Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cold Stabilizing the Wine

Cold stabilization involves putting the wine that has finished fermenting into an environment  that has a temperature between +4 celcius and -4 celcius.  The cold temperature chills the wine and the tartaric acid begin to form into crystals and collects on the walls and bottom of the carboy.  The photo shows the crystals that have formed and stuck to the wall of the carboy.  We will stir the wine a few days before siphoning it off and the crystals will fall to the bottom and settle out.
These crystals are sometimes referred to as wine diamonds and even commercial wines will have the crystals in the bottom of a bottle if the wine hasn't been cold stabilized.  What this means is that the wine was not initially cold stabilized but somewhere along the way it got exposed to cold temperatures and as a result the crystals formed and settled at the bottom of the bottle.  When you pour out that last bit of wine from the bottle its followed by these grainy crystals that you really don't want to drink. So we cold stabilize to lower the acid but also I don't want these crystals forming sometime later.

Next we will siphon the wine into a new carboy and add a bit of sulphite and sorbate.  We also take a bit out to sweeten with sugar.  We will add that sweetened wine back in with the rest of the wine and the sorbate inhibits it from fermenting.  Were pretty much done after that, just need to bottle and lable.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Edgewood BC - Historical Fruit Region

So a friend of mine presented me with some great histroical fruit crates the other day.  They are furit crates from the West Kootenay and Okanagan regions of BC.  These are great histroical markers of the fruit growing area that exists today in the Okanagan in British Columbia and what was once a thriving fruit growing region in the interior west Kootenay region of British Columbia.

I wrote about the west kootenay fruit growing history in our very first blog in 2009 see link but these fruit crates are a great connection to the fruit growing histroy of the area.  The first is from the Associated Growers of British Columbia and of special interest is that this box was packed and shipped by the Needles Co-op Union.  Needles was an old settlement across the Arrow Lakes from the town of Fauquier but was flooded with the development of the Keenlyside dam in 1968.  Needles  is still a point on the map today as it is the west side ferry stop for the Needles-Fauquier ferry across the Arrow lake.
Hear is another one, "Old Gold" brand apples packed by Unity Fruit Limited from the Vernon area,
Here is a grape packing box also from "Pioneer Ranch" and the name "N.P. Casorso" of Kelowna, B.C. and "Established 1905".....lots of fruit growing history in the region.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Planting Grape Vines in the Fall

I wanted to follow up on a previous blog about planting grape vines in the fall because I get alot of emails about this.

So we plant grape vines in the fall and spring, but for fall planting there are a few things that are important to remember, watch for and do.

We often grow our vines in pots during the year as they are very easy to manage that way, you can move them in from inclement weather (cold/hail etc), and you can manage the inputs very easily.

This year we planted a new variety this year.  We grew them in pots throughout the year and now it is time to plant them out to the vineyard.

First you have to prepare the soil where they will grow.  Ideally it will be weed free, nicely tilled and ready to accept the vine.
Next as this is the fall make sure you have added some fall type fertilizer that does not have any nitrogen or very little nitrogen, something like a 5-15-15.  This way the soil will begin to disperse the nutients over the winter with water seepage but in the even of an extra long warm fall period you will not have to worry about nitrogen invigorating the vine.

Now dig a hole about 3 times the diameter of the pot that the vine is in.  I also use a post hole auger and dig a 10 inch diameter hole in the middle of all of this and sink it to about 2 feet deep.  Fill the deep hole back and then transfer the plant from pot to the wide hole.  This gives unfettered growth for the roots to grow down and to grow wide.  Water the vine in and ensure the roots have a bit extra soil over them, like a bit of a mound.

One thing to look for is that your vine is hardening off for the winter. You can see this at the base of the stem as that part has turned brown but further up it is still green.  If you vine is hardening off well before winter hits then you have good chance for bud survival.

In the spring let only 1 or 2 buds grow. I actually let 2-3 buds grow till danger of frost has past then let the strongest grow and trim back the others.  Then train that one up a pole over the rest of the summer.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Evangeline (KW96-2) Wine in the Making

So we are making a small batch of evangeline wine this year (see previous blog about evangeline grape).  We mixed the petite milo grapes in with them to make the batch.  I usually dont make wine like this unless the grapes are very similar - like the kuhlman family (foch, leon millot, lucy kuhlman, and marechal joffre).  I prefer to make varietal batches then blend afterwards but were just shy of enough grapes for a small batch so we have added the petite milo. The ratio is 80% evangeline and 20% petite milo.
Here is a picture of us pressing the grapes after crushing them.
One thing we do during the pressing is we always have the same side down for white grapes and the other side down for reds.  You can see the top of the basket press is red so the bottom is the white side - where the juice will be pouring out from this time. We do this because the red colouring leaches into the wood and if you press the white grapes where the red colour has leached into the wood it can extract some of this colour and tint the colour of the wine.

The grapes in the field were about 20-21 brix but as usual after the crush and press they are higher at 22 brix. So we are looking for a finished wine in the 12 to 12.5 A/vol range.

We add sulphite and let the juice sit for 24hours so that any obvious pulp and heavy sediment settled out.  Then we siphoned the juice off into a new carboy added some bentonite, EC1118 yeast, and after a few days its been fermenting well and has a very nice tropical fruit aroma coming through.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Evangeline Grape for 2014

So we have been growing the evangeline grape (KW96-2) for four seasons now and we have three years of ripening data.  This grape did very well again this year and the size of clusters and amount of clusters has increased this year. 
This variety produces 1-2 clusters per shoot at our location and could easily have 2 on every shoot on more fertile ground.  The clusters are in the 175 grm to 125 grm weigth and they are long and loose and good cultural growth to limit the potential for rot or fungus.  The cluster below is about 8-9 inches long.
We are blending the evangeline and petite milo this year - the evangeline has a fruity muscat aroma and flavour and the petite milo is reisling like.

see the link to next blog as we turn the grapes into wine

Monday, October 13, 2014

Early Frost Ends Season 2014

Yes, we had an unseasonably cold second week of September that brought nigh time cold of -2 to -3.  What was really unfortunate is that we were unable to get to fixing our wind fence that had been damaged earlier. The wind fence helps deflect the cold air that comes down the mountain and would otherwise enter the vineyard.  With it having been damaged by high winds the coldest air was allowed to come into the vineyard and freeze the vines.

This cold snap is 3-4 weeks earlier than usual and had we been able to see this year through to the normal harvest period at the beginning of October we would have had about 1040 degree days and about 159 frost free days.  Instead, we were lucky to have such a hot summer because up till Sept 14th we still accumulated 960 degree days growing (celcius) and 137 frost free days and most of the grapes were able to ripen to workable levels and some quite nicely.  It is also interesting to see similarities to the summer temperature pattern we had this year to the last time we had an early frost which was in 2009 when we had a hard frost on Sept 21st.  That year was a hot year like this one but with the early frost we ended up with 138 frost free days.

I've posted the new climate data.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Arrow Lakes Vineyard grape update Aug 2

So we are about a month since flowering and the fruit set was better on some varieties than others and the month of July was very hot averaging about 21.3c which is the hottest July we have recorded.  We have also had very little rain only recording about 2cm since the first week of July so the berries are not growing as big as they should.  Unfortunately there is not rain in sight for the next 2 weeks.  More and more we are leaning towards irrigation as we have consistently recorded a dry spell each summer from about the 2nd week of July until early September and this is when the grapes need the moisture to put on the weight and for proper development.

In any event the grapes are comming along and each season presents its challenges.  here are photos of some of the varieties as of August 2nd.
Ravat 34
 Castel (thin)
 Leon Millot
 Petite Millot

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bloom Time at Arrow Lakes Vineyard

So despite the average temperatures of 12.5 for May and 15.5c for June by June 30th most the the varieties were well into bloom.  We are a few days ahead than usual given the temperature and this could be the above normal heat we had in the last week of June or the we've added soil amendments this year and last fall (fertilizer).  What ever the case the grapes are looking good and the castel is producing nice clusters this year and we have good clusters on the pinot noir and the zweigelt which we haven't had before...this has got to be the fertilizer working.  Not much else to report but I have a bunch of photos of the varieties in bloom - took these photos June 30th.

Castel (responding very well to fertilizer, excelelnt growth and clusters this year)

Colmar Precoce Noir (tentative but getting stronger - similar to Lucy Kuhlman)

Evangeline (huge clusters of 1-2 clusters per shoot, almost as big as Seyval clusters)

L'Acadie (Acadie) (2-3 large clusters per shoot, looking good)

Leon Millot (good growth and consistent producer)

Lucy Kuhlman (good growth this year, more clusters)

Marechal Foch (nice strong growth)

Petite Milo (excellent consistent production again, very small clusters)

Pinot Noir 115 (finally some decent flower clusters, likes the fertilizer)

Ravat 34 (excellent production, overbearing)

St. Croix (comming along, second year now)

Triompe d'alsace (strong, healthy, good producer)

Zweigeltrebe (Zweigelt) (finally some good clusters this year, likes the fertilizer)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Arrow Lakes Vineyard Bud Break 2014

Slow and steady is the spring this year - no hot and cold extremes. While it would be nice if the vines were a bit further along there has been no risk of late spring frost and I think I'd take that over getting a jump on the summer.  For the month  of May, Kelowna airport had an average temperature of about 13.3 c, so while we haven't had time to download the vineyard weather data we probably averaged about 12.3 c and given the stage of the vines that seems about right and is about normal.  It would seem we are pretty much on track at Arrow Lakes Vineyard and the vines are looking good so far.  I am seeing lots of buds on most varieties and Acadie Blanc is looking quite good. See below;
The picture doesnt really show whats happening on the Acadie very well but in the centre there is a shoot emerging and it has 3 clusters.  Most of the shoots have 2 and some have 3 clusters.  Very productive vine and excellent hardiness.

We added some micro nutrients to the vines last year and I think it is already showing its value especially in those vines that have seemed to struggle (Seyval, Castel, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt) in our nutrient poor sand.

As for the other whites, Petite Milo looks good again and Ravat 34 is outstanding. I am always so impressed with Ravat 34 in its disease resistance, production, cold hardiness, growth habit. It makes a great chardonnay-like wine which makes sense as it is a chardonnay cross.  They should have called it Chardonnay 34 and it would probably have lots of acres in planting. Evangeline is showing good production for young vines and we've finally got some clusters on the Seyval this year.  The Vandal Cliche also has some clusters so we should get some numbers from all the white varieties this year.

As for the Reds, we've got good production on all the kuhlman varieties (Foch, Leon Millot, Lucy Kuhlman, Joffre, Triompe D'Alsace) except for Colmar Precoce Noir which is light on production.  The Castel has shown a big improvement this year and we'll get a nice crop of them.  The big surprise is that we're seeing far more clusters on the Pinot Noir 115 and Zweigelt than ever before.  While we have ever so slight production on these last 2 varieties is has not been enough that we could utilize in any valuable sense for ripening data - perhaps this year though.  The St. Croix has more clusters this year but again very young vines. The one we have the most difficulty growing is Regent and again it is struggling.  Everything I read tells me the regent is a nice vine but for our soils and conditions - not so much.

So good start and while it may be foolish "to count our chickens before they hatch" its important to look ahead and plan for what might be, think about possible wine styles given variables in weather, production, ripening etc. So looking at possibilities, if our estimates are correct and things go our way over the growing season we'll have 2 red wines (a varietal and blend) a rose' (varietal or blend), and two whites (varietal and blend).

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Starting Grape Vine Cuttings

Spring is the time to get your grape vine cuttings started.  You don't want to start them much earlier than mid-March as they need a long period of dormancy before they will come out of dormancy for rooting purposes. 

I start my cuttings around the first week of April and that's often when I take my cuttings as well.  Here is what I do to get the cuttings started indoors.

1) First - start with a 2-3 bud cutting.  At the cutting ends it should show a nice green colour with lighter yellow green on the interior - this is a healthy part of the cane. 

2)Stand the cuttings up in a cup or jug of water that goes half way up the cutting for at least 24 hours to allow the cutting to hydrate and absorb water.  Remember the buds point upwards so it is easy to tell what end of the cutting is up and which is the bottom.  The cuttings draw water from the bottom to top.  See cutting below with bud that point upwards;

3)Prepare a 50/50 mixture of peat moss and perlite as a rooting medium to start the cutting in.  You will also need small pots to plant the cuttings in.  I like small clear plastic cups and you can put one cutting per cup.  I like the clear plastic ones as you can see if the cuttings are rooting and how much roots have formed.  You'll need to poke a small hole in the bottom of each cup so the water you put in will moisten the rooting medium but drain out. I use a power drill with a long thin drill bit and can stack about 20 cups together and drill all 20 at once.  Its good to hydrate the cuttings for the first 24 hours but can't leave the cuttings in a soggy-soaked environment, they will rot - the drain hole is important.

4)Next take the cuttings out of the water and set them on a paper towel to allow the water to drain off of them.

5)Dip the bottom of the cutting into rooting hormone.  I use "Stim Root #2" in the powder form with success but #1 may be better.  Follow the instructions on the product.  This is a rooting hormone that stimulates the cutting into producing roots. See below the rooting hormone I use;
6)Fill one of the cups about 3/4 full of the rooting medium and stick the cutting (that you have dipped into the rooting hormone) deep into the medium to about 1" from the bottom of the cup.  Now with your fingers and wearing gloves pack the rooting medium so it supports the cutting in the medium. Wear gloves while handling anything with the rooting hormone on it.  Mark the cups with a marker if you are starting different varieties so you don't mix them up.

7)Now, you'll want to put the cups on top of something that will warm the base of the cup.  The cuttings will begin to root in soil that is warmer  (this is also why you push the cuttings into the rooting medium to about 1" from the bottom).  You can use a warming mat for indoor growing and can buy these from your local green house.  I put my cups inside a small plastic container and put the container on the mat this way it contains the water that drains out of the bottom of the cups when you water them.  I also put a thermometer between the cup so I can monitor the base temperature, which 24celcius - 27celcius (75f-80f) is ideal. See the plastic container used to hold the planted cuttings below;

8)Now water the cuttings in small increments for the first day to get the rooting medium nice and moist, then after that every few days when you see the moisture levels low.  You want the rooting medium moist but not soggy.

9)Depending on the vine variety you may see the cuttings pushing buds out quickly within a few days and other between a week or two. See below as a bud is stating to push;
10)You will see the buds start to grow into shoots with leaves and probably flower clusters.  Not all cuttings will push buds and many that do will still not grow roots - it depends on many things, especially the environment they are growing in and the health of the cutting.  Shoot for 50% cuttings growing into vines but you may get more.  Also, I'd recommend gently pinching off the flower clusters as these will develop at the expense of more vital parts of the vine including the shoots, leaves and roots.

11)Once you have some nice roots forming and shoots growing well it is good to start introducing your vines slowly to the outside air and sunlight.  I start by first putting them in a very shady area then slowly introducing them day by day to more sunlight.  If you just put them directly into full sun they will wither and die.  I also put them into larger pots that can hold more water at this time.

12)Once they are able to withstand a day in the sun they are ready to plant into the ground.  Keep them watered but not soaked - they don't like to be soaked.

The other way to start cuttings is to just stick the cuttings into the ground.  Wait till after the last frost before doing this. If you have taken the cuttings in late winter/early spring you may have to store them for several weeks before you can plant them.  To store them I wrap my bundle of about 10-20 cuttings in moistened paper towel and then seal them up in a plastic bag.  Then I store them at the back of my refrigerator where the temperature is about 0 c. I've planted cuttings this way and have had the cuttings produce vines but not as successfully as starting them indoors first.  If you are just going to plant the cuttings direct to the soil, hydrate them first for 24hrs and also use rooting hormone.  Stick them into the ground about 3-4 inches deep.  I'd also make sure the soil stays moist.  They will take much longer to grow this way and will be very small the first year vs. starting them indoors, but it is much easier and less labour intensive.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Vine House 2013 Leon Millot wine

Just opened the 2013 Leon Millot that was bottled before Christmas 2013.  We had a great growing season and the grapes finished with good sugar acid balance of 22 brix, ph 3.1.  The season was hot and long and the fruit conditions warranted a conventional maceration and fermentation of the grapes.

We were looking for a mid weight Leon Millot with a bit of shelf life and less fruit explosion and a bit more complexity. So far we are on the way.  The acid has tamed somewhat since the bottling stage as expected.  This is common for the first few months after bottling and then the acid reduction starts to slow.  
By way of balance, the wine is nice and drinkable now especially with a 3 hr decanting but a year from now would be quite nice.  The colour is mozambique garnet red with the slightest of purple hues expected of a young red wine.  The aroma is strong in ripe plum (65%) with less cherry aroma than when it was bottled but still noticeable (25%) followed by a hint licorice (5-10%) which is new for me in aromas of Leon Millot and also an aroma that I usually have a more difficult time separating from the others.

The flavours have changed also and the stand out is dark sweet cherry (60%), with dark chocolate almost cocoa bean (30%), and a hint of raspberry (10%).

The wine is nice and for those who don't know Leon Millot would be reminiscent of Syrah but its a lighter wine, not as big or complex as a Syrah.  Leon Millot is also very vinifera like with usually no hybrid flavours and this is no exception.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Winter Snow Cover Protects the Vines

We've had an interesting winter so far.  It was not overly cold until the beginning of February when we had a few nights dip down to the -20c range.  However, we have not had a whole lot of snow cover for the vines.
Here is an old picture of the vineyard, with the snow at about 3 to 3.5 feet  up the exterior 7 foot posts - this is what we have in most winters and it covers most of the vine canes.

So usually we get about 3 feet of snow that accumulates to that level by mid December and stays till early February.  This year we've had about a foot less and this has left the vines exposed to the elements more than usual.  See below with snow just above 2 feet level of the 5 foot trellis posts;

The -20c cold is not the big issue as all of our vines even the Pinot Noir and the Zweigelt can handle these temperatures but what can cause the winter damage is the freeze thaw cycles we get over the winter as well.

It is not uncommon in the winter months for us to get day time highs of +5 followed by night time lows of -5 to -10.  This can serve to thaw the vines during the day and freeze them again at night.  What protects them from the freeze thaw cycle is a nice snow cover.

Having taken a few cuttings in early January, there was no apparent damage to the canes but the buds can be a bit more tender and its harder to assess if damage has occurred in the buds until spring and bud break.  We'll see what happens in a few months.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Insect Netting

Since 2010 we've been using a insect net to protect from wasps.  The conditions change year to year and sometime we don't need insect netting and other years we use just bird netting.  Usually the warm years, where the grapes are ripening early and the sugars are high while the wasps are still quite active are the conditions that bring the wasps to the grapes.  It becomes a big problem if you have the above conditions then you get a heavy rain, the vines soak up the rain and the grapes swell and crack.  After that the wasps can really smell the sugars and are all over the grapes in a day.  Some grapes are more prone to cracking than others after a big rain so this is a factor also.
In any event, this past year we lost virtually all the Lucy Kuhlman and the Colmar to wasps after a rain on September 6th, grapes cracked on the 7th and by the 8th there was nothing left.  We got the vines covered on the 8th and that saved the rest of the varieties however, what was interesting is that as we got the grapes covered and the wasps couldn't get to them, within minutes they started to get into other varieties that they had not even had an interest in. Once hey found that grapes had high sugar inside it didn't matter if they were cracked or not they started on them and biting through the skins.

Covering the grapes is critical and we've used the kootenay covers since 2010.  They are tough and do not let in any insects that would harm the grapes.  Kootenay covers were developed for tree fruit crops but we decided to try them for grapes and in terms of resilience to the elements and keeping the bugs out they are great.  The draw back is that it is white and reflects the September sun which is desperately needed for ripening.  The other draw back for grape us is the holes are quite small and while good at repelling insects it also means little light gets through and the grapes are partially shaded by the cover.

In 2012 with 940 degree days and 85 days from flowering to harvest we achieved 20 brix on the Leon Millot that were only covered with bird netting - not the insect netting.  This year with 1030 degree days and at least 95 day growing period from flowering to harvest we achieved 21-22 brix.  We were expecting 22-23.  While there is so many factors that determine the ripeness and sugar content at harvest, we have found in the years that we have used the kootenay covers the brix seems lower than what we would have expected and we believe it is that too much light is reflected and the shading is a factors also.

We've obtained a new netting for this coming year that is black and the openings while small are many and will let in lots of light.  Shade factor is about 4-5% in the new net where as with the kootenay covers it is about 15%.  10% more sun should make some difference.