Sunday, November 15, 2020

Clearing the Land - Continued

So there are little and big things that impact business. This year we were clearing land for new vines and we needed re-stack and burn up the remnants of bush piles that we clearing in spring 2019 (see link) and first burned in January 2020. By mid-April, the piles had no more snow on them but there was still snow on the ground and in among the trees. This was a perfect time to burn the remaining trees and bush that did not completely burn in January...but this was going to have to wait.

Unfortunately and despite the snow on the ground, as of mid-April there was a ban on burning certain sizes of burn piles and this included what we needed to burn up. So this halted our ability to completely clear the land at that time. This is very unusual and we have not seen a ban this early in our time. Interestingly, and what was a remarkable decision given the forest fire danger, the ban was reversed in Mid-June to allow for large open fires when there was apparent significant fire danger/hazard. 

Given the potential for forest fire which is a common summer time event in our area, we chose not to burn in June and left the piles over the summer and we have just burned them up in November.  Its a messy job to pile and re-pile logs that are partially burnt up but eventually the bulk of the piles is gone leaving only the largest stumps and trunks.

We'll likely dig a pit in the spring and bury the stumps and trunks and we'll be ready for planting this area in summer 2021.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Challenging Year

We finished our harvest on October 10 in cool wet weather and we got a -2c frost overnight Oct14/15. So we harvested as late as we could. Thematically, that was the summer,...well it was cool at least. From May on through to August each month was at or below our normal temperatures and everything was late going into harvest and the numbers were lower all around. Even the above normal heat in September wasn't enough to correct the time lost to cool weather at the beginning of the season. Seems to be on par for a year like 2020.

We dropped about 20-25% of the fruit in early September to help get the Foch to ripen on time and even with that we managed 18brix where we usually have 20brix. Even at harvest we culled more fruit that was still on the vine.

The cool weather in the first 2 weeks of July including the fruit set period was not helpful either and there were far more shot grapes in both Foch and Castel that a normal year.

Here is the numbers.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Grape Harvest 2020

Harvest was a week later than normal and a good thing. The grapes we late so the extra week gave them time to ripen some more. Even at that they we lower in sugars than most years and that was with dropping about 20-25% of the crop on early September to focus and force ripening on less grapes.

This was a transition year in the move to hanging curtain trellis from VSP. It seemed tobeork good for Foch, Millot and Petite Milo and next year that will be completed.

Here is some of the Foch at 18 brix in hanging curtain with nice size clusters of 100-150grms.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Fruit Orchards in B.C. c1909

 A friend of mine gave me a book titled "Fruit Ranching in British Columbia" by J. Bealby and published in 1909. 

Very interesting book about orchard fruit growing primarily in the west Kootenays. Its filled with orchard photos from areas around Creston through Nelson and even Fauquier (photo above).

Particularly interesting was even at that time the assessment that the fruit growing land of the west Kootenays was undervalued compared to the same land in the Okanagan.

The tree fruits grown at that time was pears, plums, apples and mention of grapes, and the harvests were sold across Canada and internationally.

110 years later and not much has changed in the fruit growing industry in the west Kootenays except perhaps less prolific than in 1909 but the potential remains and the area remains one of the finest fruit growing regions in Canada.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Evangeline Are Harvested

This grape has been hard to grow in terms of figuring out crop load, pruning and trellis but we are getting there and had a good year this year.

Evangeline is a cross of Seigerrebe (Gwertztraminer x Madeline Angevine) and St. Pepin (Seyval x minnisota). It is very early ripening has good fungal resistance and hardy to about -27 to -30c range. Clusters average about 150-175grms to sugars of 18-22 brix. It can ripen in approximately 130 frost free days and 900 ddg(celsius) of heat. 

Best part is the flavour. Pear. Pineapple and tropical fruit...a true cross of seigerrebe and St. Pepin flavours.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Harvest Just Around the Corner

Everything is late this year. It started with a cooler June then again a cool July with a return to normal in August and above normal for the first 10 days of September. So heading to harvest we are about 1 week behind normal. There was also no rain since mid July and this was in the critical development period and as such the bunch sizes are a bit smaller than usual. But that often translates into other positives like intensifying flavours in the wine making, but still there is 3-4 weeks before harvest and what appears to be more nice weather on the way.

As of September 13, the grapes have the following brix;
Castel 15
Foch 14
Leon Millot 15
Colmar Precoce Noir 16
Marquette 15
Marechal Joffre 16
L'Acadie Blanc 13
Evangeline 16
Petite Milo 14
Seyval Blanc 16
Soveriegn Ruby 14
Vandal Cliche 14
Siegerrebe 15

Leon Millot below;

Marechal Foch

Petite Milot


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Netting the Vines

We just started to see some colour change on the red grapes so it was time to net the grapes.

Usually by now most of the reds grape clusters would have several grapes showing colour approximately 30-50% of the bunches would have colour but this year the grapes are 7-10 days behind and only a few grapes here and there show colour. This is Marechal Foch below approaching bunch closure as of August 16.

There is some heat ahead for the rest of August and a nice September would allow the vines to catch up by early October. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Adding 2 Acres To The Vineyard

The next part of vineyard expansion is underway way and we started adding vines to the next 2 acres. This is the first batch of vines to go into this new section.

When we plant the vines we first use s 12" bit auger to drill a 3' deep hole for the vines to put them in the ground. The auger breaks up the layers of soil and the hole makes for an easy conduit for a tap root to get deep into the soil fast.

Perfect day for setting the vines in and the work crew was awesome. Next we will set out the trellis posts, wires, and irrigation lines.
Auger Holes In Row

 Auger In Action

 Setting Out Vines

Planting The Vines

Friday, July 3, 2020

Bloom Time, but Late

As of July 1 the vines are about 50% in bloom. The Castel and Leon Millot are in full bloom or just past and the Ravat 34, Evangeline, and l'Acadie Blanc are just starting.
This is at least 1 week late for bloom but on par for the cool weather. Next few weeks look cool as well but so long as it doesnt rain through the rest of bloom time and we get some heat the vines should do well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Helpful Insects and Birds

One of the things Im on the look out for when I walk the vineyard rows is the presence of "bad" insects that may be damaging to to the vines. There are so many insects that could cause damage including beatles and leaf hoppers. The other thing Im looking for is the "good" insects such as spiders and wasps that keep the bad insects in balance. Really like seeing healthy populations of the good insects early on in the year and especially that they are doing thier job.

The spider below has captured something in its web.

Preditory wasps are helpful as well at capturing bad bugs

The other vineyard friends are the birds, particularly the robins. They are great at pucking off beatles and caterpillars that otherwise would make a salad out of tender emerging grape vine leaves. But these are our fickle friends in that come fall they'd be more than happy to clean the vines of all the ripe grapes. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Delayed Vine Growth for 2020

With the cooler weather so far in May and June the vines are a little behind what we have been use too. May came in at about an average temperature of 12.6c and June is starting out cool. But even the past few years that have started out this way we have balanced off with high heat in the summer and fall ripening season. In both 2017 and 2014 we started off in a similar manner and yet by the end of the growing season we still accumulated between 1000 and 1100 degree days growing celcius (1800 to 1980 degree days growing fahrenheit). Hoping this year is similar.

All the varieties are looking good except some varieties we converted to hanging curtain trellis as the trellis is not as well populated with growth as it should be. This year will be a correction year to get those vines on track for that type of trellising. Vines are at about the 5th leaf stage for growth now and should be flowering at the end of June. Here is how they look;

Marechal Foch

Leon Millot


St. Croix


Ravat 34

L'Acadie Blanc

Petite Millot

The cool and wet weather has presented great conditions for downey mildew growth and while our varieties have natural resistance to this fungus the prolonged poor conditions has resulted in some spots of this fungus appearing. Hoping for nice sunny dry weather going forward especially into the flowering stage.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Bud Break 2020

Bud break is a bit late this year, we havent had a stretch of really hot weather to push those buds out. But its comming and the Marechal Foch is comming out fast.

The Castel and Leon Millot are comming on too and in the next week all the varieties will be out with the Triompe and Evangeline the last to leaf out.

Most of the varieties are looking good, even with the heavy snow we had.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Spring Pruning and Hanging Curtains

Beautiful time of year and its always a surprise to find what has happened under the snow over the winter. It reveals so many questions...what is the bud survival rate, is there any damage to vines, what trellis wires need tightening etc. etc.
This year we had 5 feet of snow on the ground in mid winter. This is the most we've ever had and with this much snow it builds up and compacts and becomes dense and heavy (ice like) and freezes to the trunk and cordons of the vine. As the snow melts at ground level and more falls on top, the trunk and cordons get pulled with the snow and ice and ripped off the fruit wires. The photo below shows a cordon arm (right side) that was pulled from the vine trunk.
So we are moving all varieties that can be trained to a top wire to the hanging curtain method. This includes Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, and Petite Millot. This will keep the canes above the snow in winter especially when we do the November preliminary pruning.  But the L'Acadie Blanc and Evangeline are not suited to a top wire, hanging curtain training style, so we will have to keep those vines as vertical shoot position style (VSP). Pruning itself doesn't take too long but pruning and retraining vines does. The photo below shows the row on the right is VSP trained and not pruned and the row on the left is now pruned and retrained to hanging curtain.
Hanging curtain is supposed to give better fruit sun exposure and is supposed to be easier to manage vine training and tucking over the summer. But in very hot areas the fruit may be prone to sun burn..We'll see how it works out this year.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Valley of the Springs Winery

So a few years back (well about 10) I blogged about Sunset Ridge Vineyard and the fantastic grapes they were growing in the west Kootnays region of British Columbia. See previous blog link here.

The vineyard has now become a winery and my friend Jody Scott and family in Nakusp, B.C,  opened Valley of the Springs Winery this year. I ordered a case of wine and so far sampled the Marechal Foch and Vista. The Foch is about the best Ive ever tasted across Canada, and the Vista, a blend of Seigerrebe, Ortega and Madeline Angevine is outstanding. These are absolutely top quality wines - grown, hand picked and vinified in small batches by the owners. Just wow....

If your a wine lover this is the wine to buy

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Marechal Foch Rose' Wine

In an earlier blog I talked about how dark red the juice of the Marechal Foch grape is (see link).

We just bottled the rose' wine and you can see how coloured the wine is. This is just the juice fermented right after crush and press with no skin contact.

Often people try this wine they think its a red wine and by colour alone its easily taken as such. But the flavour and aroma is so rich in cherry, plum fruit, and melon to some degree its at odds with what most know as a red wine flavour profile, even for light fruity red wines - virtually no tannin and no oak.

Slightly acidic and perfectly in balance to the residual sugar, few wines have as fruity profiles as those in the Kuhlman family of grapes (Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, Luch Kuhlman, Triompe D'Alsace and others) and his one is dangerously tasty. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Warm Winter - Big Snow

Its been a really warm winter so far and up until end of December not too much snow. The coldest temperature to January 7, 2020 is about -10c, do not cold at all. That said there was abour 2 feet of snow on the ground at the end of December but nearly 3 feet of snow has fallen in the last week.

We dont want much more to fall as if the snow gets too deep it becomes destructive to the vines and tellises. What happens is the deeper the snow gets the more like ice it becomes near the base as it compacts from the weight of snow on top. As more snow accumulates, the snow column becomes more wet, dense and ice like the closer it gets to the soil surface. It melts at the bottom due to ground heat and the height of the column of snow slowly drops. As new snow falls this becomes a slow movements of the column of snow like a conveyor belt from top of snow dropping to the soil surface over time.

As the snow begins to turn to ice it locks on to what ever is around it, such as trellis supports, fencing, or the trunk of the vines. Then as that snow continues to drop towards to soil surface it pulls what ever it has attached to with it. It will pull the vines right off the trellis wires and collapse the vines right to the ground. If the vines are not ripped off the trellis wires it can actually collapse the trellises and end posts as we experienced 2 years ago.