Monday, October 14, 2019

Marechal Foch - Rose' ?

One thing that you immediately see when you crush and press Marechal Foch grapes is the juice is already dark red. Many other varieties of red wine grape, like Pinot Noir, have clear juice so that when you crush and press those grapes there is virtually no red tints. Often to make a rose' with those grapes you need to soak the grapes on the skins for a day or so to extract a bit of red color to make the rose' wine. To get red wine from Pinot Noir you need to ferment Pinot Noir on the skins for several days after which the red colour is slowly extracted from the skins. This is not the case with Foch.

Sibling grape of Marechal Foch is Leon Millot and the juice from Leon Millot looks the same as Foch. No wonder Leon Millot was called "the wine medicine" by French wine makers who use to blend Leon Millot with Pinot Noir to enhance the red wine colour of the Pinot Noir.

So here is Marechal Foch grapes, cluster 1 and 2 from a shoot and the very dark red juice that presses from this variety. Ive made Rose' from Foch before and well, its hard to call it Rose', its juice is just naturally too dark in colour...but it can be made in the Rose' style and makes amazing wine in this style.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Grape Harvest 2019

Was a good year overall with average heat but above average rain. The grapes and clusters were big and heavy. Some cracking on a few varieties due to the water in the soil. Sugars are about 1 brix lower on most varieties but grape size and bunch weight is much higher than usual. Foch clusters were in the 75 to 125 gram range where 70 grams is more usual.

Marchal Foch pictured

Here are some of the brix numbers for Red grapes;
Castel   21
Pinot Noir  17
Colmar    21
Triompe D'Alsace 20
Marechal Foch 20
Marquette 20
Leon Millot 20
St Croix 18

Here is brix numbers for some of the White grapes
Evangeline 21
Petite Milo 20
Cayuga 18
L'Acadie Blanc 20
Ravat 34 17
Vandal Cliche 20
Sovereign Ruby 19

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Vandal Cliche Grape

We have been experimenting with Vandal Cliche for several years and it has proven itself at our vineyard time and again.
This grape was created in Quebec by Joseph Vandal and Mario Cliche to match the harsh winter climate and relatively short growing season there. It definately has winter hardiness and does well even to -30 to -35 celcius. Like the cold Quebec climate I have seen it proven to be grown in climates such as Edmonton, Alberta as well. It is also pretty good at with standing fungal pressure and we have never experience fungus on this grape. Its a pretty big producer at about 100 grams/clusters and 2 per shoot. We crop this one at 5-6 shoots per trellis foot.

It can ripen to 20-21 brix and easily does so at our site at 1000+ degree days celcius and 150 frost free days and it has high malic acid so ML fermentation is usually needed.  Those who have produced this grape for years and make wine from it commercially suggest it is best harvested early, around 16-17 brix. Apparently this grape accumulates more labruska notes as it matures.

So if one were to harvest this grape at 16-17 brix, for our location, this is at about 130 frost free days and about 900 degree days growing. On September 14, 2019 at the vineyard it was already showing 16 brix. In 2018, it was 17 brix by September 10th.  It may be a really good white grape for shorter season locations with harsher winter climates. 

Ive tasted a few of these wines made from Vandal Cliche and they are very nice, crisp, citrus and neutral, but again - nice. Thank you Mr. Vandal and Mr. Cliche.  See link for more info on this variety.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Grape Splitting

One of the things that can happen with some grape varieties is that they are prone to splitting. For those varieties that experience this it happens during the ripening stage and often after a big rain.

As the grapes ripen there are a number of things that happen that collectively can converge in disaster for grapes prone to splitting. First off as the grapes ripen they swell with juice and the skin softens. This is also the same time of sugar accumulation and acids drop in the juice.

The biggest issue is the on-set of bunch rot or sour rot from fungal pressure that a avails itself from the split in the grape skin. This often occurs after a big rain as the vine takes up the moisture and transfers it to already swollen grapes...the result is some of the grapes on the bunch can split open.

Ravat 34 with split grape in centre of the bunch

So this is where the problems start as the same conditions that contribute to the grapes splitting..that is the rain and associated high humidity and cooler weather are the same conditions that spur on the growth of bunch rot and sour rot.

Once the grape splits open, the opening invites the mold spores to grow in the low acid high sugar environment in the ripening grape.

Hard to stop without fungal spray but some cultural practices like shoot thining and bunch area leaf removal are known to help by allowing better air flow and sunlight around the bunches.

Ravat 34 is prone to this, and Colmar a bit as well but less so. So we pull the leaves ftom around the clusters when they start to ripen.

Ravat 34 with leaf removal around clusters

Sunday, September 15, 2019

September 2019 Grape Ripeness

So far so good, as of September 13 the grapes are ripening well and on par with most years. As usual we could just about be harvesting the Evangeline and Seyval Blanc as both are looking good. The Marquette is not far behind followed by Triompe D'Alsace, Leon Millot and Marechal Foch. Here is what the sugar numbers look like so far...with z few photos as well

Leon Millot - 17 brix
Marechal Foch - 17 brix
Ravat 34 - 14 brix
L'Acadie Blanc - 17 brix
Marquette - 19 brix
Petite Milo - 18 brix
Evangeline - 20 brix
Colmar - 18 brix
Triompe D'Alsace - 17 brix
Lucy Kuhlman - 19 brix
Cayuga - 14 brix
Pinot Noir - 15 brix
Castel - 18 brix
Sovereign Ruby - 16 brix
St. Croix - 16 brix
Vandal Cliche - 16 brix
Seyval Blanc - 19 brix

L'Acadie Blanc

Leon Millot

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

New Grape Vines From Grape Seeds

Every so often I see that some of the grapes that have dropped from the vine end up growing into vines. This is often how new varieties of grapes have emerged over the years.

Grape vines are of course the offspring of two different grapes types and the offspring carries genetic components from both parents. When breeding grape vines the breeders will have hundreds if not thousands of seedlings that emerge from crossing two grape vines. The grapes that result from the cross are then planted and those that grow are raised for a few years to see what genetic components they carry. 

Each seed represents a different potential grape vine and often grapes from the same cluster on a vine will produce entirely different grape vines when the seeds grow into vines.

We often see small vines starting to grow under the established grape vines in a row. They usually dont amount to much as they are over taken by weeds or if they get too big we pull them out.

However, have a look at the small grape vines growing in the picture below, you can clearly see the difference in leaf colour for the seedlings growing side by side that have emerged.  These seedling came from grapes that fell off of the Marechal Jofffre vines - probably from the same cluster.

Marechal Joffre is a cross between 101-14 MGt and Goldriesling.  The genetic traits that these  sibling vines are showing already are very different. It would be interesting to see what type of grape they produce. Marechal Joffree is a blue grape but perhaps the grapes from one of these seedlings could be green. The Goldriesling is an old vinifera and if you could see the leaf tips of the light green vine it does have more of a vinifera appearance, however the leaves are less of a vinifera appearence.

We may keep a few of these around just to see what happens with them.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Leaf Pull to Expose Grapes

One technique that is often applied to grapes is to remove leaves around the clusters of the grapes. The idea behind this is to expose the grapes to sunlight, and to improve airflow to lower the potential for fungus or rot.

Leaf pull is usually done at veraison, when the grapes begin to ripen and this usally involves removing the first 1-2 leaves on a shoot. These are the leaves that will be closest to the clusters.

Veraison started about August 8 at Arrow lakes Vineyard with the Evangeline softening and the Triompe D'Alsace and Foch starting to turn from green to red. And with that, we did a preliminary leaf pull around the Ravat 34. Bottom photo is Triompe D'Alsace starting to ripen.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Arrow Lakes Vineyard Biodiversity

Arrow Lakes Vineyard is located in a unique area of Britsh Columbia not only for its climate but the spectrum of wildlife and insects.

We usually get significant rainfall right up until July which lends to old growth tall cedars. They call this area the interior rain forest and some of the old cedars are hundreds of years if not 1000+ years old with trunks 10-20 feet across. Pockets of theses old cedars can be found from Edgewood all the way to Revelstoke. 

Biodiversity in this area is amazing with the spectrum of wildlife including; moose, elk, mountain cariboo, cougar, grizzly and black bear and more. Our 7' fence keeps the big animals out but one of the unique creatures that make thier home in the rock piles around the vineyard are the northern aligator lizard as seen below. They and the garter snakes are great for keeping the grass hopper populations down. The spiders and preditory wasps also help keep the other insects in check. 

There are giant black 7 inch slugs and toads the size of your hand...not sure how they fit in to the ecosystem, but they are interesting.

We have tried to preserve the natural habitat as much as possible, incorporating the vineyard into it, rock piles included, and the local creatures are enbracing it as much as we are.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Summer 2019 Looking Good

July has not been smokin hot. In fact there has been hardly any smoke and forest fires are down too which is a relief. Its been a bit cooler than the past few years - about 1 degree cooler than average. Still we are on target for a 19c average for the month and thats ok. Lots of rain too and high humidity to go with it. We have not had to irrigate at all and the vines are loving the moisture.

Generally, the cooler temperature and extra moisture brings on the fungus pressure. Think about what happens to a grass lawn when you get several days of rain - the grass loves it but you also get mushrooms popping up like crazy. For grapes this the fungus grows on the leaves and grapes and destroys the crop.  So far no fungal pressure on our vines but most of our vines have some natural fungal resistance.

We have a few vinifera like pinot noir and siegerrebe and they can be impacted by fungus but no sign of fungus yet.

So far fruit set was good, we have great moisture in the ground and no fungus.  Now we could use some normal temperatures and sun for the rest of the season. In particular, we could use the heat in the ripening season in September.

Here is some grapes as of July 19


Leon Millot

Ravat 34



Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Bloom and Fruit Set 2019

So June was a bit above normal with an average temperature of about 16.7c. Our normal for June  is 15.9c. We have also had lots of rain so the vines are lush and healthy and there are no sign of fungal pressure. 

This brought the vines into flowering around June 20th starting with the Kuhlman varieties and Castel and ending with Evangeline. By the looks of things the fruit set is good. Some photos from June 28 below;


Marechal Foch

Ravat 34


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Vines are Maturing

So four years ago we planted a block of Marechal Foch. Its in a new area that we cleared next to the original test vineyard. When we cleared the land it was noticeable that the new land was significantly more fertile than the sand we were growing in on the test vineyard.

So now going into season 4, many of the Foch vines are producing well. Of particular interest is the fruitfulness of the canes in the new area vs the original test vineyard. In the original test vineyard the Foch produces reliably with canes having usually 2 clusters per shoot and occasionally some shoots have 3 clusters per shoot.

In the new area approx. 50% of the canes have 4 clusters per shoot and the rest have 3. The rare exception is 2 clusters per shoot. This differs strongly against the Foch in the test vineyard. Foch with 4 flower clusters below;

It tells us a few things...that we could add more ammendments to the test vineyard to try to bring that production up and that we anticipate a bigger crop (Lbs/Trellis Foot) in the new area than what we have been use to.

Flowering is about 1-2 weeks away and we hope for sunny weather in this period. We will see what the fruit set is like by early July and that will help us confirm crop level.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Bud Break 2019

Absolutely love this time of year. Snow capped peaks surround the vineyard, morning mist comes down off the mountains and flows through the vines, and you get the first good look at what this years crop may be. For somethings like crop load  adjustments or soil inputs, it can take two or more seasons before you can see the effects. So in that respect, you get to see if what you did a few seasons back, worked they way you wanted it too.
Bud break was at the usual time this year dispite the cool weather right up into the second week of May. In fact some local areas got a touch of frost in the first week of May. But its been normal temperatures since then and its astonishing how quick the vines grow once the soil has warmed up. In just 1-2 week the vine can move from wooly tips to full leaf.
So we just finished the first round of shoot adjustments (removing extra shoots) to ensure we have a proper crop load. We will go at it again in in July once the vines have flowered and we have fruit set and we can further guage crop load.

As of May 24, the Marechal Foch is off to a great start and some canes are at the 5th leaf, most are around 3-4 leaves. The Ravat is similar with some at 4th leaf and most in the 2-3 leaf stage. Triompe D'Alsace and Evangeline are just getting going and are at 1-2 leaves - they are always the katest. Foch rows below;
With the heat forcast in the next few weeks those later varieties will be catching up quick and we can expect mid June flowering. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Sustainable Vineyard - School Presentation

We are often asked to make presentations to groups about vineyard practices and among these groups are schools.

We were asked to present to a Grade 7 class this year as part of the Grade 7 science program includes sustainable agriculture practices and our presentation fits nicely.

Some of our key vineyard practices that we discuss is;
-non use of fungicides
-non use of pesticides
-non use of herbicides
-natural pactices to reduce harmful insects
-vineyard practices to maximize natural rain fall
-use of drip irrigation
-automated and solar power water distribution
-gravity powered water sources
-solarization for weed control
-naturally fungal resistant grape varieties
-natural soil ammendments as fertilizer
-the impact, good and bad, of these practices

We also discuss the growing cycle and propegation of grape vines from vine cuttings. This is a hands on part as each student helps prepare a vine cutting that they grow in the class room and can take home at the end of the semester. They are able to see the vine develop through bud break to shoot growth to root development.

We just checked on the vine cuttings at the school the other day and notice that after 3 weeks many of the cuttings are showing root growth at the bottom of the cup and there is good shoot growth on top - they are rooted vines now

The students will be able to take a vine home in about a month.

What really impresses me is the knowledge the students have obtained already on these subjects, thier enthusiam and great questions. I credit the school and teachers for inspiring their classes and creating such a great learning environment.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

New Addition - Baco Noir

We have tested 30 varieties of grapes at Arrow Lake Vineyard and we had always wsnted to see how Baco Noir would work out but never obtained any plants. We lucked out this year and gratefully obtained some from the Arrow Lakes Grape Growers.

Baco Noir is a popular hybrid grown in significant quantities in Ontario and is known to make a big red wine, often oaked. It is know for higher acid at harvest  and is often subject to malolactic fermentation to reduce acid.

Its late in the game for trying new varieties at the vineyard but we will give this one a try and see how it works out at our location.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Vine Buds are Pushing

Its been another cool spring this year, not unlike last year, but again unusual compared to what we are use to. We finally have got some warmer weather moving in and its got the vines pusshing the buds. The Foch and Castel are out in front and the Evangeline is the latest. Foch pictured below;

Nearly 100% bud survival on the Marechal Foch and most varieties show great bud survuval rates. Even the Pinot Noir is exceptional and 80-90% bud survival. Our coldest temperature this past wineter was March 6, 2019 at -21c which is generally pretty cold for us but in particular it was very late in the winter for this cold of temperatures.

Its evident over the years that winter bud survival has many factors. It is so important not to over crop the vines and to ensure they have good nutrition and to avoid any severe or prolonged water stress, especially going into winter. In our soil, which is rediculously low in nutirents, its important to ammend the soil and this has taken years but the value is really showing now.

Its also a bit odd, the hardiest varieties, like Vandal Cliche, had bud damage and best we can attribute that too was the warm spell in later December that may have started to bring them out of dormancy.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Arrow Lakes Vineyard is Growing

So we have been slowly growing the vineyard since we started growing grapes in 2008. The original vineyard was seven small test rows and we added another 3 a few years later. The original test vineyard that we tested about 30 varieities was only 0.33 of an acre.

Since then we established what varieties would grow and we cleared another acre and we have 1.33 acres planted in grapes. Those vines are comming along well and it was time to expand again.

This year we have cleared another 2 acres so the vineyard area is 3.33 acres. Well technically we didnt clear the land it was great work done by Crescent Bay Construction on the land clearing..and there was several cords of great firewood taken so far with more to come.

We will fence it all in this year and next year start with planting and trellising.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

March Pruning

March was cold the first 2 weeks, in fact the coldest day this winter was March 6 with -20c. This is really unusual cold for March. But in the flip of a coin the cold is gone and the last 2 weeks have been fairly warm and the snow has melted significantly. Still lots of snow between the rows but there is exposed ground here and there and the soil is warming bringing on scale crack on the earliest varieties.

We did some lite pruning and cane positioning and tieing on some varieties that we do long cane pruning. We also started pruning the Ravat 34 into the 3 bud spurs on bi-lateral cordons (see below).  The canes look healthy comming out of winter - cutting into the cane the vine is nice and green.

We will have to do a secondary pruning later at the end of May when the shoots are about 5-7 inches long and keep the best ones. We want to have about 4 canes per trellis foot so this means we will have to eliminate about 1 cane per spur.  We understand that Ravat 34 will usually put out 2 clusters per cane with a combined weight of about 150-175 grams. So with 4 canes per foot we expect about 600-700 grams per foot of trellis or about 1.25-1.50lb per linear foot of trellis.
But this is perfect world estimates - late spring frost, cold during flowering, drought or other factors could affect the crop and you really don't know what you have until just before harvest.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Triomphe D'Alsace

I haven't really blogged about this unique and rather rare grape variety. Its another of the Kuhlman family created in France around 1911 to be disease and cold resistant.

The more well known vines created by Kuhlman at this time are the likes of Matechal Foch and Leon Millot. These are crosses of Goldreisling and Millardet de Grasset 101-14. Triomphe is instead a cross if Knipperl with Millardet de Grasset 101-14. Colmar Precose Noir also came from this same cross.

Triomphe is very vigorous blue grape and even in our sandy soil devoid of nutrients it can send out lots of 10 foot canes and side by side more vigorous than Foch. We could really go to a devided canopy on Triomphe and probably should.

This vine produces well every season, usually 2 clusters per shoot of spprox 70grms average. They ripen early like Foch and Millot but with lower acid so its great for blending.  However, we have found Triomphe makes a great wine on its own.

The flavour is similar to Foch and Millot for sure. Its often got a bad reputation from growers in other countries for not producing likeable wine. We disagree, but our climate and soil is completely different, and like Foch, grown in different locations can be very different in flavour, we suspect the same holds true here with Triomphe.

Few commercial examples out there but Luckett vineyard in Nova Scotia produces one that has received much praise. I also tasted one produced by Jost Vineyard in Nova Scotia which was quite nice.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mid Winter Grape Vine Health

In mid winter we get out to check on the vines and see how they look. There has not been much snow this year so the vines are very exposed. This is a big contrast to the winter we had last year which was about 50% more snow than normal.

In fact we had so much snow last year (2017-2018) that it caused tremendous damage to the vines and trellises. The snow was so deep and heavy that the weight snapped a few of the end posts and broke vine cordons off the trunks and off of trellis wires.

As of early January 2019 it has not been colder than -9 celsius, so we are not expecting any cold damage. We took samples from some vines and they are looking green and healthy inside.

In about 8-10 weeks the snow will be mostly gone and we will be on to pruning then spring.