Sunday, December 27, 2015

First Bottling for 2015 - Marechal Foch

This style of wine is more fruit forward with low skin contact. We also added a small amount of oak this year to see what that would produce and it is quite nice.  In fact I'd consider adding a bit more in future years.  The wine has excellent fruity aromas of prune, chocolate, cherry and pretty well balanced all around.  Really happy with the wine.  Its really new and for sure in a few months we'd see the acid come down a bit more although its acceptable now.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wine Progress - Age, Clearing and Acid

So the wine finished fermenting several weeks ago and now we wait for it to age, clear, and drop some acid.  Aging is literally a function of time and over time the wine changes - fruitiness gives way to more complex flavours, acidity subsides and wine becomes softer. This great for some wines and aging will bring them into their own but others that are meant to be light and fruity with acidity suffer.
Also over time, usually just a few months, the suspended sediment drops out and settles on the bottom.  Some wine makers use clearing (fining) agent and filtering to clear wine of suspended sediment.  Others like to let nature and gravity do its work and the sediment will settle to the bottom in time and the wine will clear all on its own.  For wines that are not really meant to age, choosing to filter and/or using a clearing agent is often in order.  We usually just let gravity and time do its work but sometimes its hard to tell if the wine is clear.  The wine in the carboy may look completely clear and the sediment is settled on the bottom so you go and bottle the wine and three months later your opening up a bottle and see that there is a sediment film on the bottom.  It can be hard to tell just how clear the wine is but for whites at least you can do this little trick.  You simply shut the lights off and shine a narrow beam flashlight through the carboy (see above).  The light beam will pick up on all the suspended solids and you can readily see just how much sediment is still suspended.  If so, better leave the wine to settle out a little longer and keep checking each month till the sediment can barely be seen in the light beam.

The other thing that time will do to wine is reduce the acid content.  This happens for a few reasons but what I have found is that the biggest drop in acid happens over the first 6 months as a result of oxidization of acid in the wine. So as we make the wine and pour it into carboys and rack it between carboys etc etc the exposure to the air adds oxygen to the wine.  The oxygen then combines and neutralizes some of the acid right away within the first few months. After that reduction of acid is slower and often involves more complex molecular changes to acid.  Another way that acid is reduced over time, quite quickly, is through cold stabilization.  With all wine, but especially cold climate wines, it is not uncommon to have high amounts of tartaric acid in the juice and resulting wine.  Cold stabilization is an excellent way of reducing the acid level and should be done regardless for most wines so that you don't get tartaric acid crystals (often called wine diamonds) forming in the wine after it has been bottled. While often called wine diamonds, which sounds nice, I really don't find it appealing to have these crystals come pouring out of the bottle with the last glass of wine.  So the cold stabilization process is literally putting the wine in a cold temperature area at about 0 degrees celcius for a bout 2-3 weeks.  During this time the tartaric acid will begin to form into crystal that will grow on the walls of the carboy or on the bottom of the carboy (see above) or they may even form and float on the surface of the wine and later fall to the bottom. Over the 2-3 week period you can see the crystals grow bigger and you are really seeing the acid dropping.  If you've ever seen those crystal growing kits that they sell in toy stores for kids, that is kind of what happens with the crystals growth in the carboy.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Crush and Press 2015

One thing always leads to another and as soon as you've brought in the grapes you've got to get to processing them.

The reds are put through the crusher to essentially break open the grape without crushing the seed inside.  Really its to let the juice flow out and expose the inside of the grape to the yeast that will be added to the must.  Once crushed the slurry of grape juice skins, pulp and seed makes up the must (we pull the stems out).  We then add the yeast and let the yeast work its magic on the sugars and turn them into alcohol.  After about 7-10 days the fermentation is pretty much complete and we drain off the free flowing wine and then we have to press the skins and pulp etc must (now wine) to release the rest of the wine that they may hold.  Once that's all done the wine finishes fermenting, usually another few more days and we'll rack the wine off the sediment into a clean new carboy.

The whites are treated a bit differently.  We crush and press them the same day so only the juice is fermented (no skins).  We add the yeast and after about 7-10 days the fermentation is all but done.  We then syphon the wine off of the sediment into a fresh carboy.

Always great to get the grapes processed and fermenting, even better when you've got some help and have some fun.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Evangeline (KW96-2) Grape

Just a quick update on this great grape.  Again its real name is KW96-2 but we will call it Evangeline until it gets officially named.  This vine gets stronger each year and produced heavier than I had expected this year.  Clusters can be 8-10 inches long and loose and some weight easily in the 200-300 gram range.

This grape is a cross of St. Pepin and Seigerrebe - early ripening, hardy to -30c, some good mildew resistance.  We harvested at 22 brix and 3.5 ph, almost too late.  Could have picked it 2 weeks earlier at about 20 brix and 3.1 ph. Created in Nova Scotia by Dr. Andrew Jamieson - thank you Dr. Jamieson!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Arrow Lakes Vineyard - Grape Harvest 2015

Great year this year for the vines and the grapes.  We had a long growing season of about 150 days to harvest and the warmest year yet with approximately 1100 DDG.  The irrigation system worked great and really helped the vines through the dry spells.

The sugars were really good with the leon Millot and Marquette as standouts in the 21-22 brix level.  The Evangeline and Petite Milo came in at 22 brix and Acadie at 20 brix.  The brix is a measure of the sugar levels in the grapes and when converted to alcohol 20 brix makes about 11% alcohol and 22 brix makes about 12.5% alcohol.

The production was outstanding on Ravat at about 2LB per trellis foot and the Foch was similar at about 1.5-2lb per trellis foot.  In hind sight  these were probably over-cropped by 0.5-1 LB per foot and likely kept the sugars and ripening back slightly on these two.

Here is some of the grapes;

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Arrow Lakes Vineyard August 22, 2015 Grape updates

So here are the sugar levels/brix to date;
Leon Millot - 13
Lacadie Blanc - 14
Seyval - 18
Ravat 34 - 9
Vandal Cliche - 13
Marquette - 12
Evangeline - 17
Petite Milo - 16
Lucy Kuhlman - 15
Foch - 11
Triompe - 13
Colmar - 13
Regent - 11
Castel - 12

Looking good so far and about 2 weeks ahead of normal.
These are the numbers we usually get the first weekend in September.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Solar Power Drip Irrigation

I constructed a simple solar powered drip irrigation system to water the vines this year.  The system has two segments; the solar power generation/circuit and the water distribution system.

So the water distribution system works like this.
There are 150 vines on each leg of the distribution system.  The water pump is hooked up to a series of tanks (1500 gallons total) and pushes up to 180 gallons of water per hour and each of the 150 vines has a 1 gallon per hour drip emitter (so distribution for each leg is 150 gallons per hour).  So when the pump is running there is enough pressure at 180 gallons per hour flow to ensure the 150 gallons gets to the vines at approximately 30lbs per square inch of pressure.

The 12v pump is activated by a simple water pressure switch.  The switch activates when the pressure drops below 20 lbs per sq inch and shuts off when the pressure get up to 40 lbs per sq inch.

Each leg is on a timer.  I set the timer to go on for 1 hour every 3 days.  When the timer activates it opens up and the pressure in the line drops in the line below 20 lb per sq inch which activates the switch to turn on the pump.  The pump does its thing pumping up to 180 gallons per hour and because there is 150 drip emitters releasing water at 1 gallon per hour (so 150 gallons) on the leg it pushes the water out fast enough through the emitters so the pressure does not exceed 40lb per sq inch(so the switch doesn't turn off).  But after 1 hour the timer closes and the pressure behind it builds up to 40 lb per sq inch and the switch shuts off the pump.

I have added a pressure gauge in-line between the pressure switch and the timer to see how much pressure is in the line when it is running. When the pump is running it is usually at about 28 lb per sq inch. 

One thing to remember is that I have just enough drip emitters to keep the pressure at around 30 lb per sq inch otherwise if there were not as many the pressure may be too high in the line and the switch would turn off the pump. I had anticipated this and hooked up a hose at the end of the leg of the drip emitter line that could be partially closed off manually and thus set to regulate the pressure. The line loops back tot the water tank putting the excess water back into the tank.  Fortunately I did not need to use this.

I can run this 4-5 weeks without having to refill the water tank.

The solar generation/circuit works like this;
The solar panel is 125 watt 12volt panel that charges a 12 volt battery though a 7.7amp charge controller.  The pump is wired to the battery through the pressure switch.  The pressure switch is the 120 volt model used on a pressure tank in a house but you can run 12v though it as it is just a switch.

Here is some pictures;

Mildew Pressure - This is new!

So what would the nearly perfect year so far be without something coming up to rain on the party.  For the past 7 years we've barely had a stich of mildew and really no rot to speak of.  This is a function of a few factors that I can think of the main one being that we have utilized mildew resistant varieties.  The other reason is we have cool nights which slows mildew development and dry summers with low humidity.

This year is an exception in several respects.  First off the vinifera varieties of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt have fruit this year. Again they are responding to the soil amendments.  These varieties are prone to developing powdery mildew and downey mildew as well as bunch rot.  Next it has not been cool in the nights it has been very warm with high humidity.  The rain has been a bit above normal also. 

As such the Pinot Noir is showing fungus mold on the bunches - not being too familiar with this I'm thinking its downey mildew based on how the vine bunches and leaves have been affected.  I clipped these clusters away.

I've noticed slight mildew on one bunch of the Marechal Foch and one Evangeline also.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Netting the Grapes

With the grapes already ripening up we have to net the grapes as it wont be long before the birds and wasps would take a liking to them.  The Evangeline is already at 13 brix and will begin to entice the wasps in a week or two as the sugars continue to build. 

We have two types of nets - one is a drape net that is white and we are using that on the white grapes that ripen the earliest.  So the Evangeline for instance.  This net is great , super strong, doesnt let the wasps in but it is quite dense so it shades alot of the vine and as it is white it also reflects the light.  It definitely slows the ripening so we'll put it on those that ripen early.

The dark nets are lighter and let more light in and do not reflect the light but would absorb it - possibly increasing the temperature ever so slightly at the micro-climate area right at the net.  Haven't actually measures the temperature differences etc.. this is just an assumption.  But as it lets more light through we have this netting on the later ripening varieties that need more light and heat such as Foch.

Veraison in July (Grapes are Ripening)

The heat has brought the grapes along so fast and early this year and as of the end of July we are seeing the grapes starting to turn in the ripening stage - a good 2 weeks early foresure.  The clear sign is the red grapes start to change colour - the Marechal Foch is turning, so is the Lucy Kuhlman, Castel, and Joffre. Leon Millot is unusually behind but again it was stunted due to the cane die back.  Its a bit harder to tell with the white grapes except that they begin to soften up.  Also the grapes will start to accumulate sugar so you can get out the refractometer and test some of them.  We tested those that were softening which was the Evangeline and surprisingly the Seyval.  Both were showing 13 Brix.  The Petite Milo, Ravat, L'Acadie Blanc were still quite hard.  Very surprising with the Seyval as it should be the latest ripening of all the white grape varieties we have - but we only started to get production from this vine last year and this year so are just starting to get to know it.
Here are the photos for July 31st.
Leon Millot

Ravat 34

L'Acadie Blanc


Marechal Foch

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Arrow Lakes Vineyard Grape Update mid-July 2015

Just a quick update to show where things are this year. Again, its been a hot year so far, and dry, we are way ahead of normal (2 weeks forsure) and the Ravat 34 and Marechal Foch look excellent and should average about 1-1.5 lb per trellis foot.  Evangeline and L'Acadie Blanc looks good also, but we will have to net in early August this year, usually we do this at the end of August - early September.
Here is a few Pictures

Ravat 34
 Ravat 34 canopy (4 arm kniffen with good light exposure)
 Marechal Foch (approaching bunch closure)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Grapes Way Ahead in 2015

We have had way more heat this year than normal in both May and June this year.  Normal average for May and June is 12.5c and 15.5 respectively.  This year we have had 14c and 18.5c respectively.  As such the grapes as of July 4th are way ahead and already pea size (compare the pictures below to last year at July 1st  link here .  Hear are some pictures from this year;
Marechal Foch

Petite Milo


Monday, June 8, 2015

Really Early Bloom for 2015

More indications that bloom is going to be early.  Here is a Lucy Kuhlman cluster  that is already into bloom as of June 6th - this is 3 weeks early.  Not too surprising as May was about 14c average and normal is usually about 12.5c. 

Now this flower cluster is close to the soil level and receives more heat that the usual ones at the 3-4 foot level but still this is really early.  Overall the Lucy Kuhlman looks good this year and came through the winter quite well. 

Fast Growth for Spring 2015

In April I wrote about how warm the winter had been and later how early the vines had budded out this year.  Well that trend continues and I'd say we are forsure a week ahead of normal and could even see flowering in a few weeks perhaps as early as June 20-25th for some varieties.

We had hardly any precipitation since the end of April and the soil had been really dry but we just got about 4 inches of rain this past week and that has helped.  The addition of the drip irrigation system is helping alot and if this year ends up being the hot and dry year its predicted to be then it should help alot.

The Marechal Foch looks fantastic with 2-3 clusters on each shoot and virtually no die back on the canes.  Marquette is the same and is really impressing me this year - I think as it goes into its third year and giveen the soil ammendments provided in past 2 years, this vine is really responding well.  Like the Foch pretty much 2 clusters per shoot.  Both these are stand outs this year after the winter we had.  Lucy Kuhlman surprised me as well and like Marquette is responding to the soil ammendment and survived the winter well (given the harsh freeze/thaw cycles we had). All the whites look great and the Vandal Cliche is impressive for 3 year vines.
See the Marechal Foch photo
See the Marquette Photo

The Ravat 34 is looking excellent AGAIN - can not say enough about this grape. photo below

Huge Evangeline clusters

L'Acadie Blanc is also looking well; 2-3 clusters per shoot

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vineyard Expansion 2015

So we have been experimenting with about 25 different varieties of grapes since 2008 and some have shown to do quite well in our climate and conditions and others not.  Some of the red varieites that have done well are Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, Triompe D'Alsace, Lucy Kuhlman, Marquette, and the Castel is improving every year.  Whites that have done well are Ravat 34, Petite Milo, Vandal Cliche, and Evangeline, and L'Acadie Blance.

Red or Whites that have not done well include Regent, Cabernet-Foch, Cabernet-Libre, Agria, and Ortega.  Zwegelt and Pinot Noir have not been doing well but in the last year have shown strong improvements - we have only started adding soil amendments in the past few years.

So we are now expanding the vineyard and are adding new rows of Leon Millot and Marechal Foch.We have also added drip irrigation system and will evaluate the same row comparison of vines irrigated and unirrigated for the next few years. 

Bud Break - 2015

So spring is a bit early for the vines and this is reflected in the bud break this year which is about 3-5 days early.  This is pretty dramatic as until now bud break has usually occurred between May 18 and 21st but this year its started around the 15th and most varieties are now out as of the 21st.

The winter was hard on a few varieties and this was not evident until bud break as the canes showed decent winter survival but no live buds or few week buds emerged.  Particularly hard hit was the Leon Millot and Triompe - both these vines are quite similar and have some similar pedigree.  With the freeze thaw temperature swings we had in late winter the vines got hammered.  They have experienced this before but not as severe and some show cane and trunk damage.  It is noteworthy here that at our location you need to be growing renual trunks on millot and triompe every few years.  Interesting was that the sister vine to Leon Millot is Marechal Foch and while the millot was really hard hit, the foch looks great.  See Leon Millot pictured below, followed by Marechal Foch

Again the Ravat 34 is excellent and there are some monster flower clusters poking out. See below

Another stand out is the Vandal Cliche and for three year old vines they are producing very well - see below.

The L'Acadie Blanc is doing well also with dual clusters visible on every bud. - see below.

The Castel is also doing alright and is slowly improving each year.  Same for the Evangeline, Petite Milo and Marquette. The Regent died back to the ground again.  Castel Pictured Below

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spring Pruning 2015

So it has been way warmer than normal moving into spring of 2015 so I bumped up the pruning schedule a month.  We usually prun towards the middle/end of April and leave extra buds incase of a late frost and then do a final prune around mid may when we know the last frost has come and gone.

March this year was about 3 degrees celcius above normal and the vines are already bleeding at the pruning points.  That is the roots are already moving moisture and carbohydrates up the canes.  When you prune the canes back you can see the moisture literally drip out of the ends where the canes where cut.

The warm winter and the freeze that action that came with the warm winter has resulting in some interesting survival rates of the vines.  For instance Castel and Marechal Foch looks excellent and Acadie and Joffre was not.  Marquette, St. Croix and Vandal Cliche were all very good but again they are all very hardy vines.  The Evangeline, Ravat, Triompe, Lucy Kuhlman, Seyval and Leon Millot were not bad.

Baltica was not good and for such a reportedly hardy vine it died back significantly this year....but I suspect it is subject to the freeze thaw activity in a warm winter.  Will be interesting to see how they all bud out.

The worry is that they will begin to bud out way to early and we could receive a late frost and then that would all but erase the crop for this year.  We do leave extra buds in case of this scenerio but if they all bud out really early then it really wont matter that much.  We will know by mid-May.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Really Warm Winter 2014/2015

So we have had a great winter in terms of temperature. The table below shows how warm it has been.

Winter Average

Coldest Temperature so far was -19c in November.

So based on these temperatures we should have decent bud survival.  We'll check on this towards the end of March.

The biggest threat to the bud survival has been the freezing and thawing that comes with the warmeer winter temperatures.  When the temperature warms up the vines and buds can come out of dormancy and loose the natural protection against the cold when it gets cold again.

Some varieties are more suseptable to the swings in winter temperature.  That is, when it warms up a bit they are quicker to come out of dormancy.  We wont know until bud break if there is any damage from the freeze thaw action, but in past, warm winter years we have had some damage and others hardly any.

There are lots of variables at play including the condition of the vines at dormancy, the nutrient levels, water levels. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Arrow Lakes wine - Kuhlman Blend 2014

Ok so we uncorked the first bottle of Kuhlman Blend from the 2014 vintage. We call it the Kuhlman blend as it combines Leon Millot at 65%, Triompe D'lsace at 15%, and Marechal Foch and Castel at 10% each.  The wine is approximately 12.5 - 13% A/Vol with ph of 3.3.
Leon Millot, Triompe, and Marechal Foch are all hybrids developed by Eugene Kuhlman in France - hence the name.  All the Kuhlman varieties blend well and have similarities although as varietals there are distinct differences.  The Kuhlman varieties generally have cherry and plum flavours.  The addition of the Castel gives the wine a complex earthy quality and some added tannin.
This wine blend is excellent and very gamay like (but a very little bit fruitier and in general a bit  more complex - really depends on the gamay you compare it with) and the colour is garnet red.  It is still a bit acidic but is very drinkable now.  It will be excellent in a year as the acid subsides and the subtle flavours and earthiness become more pronounced and the time laps will likely tone back and balance off the fruit forward nature.

We had very limited skin contact this year as we wanted more light fruity mid-weight wine so we only had 2 days of skin contact.  The result was lower colour, less tannin, less astringency, but higher fruit flavour dominating.  Very slightly off balance in that regard and if I could turn back time would have gone with 4-5 days skin contact for a perfect wine.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Evangeline (Kw96-2) Wine 2014

Evangeline (Kw96-2) was the perfect grape for the growing conditions in 2014 (see previous blog evangeline wine making).  We had a hot summer which brought the grapes to ripeness early but we also had a really early frost, 2-3 weeks early.  The frost came on the 15th of September and that ended the growing season.  Having said that most of the varieties had already hardened off quite nice by then although three more weeks would have been great.

The evangeline was picked at 20 brix and was 21 brix once crushed.  The ph was 3.3.  We mixed the evangeline and petite millot together as they have some similarities.  The petitie millot is more subtle in aroma and flavour than the evangeline and more reisling like while the evangeline is more muscat fruity.

The blend is 70% evangeline and 30% petite milot and the grapes were crushed and pressed and left overnight for sediment and pulp to settle out.  The juice was then syphoned off into a fresh carboy and yeast added and fermented to dryness.  The resulting wine was cold stabilized, fined, then back sweetened with 15g/ltr of sugar.

The wine finished with 12.5% A/vol and ph of 3.4 and has strong aromas of tropical fruit - it is very nice.