Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bud Break 2012

The winter was mild this year but with less snow cover than usual. Bud break was between May 17th and May 25th with Petite Milo and Colmar comming first and Evangeline and Triompe d'Alsace the latest. Overall the vines survived quite well with the exceptions of Regent, Cabernet Foch, Cabernet Libre, and Ortega.  Again these died back significantly and while they are pushing buds they are starting out from canes close to the ground.  I believe that these varieties are all excellent grapes vines but for our climate, soil and conditions they have not proven suitable for our site.

This is exactly why we are experimenting with over 20 varieties and we are starting to see some that are proving well at our location.  The Ravat 34 consistently does well, is disease resistant and produces and ripens grapes every year - providing I don't over crop it as in 2011.  As the Rvaat 34 comes into bud break, I see that over cropped Ravat 34 last year has reduced some of the vines hardiness in bud and cane survival.  Overall it did fine but I notice the bud and cane survival is a bit less than in other years and again I'm attributing this to having over cropped the fruit and canes on this variety in 2011.  see bud break on the Ravat 34 below.

The Leon Millot does alright but it is not as consistent as the Ravat in bud/cane survival and this is very important with this variety.  The clusters are so small that you need alot of producing buds to produce a decent and balanced crop load.  I'm not getting this consistency but some of the other Kulhman varieties are showing well and show both good bud and cane survival including Lucy Kuhlman, Marechal Foch, and Colmar Precoce Noir.  Colmar Precoce and Lucy Kuhlman bud out quite early.  See Colmar Precoce Noir below;

Castel and Evangeline are doing quite well with great cane and bud survival. We're hoping for some good clusters on both these this year to assess the juice chemestry. The Acadie is comming along pretty good also and we will be adding Acadie where we pull out some of the Cab libre and Cab Foch vines this year.  We still have the Zweigelt and Pinot Noir but they struggle at our site.  Another vine that is doing well is the Petite Milo.  It has good disease resistance and bud/cane survival.  It buds out early but like the Castel, Lucy Kuhlman and Colmar Precoce Noir, our latest frosts don't seem to be enough to damage them.  See Petite Milo below.  Perhaps in years to come a late hard cold frost might cause problems.

We're going to be adding a new variety this year to replace the Ortega.  It is Vandal Cliche and was created in Quebec, Canada.  It is cold hardy, disease resitant and produces huge crops of white wine grapes that produce a neutral wine.  I've had Cliche before and it is a very nice wine. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

2011-2012 Warm Winter

The spring is a great time of the year at the vineyard, full of surprises and expectation for the new growing year.  The winter temperatures were great from November all through to April.  There were few days overall that went below -10c and the coldest day was February 27 when the temperature went to -18.6c and another cold day of -18c at the end of January.  Of particular interest was the day time temperatures that were experienced in February and March when several of the days reached the 5c-10c mark. 

We also experience lower snow pack than usual.  We often have 2-3 feet in February but by the end of the month there was none.  While the precipitation was near normal alot more of the moisture fell as rain than snow, especially in the month of February.  As such come early March the snow was all but gone. 

Not a hard winter by any stretch of the imagination but these condition present their own issues to overwintering grape vines.  While the temperature was not harsh, what we experienced this year was a tremendous diurnal fluctuation.  The day time highs in February almost always over 5c but the night time lows were in the -5 to -10 range depending on the day.  This freeze thaw action accompanying this diurnal fluctuation can begin to bring vines out of dormancy, especially the buds and canes.

While these types of temperatures are not uncommon in February, the usual snow pack moderates the temperature and limits the large day nigh temperature swings.  In addition the snow keeps the soil temperature low and often covers some of the canes, serving to inhibit vines coming out of dormancy.
The lack of snow and warm day temperatures followed by the cold nights and the deep freeze in late February appears to have been injurious to some of the vines.  As of early May most of the varieties were showing bud push and we could assess winter damage.

The vines showing most damage are Regent, Cabernet Foch, Cabernet Libre, Ortega and Ravat 34.  The damage to the Ravat 34 can be more likely attributed to the over cropping of the vine last year in combination with the winter climate and we'll be able to assess this better at bud break.  The Leon Millot and Triompe D'Alsace (TDA) showed some moderate bud damage but not unlike what is experienced most winters and in the case of the TDA the buds were just starting to push and full assessment can not be made.  Lastly, the Castel, Lucy Kuhlman, Foch, Colmar Precoce Noir, Petite Milo and Evangeline did very well and show excellent bud/cane survival. 

I was surprised at the poor survival of the Regent as this was the mildest winter we've experienced.  it has been 3 winters now and these vines just don't do well at our site.  It may be the freeze thaw action in the winter, it may bee we don't have a long period for the vine to go into dormancy.  Regardless they don't do well while other vines excel.  Similarly the Cab Foch, Cabernet Libre, and Ortega have not done well and we will pull them this year.