several accounts of this and the fact that the German acreage of this variety has grown from about 400ha in 2000, to just over 2100ha in 2007 is proof that this grape has excellent qualities beyond the disease resistance. It apparently has the ability to reach good sugar accumulations and excellent chemistry for making wine. One German study over a five year found it was superior to Pinot Noir in this respect. Germany's wine authorities have even labeled this grape as being vinifera due to the excellent qualities of the Regent grape and the fact that it has so little non-vinifera genes in its ancestry.

While I have not yet tasted a Regent varietal wine, Hollywood Hills as mentioned above is making it as such. What I have read is that is can make a heavier red wine with complexity and taste similar to a Merlot. I've also heard that is can make an excellent rose as well.
Other sources label it as an excellent wine.

Our Regent is coming into its second year so no crop this year but we will keep a few bunches on the row to give us an idea of ripening times and to see what the juice chemistry is.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What to Plant, Hybrid, Vinifera or both?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. They were asking me some questions about the vines we were planting at the vineyard. I explained that we had a mix of hybrids and vinifera. I went on to explain that hybrids came about as a result of breeding grape vines for pest and disease resistance and cultural superiority (drought resistance, later bud break, earlier ripening etc. etc.). We talked about grafting of Vinifera to root stock of other grape vines to make the resultant plant better suited to a particular climate, growing area or conditions or disease/pest resistant. My friend asked if these grafted vines were then classified a hybrids. Good question?

I had never thought of it like that before but it is an interesting perspective.

This was a diversion as our discussion was not so much about the differences between hybrids and Vinifera but why the choice of vines we have in our vineyard. There are so many variables that come together that determine what grape varieties are best suited to one location or another. Temperature, sunlight, moisture, frost free days, soil, humidity, pests all play a role in determining what grapes will grow best at a particular site.

We know that we are at the low end of the heat and frost free days spectrum for growing grapes in BC and this means planting the varieties that are the earliest maturing varieties. We are not sure what the winter low temperatures are so this means having vines that are of various levels of cold hardiness.

I think that all the varieties we have decided to plant will work out alright in one way or another. Most are recolgnized varieites (link to VQA varieites) and it appears thusfar that they should all do well in some years if not all. Now there are about the same number of Hybrid grape varieties as Vinifera varieties on the list of acceptable varieties for VQA designation. So while there are alot of options of what to plant, what is important is which varieties will do best at the site. While the Pinot Noir or Zweigelt may do well on an annual basis they may not ripen to as good of sugar/acid levels that you may find at other warmer, longer season sites. Some years may be quite good while others quite poor. In reality you can expect each year is going to be different than the last with some vintages better than others - but this is with varieties that are properly suited to your site.

There is a grower in the south Okanagan that I was talking to who said that he had to over-crop his Seigerrebe to ensure that it didn't ripen too early. He often has to blend it with Pinot Gris to bring the acid up. Even at the right site Seigerrebe is noted for dropping it's acid very quickly and having a high ph at harvest (this is not always desireable in a Germanic style white wine which Seigerrebe is usually made). If the site is too warm and this grape ripens too early this could lower the quality of these grapes at harvest. He said, if you over crop your vines it takes them longer to ripen, but then you can stretch out harvest to when the temperatures are cooler and this can help retain some of the acid and maintain a lower ph. However, there is much literature that suggests that over-cropping results in a loss in quality and can harm the winter survival of the vine or buds.

So even if you have a site with a lot of heat, you have to match the variety to the site. While there are few grapes that would ripen too early at our site, I expect that if we choose varieties that are marginal ripeners for our site then we can expect more poorer vintages than good vintages over time. We are also drawn to disease resistant varieties and that generally puts us in the camp of hybrids.

While there are certain varieities we'd like to grow, and certain varieties in greater demand (which is a very strong consideration for comercial ventures), in order to grow good quality grapes the choice of what to grow will be decided equally by us to meet our needs and by climate, soil and variety being matched correctly. This will present itself over time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Increasing Degree Day Accumulations

In the past two years we have recorded approximately 900 and 1000 degree days between May 1st and September 30th. There are actually a few more degree days each year, somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-50 but these fall in the months of April and September and are pretty much outside of the growing season. Those that accumulate after the first good fall frost are really of no importance because the growing season is done after that anyway. However, those accumulated in April can have some impact on the season. Lots of heat in April even 15-20 degree days impact the season in terms of early or late bud break.

Presently our site is completely surrounded by forest. The area that has been cleared is approximately 75 x 105 feet (approx. 0.17 acre) and inside that the vineyard is fenced off at 55 x 100 feet . As mentioned in previous blogs I believe there is somewhat more heat in the centre of the vineyard than in the areas along the forest margins where the temperature data logger is placed. Moving the logger to the centre of the vineyard will give a more accurate picture of the degree day accumulations.

While the site is pretty as it is enclosed by trees, this promotes several detrimental effect on climate of the site including; lowering the potential heat accumulation, increasing the potential for frost due to the cold air dam created by the forest and in turn a slower rise in the soil temperature in the spring.

There is a body of research on these topics, many conducted in British Columbia forest regions. The research has been focused on the local changes in climate in forest vs. clear cut area. The clearings ranged in size from 0.03ha 0.13ha to 1.0ha (approx 0.07 acre to 2.25 acres). The research has revealed that the clear cut area had significantly higher degree day accumulations than the forested areas. This was also related to the clearing size - the larger the clearing the more heat (significantly more heat). They found that over a 5 year period the tree seedlings in the largest opening had the greatest growth. They also found that the winter snow melted up to 5 days sooner on the clear cut areas than forests and quickest in the largest clearings. Some studies also found the soil temperature increased earlier in the spring in the clearings (fastest in the largest clearings) resulting in earlier plant biological activity. While the clearings allowed for more heat to escape the soil at night, there incidence of frost did not change as the slope allowed the cold air to drain away. Other similar research has shown that on flat ground without a slope the clearing can be subject to more frost events. Here is some of the studies;
Improving Air Drainage
Clear cut opening size increases heat units

We've known about this research and what it could mean to our site but before we cleared any more land at our site we wanted to be sure the ground could sustain the plants. This is now evident and we plan to increase the size of the clearing this year to nearly 1 acre. This will take advantage of the slope of the land and the subsequent cold air drainage. It is also hoped that expanding the size of the clearing will increase the degree days accumulation of heat. More importantly the clearing will take advantage of the slope of the land and eliminate the cold air dam that currently exists at the vineyard.

Reducing the night time low temperatures caused by the forest damming up the cold air can change the degree days significantly over the growing season. Raising the night time low as little as 1.0 degree on average at our site would add about 75 more degree days over the period of May to September. This may also help mitigate potential frost damage in spring and fall. Together, the increase in day time heat and raising the night time low air temperatures over the growing season should help the overall degree day accumulations.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Nakusp and Arrow Lakes Grape Potentential

There seems to be more and more interest being generated around the possibilities of growing grapes in Nakusp and the Arrow Lakes valley on south to Edgewood.

There are numerous historical accounts of people growing tree fruits in the area dating as far back as the early 1900's however little knowledge about growing grapes. However, there are numerous more recent accounts of people growing grapes in the area.

Here are some recent accounts of grape growing in the region;
Arrow Lakes News Article About Nakusp Grape Grower.
Arrow Lakes News Article about winery potential
Google Earth Picture of Bench in Nakusp with yard full of grape vines behind.
Grower near Edgewood growing grapes

One way to gauge just how prolific the grape growing potential in the area is would be to walk to streets of the residential areas of Nakusp and the other towns in the Arrow Lakes Valley (Burton, Fauquier, and Edgewood) to look forback yard grape growers. I've done this and there are so many people with grape vines growing up fences or trellises that it is obvious the area can sustain these fruits. Most of the vines in the residential areas I've seen have been Himrod. Many of these vines are old with trunks many inches in diameter. There is a fantastic one (Himrod) that grows up the side of the old red barn at the tree nursery located by the marina in Nakusp.

Himrod is very early green seedless table grape and the nursery owner says the grapes regularly mature at the beginning of September sometimes late August. Himrod has cold temperature tolerance to about -23 and matures in about 130/135 days - bud break to harvest.

Made in Canada Wine

I've been following the issue of some Canadian wineries importing foreign wine, grapes or juice, then vinifying it, bottleing and/or storing it in Canada and then labelling the wine as having some Canadian origin.

Under the rules of the Competition Act enforced by the Competition Bureau, so long as there was some form of manufacturing or value added by a process in Canada, such as vinification of foreign grape juice, or bottling and storage (cellaring) the product could be marketed as Made in Canada.

Problem here is the grapes/juice or wine being used to make these so called "Canadian Wines" are from foreign sources. The grapes/juice or wine is so cheap that utilizing these sources of materials appear to be hurting the Canadian wine grape producers. This is especially so in Ontario.

A similar problem was happening a few years back with the Canadian diamond industry. People could import rough (raw) diamonds from foreign sources such as South Africa, Brazil, or the Nigeria then cut and polish the diamonds in Canada and in turn market them as Made in Canada. The processing of the diamond in Canada was what allowed them to be labelled as Made in Canada. Many thought these foreign diamonds were in fact Canadian mined diamonds because of the Made in Canada label. Often the label had a maple leaf or some arctic image associated to it which further induced one to believe the diamond was Canadian.

It is probable that the same thing happens with wine that is labelled as made in Canada or Canadian but made with foreign grapes. For instance in many liguor/wine stores the wines are separated by county of origin - U.S, South Africa, Australia, Frace, Canada etc. These wines that are made with foreign grapes but vinified in Canada are typically found in the Canadian section of the store. This furthers ones perception that these are actually Canadian wines despite that the grapes/juice was not produced in Canada.

The Competition Bureau changed the interpretation here and now only allows diamonds produced in Canada to be labelled as Canadian diamonds. See link.

I don't have a problem with the importation of foreign grapes being vinifyed in Canada and sold as wine in Canada or even the foreign wine. I'd just like the labelling to be very specific to ensure that no one mistakes the wine for that made with grapes grown in Canada. If the country of orgin label is not protected for grape production then why bother labelling what country the wine/grapes come from. However, apparently this is not an issue unique to Canada. Search the internet and you'll see.

Perhaps the same should be done with wine as was done with diamonds and that only wine made with grapes produced in Canada could be labelled as being Canadian.