Monday, October 30, 2017

Red Red Wine

The reds and whites are now in the last throws of fermentation. The whites are in fact long completed and are now clearing nicely. Again Ravat 34 is such a nice grape to work with as it ferments nicely and clears so easily on its own.
We have the same red varieties on the go with Foch, Leon Millot, and Castel. We also did a varietal with Triompe D'Alsace that so far is really appealing. Lots of changes to come yet to the wines as they drop sediment and move into the aging process but so far they all are all comming along well.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

10 Years of Climate Data - Time Flys...

The old saying could not be more true "time flys when your having fun" and ten years have gone by since we started capturing climate data at Arrow lakes Vineyard. In 2008, we started capturing climate data. This was the year after we planted the first Leon Millot vines in 2007. So after 10 years of climate data we have a good picture of the climate conditions at Arrow Lakes Vineyard. Its no secret that the vineyard potential in the region is excellent and Sunset Ridge Vineyard in Nakusp is a great example. I think when you combine this information with other regional climate info, like what is being done though the Arrow Lakes Grape Growers Society in Burton, one can see that the area from Nakusp to Edgewood is excellent for growing grapes.

We have posted the annual climate data on the blog from the start so anyone could see first hand what is happening climatically at Arrow lakes Vineyard. Over the years we've also made some observations about what has been valuable in making the best out of our vineyard site. So here are the 10 year details and averages for Arrow Lakes Vineyard followed by a few observations;

Monthly Averages
May. 12.7c
June. 15.9c
July.  19.9c
August.  19.4c
September.  13.9c

Avareage Annual Degree Days Growing is 995 (celcius)
Coldest Day in 10 years is December 18, 2008 at -25c
Average Annual coldest day is -20.3c
Average Frost Free Days is 152

1 - Using wind break to block or divert cold air from entering the vineyard has increased the heat accumulation from 5-10% over the summer. It appears to have limited the depth and duration of winter deep freeze events. It also appears to have limited the likelyhood of late spring frost or early fall frost.

2 - Clearing the land and increasing the size of area cleared seems to have increased the day time temperatures in the cleared area. The bigger the cleared area the more noticeable the change.

3 - Cultivating the area between the rows brings the vines into bud break faster than areas with out between row cultivation (with grass). It also appears that the bare cultivated ground heats up faster during the day and continues to radiate heat in the evenings for some time. This has proven very important in the fall during the ripening period. In addition, the rain or other moisture that falls or accumulates (such as dew) is absorbed into the soil and used by the vines instead of being used by surface grass or weeds.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Grape Harvest 2017

Grapes were excellent quality this year considering the drought we had. Harvest was on Sept 30th and the despite the late season rain there was no berry splitting on any of the varieities which is reflective of how dry the soil was. Here is some of the Ravat 34.
This was the best year we've had for sugar accumulations and in testing ph the numbers are excellent as well. Two standouts this year were the Castel that came in at 25 brix and 3.1ph and the L'Acadie Blanc which was 24 brix and 3.1ph. Here is the sugar numbers on several of the others.

Red Grapes Type Followed by Brix
Leon Millot     21
Marechal Foch     20
Castel     25
Marquette     22
Triompe D'Alsace     22
Colmar Precoce Noir     23
Lucy Kuhlman     22
Regent     20
Pinot Noir     18
Zweigelt     20

White Grape Type Followed by Brix
Ravat 34     19
L'Acadie Blanc     24
Evangeline     22
Petite Millot     21
Seyval Blanc     22
Vandal Cliche     21
Sovereign Ruby     22

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Netting the Grapes Aug 24

So the grapes are developing well and looking good as of August 24. We had to net the grapes as the birds and wasps were already getting into them. The Evangeline are already high in sugar and we "lost" alot of them to our farm hand Mike who helped net the grapes this year. The Foch are about 85% coloured up and Leon Millot are 95% coloured and overall thisng are looking good. The Ravat again are outstanding and looking forward to making wine with these ones again this year.
Here is Evangeline
 Marechal Foch
 Leon Millot
Ravat 34

Not "Organic" Just Old Fashion Farming

So its been the hottest and the dryest summer we have ever had. The grapes are still good but the vines are suffering from the drought a bit. One of the things we do at Arrow Lakes Vineyard is cultivate between the rows to eliminate the weeds. Then we allow a small strip of weeds and grasses to grow right under the vines. This is in stark contrast to many other vineyards that have grass between the rows and clean strip under the vines but its a vineyard practice that has been successful in many organic based vineyards.

We are not a certified organic vineyard but we have been practicing pretty much organic style of farming not unlike the way my great grandfather farmed over 100 years ago.  He didn't have spray for fungus or insects or weeds, just the plow to keep the weeds down. So far the practice has been good for us as this is the 10th summer of growing grapes and we have not had a bad insect or fungus problem.

Not to say we haven't had some insects attack the vines but the grass and weeds that are allowed to grow up into the vines has also allows for a mini ecosystem for spiders and other preditory insect that keep bugs like leafhoppers to a minimum. As for fungus, we have occasionally had a touch here or there but what we have had has not been problematic as most of the test vines are fungal resistant - so we haven't had to spray for fungus.

The value of cultivating between the rows has eliminated pretty much any competition for water from weeds or grass. Any water in the soil or that happened to fall goes pretty much straight to the grape vines. So we need very little in the way of supplimental irrigation.

Not to say this could all fall apart, we could get a bad insect attack or huge fungal pressure some year(s) - you never know what the next year could bring but after 10 years so far so good.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Forest Fires & Drought Conditions But We Are Still OK

So the summer has been very hot and dry and with serious forest fires. We just got 1cm of rain on August 14th but that makes it 2 months since last rain and July was by far the hottest month we’ve recorded in 10 years. The good news is the vines, while stress are still doing ok and the fruit is developing. Some of the grapes are smaller than usual but no fruit dropping and overall it looks good.
We have drip irrigation for each vine but the amount are so low as to be sustenance really so the vines are getting water from the soil. So this is where cultivating between the rows has really paid off in this year in that the vines have no competition from weeds or grass for the water that is in the soil.
None of the vines are dropping fruit and the Leon Millot and Marechal Foch look good and the Leon Millot is just turning colour. Triompe D’Alsacce also is doing good and Castel is holding its own. Marquette, Regent, St. Croix and Precoce Noir are struggling in the heat and drought. For whites the Ravat 34 again is doing great, it does like the sandy soils and has a tremendous tap root. The Petite Milo and Evangeline are also doing well. L’Acadie Blanc is having a tough time in the droughty conditions.
Here are some of the grapes as of Aug 13th
                                                              Triompe D'Alsace
Leon Millot
Marechal Foch
Petite Milo
Ravat 34

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

2016 Arrow Lake Vineyard Foch wins Gold Medal

We just found out that our 2016 Marechal Foch wine won a GOLD MEDAL at the 2017 Wine Maker International Amateur Wine Competition in Vermont, USA!

Screen Shot 2016 09 07 at 10.57.43 AM

This is the biggest amateur wine competition in the World and had 2500 wine entries from 7 countries including Canada. We have liked this wine year over year and have done lots of blind taste tests with friends and family but it is really nice to get a unbiased third party perspective from accomplished wine judges as well.

Our Marechal Foch was entered in the Red Hybrid Varietal Category.  We are really please at this outcome becuase we had a hand in both growing the grapes and making the wine. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bud Break is a Bit Late 2017

So as of May 22 the vines are just budding out and are a bit late. Late is not much for our location as over the past 10 years the spectrum for bud break is usually between May 17-23. So we are a bit late but nothing to worry about as some good heat in June and the vines will catch up quick. So the Castel, Foch, Petite Milo have pushed buds furthest. Castel pictured Below;

Bud survival is good on all varieties which is nice as we had a 1 week stretch of about -21 to -23 celcius this past winter and even the Arrow Lakes froze over in parts - so we were not sure what spring would bring. Usually get just 1 day in around the -20 celcius range. The one exception was with the Leon Millot that we experimented with an 50% increased crop load (12 shoots per foot instead of 8 per foot). On these vines the canes died back significantly.

At spring pruning we usually leave extra buds until we know what the bud survival rate is and to ensure we get past a potential late frost. The photo above shows 2 canes bent over onto the trellis for long cane pruning and as you can see virtually all the buds survived and we have now made it past the point of any late spring frost. So we will now get back into the vineyard and shoot thin to the desired crop level for each variety.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New Vines Planted for 2017

Its been awhile since I've blogged but that is a function of how busy we've been this spring.  Our main objective was to get the new vines planted and we got that completed end of April - early May. We've now got 1.5 acre of vines. So we were up early befor the sun came over the mountains and were out to get the rows marked and holes drilled. We marked our rows and vine spacing and then augered a 3 foot deep hole for each vine. Early morning mist before the sun came over the mountain.

The rains came and went and we then got to planting and added 1500 row feet of Castel grapes and have them staked. Picture below is not great but the rows are there. This is a favorite of mine and not widely grown but if you've not had Castel then think of Pinotage with Cab Sav. So all we need now is warm weather to bring them along. Rows below;

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Growing Grape Vines From Cuttings

So here is a video that we put together that shows how to grow grape vines from cuttings. This is similar to the process we use to grow them in doors then plant them out doors later. There are alot of steps but you get pretty good success if you follow this. On average we get about 75% of the cuttings becoming grape vines but depending on the variety and condition of the cuttings the spectrum is between 60% and 90% cultivation rate.

On the other hand there is an easier way. Last year for a test we stuck 3 Leon Millot cuttings in the ground with nothing but dipping the bottom of the cutting in rooting hormone and the occasional watering and all of them grew into vines. So this works too but what we understand is that this in not usually that successful of a technique.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Arrow Lakes White for 2016

We bottle several 375ml bottles of each types of wine we produce so we can sample them throughout the year and see how they are evolving. Opened up one of the samplers of the 2016 Arrow Lakes White and it is really nice with great tropical fruit aroma and good acidity. Year over year I really like how this wine turns out. Its primamrily made with Evangeline (KW96-2), which is crossed from Seigerrebe which in turn was crossed from Gewurztraminer) - and the great muscat flovours and aromas have been passed along. This one is perfect for summer patios, pasta or seafood.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Backyard Vineyard Presentation

So thanks to everyone that came to the presentation on Tuesday March 14th. I have had several people email me to post the presentation so here it is. We talked about alot of details on each slide so lots of gaps to fill in but this should give you the foundation of the discussions.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

2016 Reds in the Bottle

So we've got the reds in the bottle now. We've got four reds this year, the Foch we blogged about earlier in the year. The Castel is varietal and is really nice, the Leon Millot is varietal also. The Kuhlman Blend is just that - a blend of most of the Kuhlman varieites - Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, Lucy Kuhlman, Triompe D'Alsace, Comar Precose Noir, and Marechal Joffre and there is a bit of Pinot Noir and Regent as well.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mid - Winter Update

The winter is coming to an end and we have to check the vines to get a feel for what me may expect come spring. In particular we are looking for signs of damage due to cold.  This winter has not been particularly cold although we had a stretch of days in the -20c to -22c zone. This is a bit unusual as when we do get this cold it is usually for just 1 day.

Took a sampling of the varieties and thusfar most look pretty good. Leon Millot is among the least hardy and it is looking pretty good so far. Have to qualify the statement with "so far" because the real potential for vine damage is not only in extreme cold temperature but more often it is when we get warm temperature in the spring then a sudden cold snap.

When this happens, the warm temperature get the vines to come out of dormancy and they loose their deep cold temperature protections and the saps start to flow. If then we get a real good cold snap then that can really damage the buds. Same can happen in the fall if we get a cold snap before the vines have had a chance to get to dormancy stage.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Back Yard Vineyard seminar - March 14, 2017

So I have had so many questions about grape growing I'm putting on a Back Yard Vineyard seminar from 7-8:30pm on Tuesday March, 14, 2017 at the Strathcona County Library.  Seems crazy that growing nice grapes in the Sherwood Park and Edmonton area is a thought or possibility given the climate but the reality is that you can grow really nice grapes there.  St. Croix pictures below;

One of the reasons this is possible is that this area has one of the longest frost free periods in the prairie provinces and the long days in the summer increase growing time each day.  But the real secret is not the summer heat or sun; its staving off the winter cold.

So I am going to be talking about what varieties can survive and thrive in our area and early enought to ripen. We'll talk about how to care for the vines, basic planning, pruning and dealing with pests as well as how to use the grapes. Its an introduction, but for the enthusiast, this will get anyone started.

The seminar is being held at the Starhcona Public Library here is the link,    hope to see you there.

2016 Foch Is Bottled - Say What?!

So we just bottled our 2016 Marechal Foch. Yes we did (well actually it was at the beginning of December). I know what some of you are thinking - its to young, you can't bottle the wine yet.

This style of wine is meant to be drank early and usually is on the down slide within a few years of bottling.We went with little skin contact and that exaggerated the fruit forward style of this wine.

We really like this Foch, as do others (went though alot of it over the Christmas holiday season) it is fruity with aromas and flavours of ripe plum and of course the sweet cherry prominence of Marechal Foch and some raspberry with moderate acidity.