Just sharing a quick time lapse video from this evening taking in the rolling clouds and beautiful sun...
It looks like the Pinot vines are enjoying the season we are having - so much so that they decided to start going through veraison over the past couple of days. The first vines to make this transition seem to be Clone 777 in all the blocks.
Veraison represents the transition from vine growth into berry development. Thus, the vine (ideally) will slow down the growth of the shoots and begin accumulating sugars in the berries. This is also a sign to others in the animal kingdom that the fruit is ripening and is much tastier than earlier samples. Therefore, our next move over the next week will be to apply netting to the fruit zone of these vines to protect them from predators like birds, turkeys, and deer.
Normally in the Finger Lakes, veraison occurs a little later in August - so we were fairly surprised to stumble upon these clusters in the last couple of days.... Harvest will be just around the corner!
As summer progresses, we now have beautiful, full vineyard canopies. The abundance of shoots and leaves provide the perfect cover to camouflage the a bird nest. Our lower block has been graced with the presence of two sets of robin nests which are each bearing two eggs. As a child, I was always reminded to let nature be unless it is negatively impacting you.
As you might imagine, having birds this close to the grapes could be a serious nuisance. However, robins are not our greatest predator (starlings are quite another story!).
Later this season, we will put up netting in the fruit zone to protect the grapes from animal pressures. With the location of these nest, we would be "netting in" the robin family instead of keeping them out.
As a result, I have marked the locations of these nests and we will wait for the young birds to hatch and take flight before discarding the nests.
Next on the lineup in the vineyard: shoot tucking, leaf removal, and weed removal.
Both sides of the trellis now have three catch wires for the shoots to climb up into the canopy. More frequently than not, the shoots miss the next catch wire and begin making their way into the row middles. It is our job to remedy the situation by "tucking" the shoots between the catch wires so they can continue to progress upward. The longer you let them grow outside of the trellis, the worse it can get. Thus, it is important to address this issue as soon as possible and as frequently as possible.
Pinot Noir, a tightly clustered grape variety can be a bit more susceptible to disease pressure, especially after the normal rainfall that we receive in the Finger Lakes. Thus, removing the leaves in the fruit zone is advantageous for better spray protection, better sunlight penetration to ripen and dry the fruit, and better air drainage to keep moisture accumulation to a minimum.
While we are working this close to the ground, we will also remove the weeds that would be competing for the same nutrients. We don't use herbicides, so this is quite a manual process. We want to eliminate them as quickly as possible - the longer we let the weeds go, the greater the chance that they would grow into the canopy and block out the fruit from the appropriate amount of sunlight.
The conditions for bloom to ensure a proper fruit set were not ideal, but what can you expect in the Finger Lakes. Nevertheless, we woke up Sunday morning (6/10) to fruit set on the clusters. It's too early to tell if there is any unevenness in the berry set, but in the next week we'll have a better idea if some of this wetter weather impacted bloom.
The past week, we've been focusing on shoot thinning and positioning. I'll post some pictures of before/after here shortly (when I have some additional time).
On May 29th we received quite a scare. A "microburst" of 90 mph wind ran through our area and took down a number of trees along with severe rain and hail (read the NOAA report here). Fortunately, we dodged both the extreme winds and hail and only received a touch of the rain.
May 30th delivered a different surprise - bloom in the vineyard. The fragrance is remarkable and makes the vineyard work much more pleasant. And while it's wonderful to work out there, this time for a wine grower can be pretty nerve wracking. Weather like rain, hail, wind, and cool temperatures can impact the delicate flowers and cause uneven fruit set despite the close proximity of the stamen to the ovaries (vitis-vinifera are able to self-pollinate). Multiple daily checks from the different weather services are normal protocol now.
And while all the great weather technology is available, we are still reminded that mother nature is in control.
Some replacement vines have arrived. Occasionally, a vine is struck by the tractor or just doesn't seem to perform like the surrounding vines and needs to be replaced. These vines are marked in the Fall and are ordered from the nursery. Once we are in the clear of any additional frosts for the season, we have the vines shipped out from the nursery. Next, we break them out of their packaging and let them rest in the barrel room to keep them cool and out of the sun. The roots need to be watered multiple times a day in this state. Once we are ready to plant, we'll place the vines into buckets of water to allow them to have one last opportunity of a good drink before they go into the ground. The matching clones are chosen for the rows we are working with and, with a shovel, we remove the old vine and replace it with the new. Lastly, we give the vines a little shot of water so it will be able to have a good start on firing up the shoots for the season.
Now that the buds have progressed into shoots, it's time to take care of the unwanted shoots on the trunk - otherwise known as "suckers". The verb tense of removing these "suckers" is called suckering.
The before shot shows the vine on the left with a number of new shoots (green) extending from the trunk. The problem is, we really don't need any of these shoots and they may steal some energy from the rest of the fruit that we need to mature. Thus, we need to remove them.
The second shot demonstrates the easy removal of these shoot at this point in the season. If we let the shoots go much further, we would run the risk of the shoots lignifying and we would be unable to remove them with our fingers.
Lastly, an after shot of the vine once we remove all the suckers.
This past week we were greeted with a familiar face, Susan's father, Charlie. He has been an integral part of harvest the past five vintages, but since the vineyards have come online, he has made multiple trips per year from Dayton. This past weekend he was able to pour at a tasting at Century Liquors in Rochester, Additionally, he's been making huge strides stringing up the catch wire in the middle portion of the vineyard. We're glad to have such experienced help - plus, we think he enjoys riding around on the four-wheeler.
We were met with some pretty cool temperatures (29 degrees) last weekend and after a couple of warmer days, we were able to assess the damage. It looks like the frost was minimal at best. Maybe one bud per three vines.
In fact, a number of the buds that were damaged were at lower heights on the trunks - potentially saving us some addition time with the later process of "suckering" the vines. Also, we haven't begun "shoot thinning" yet, so we should be able to work around many of the toasted buds in the fruit zone that probably would have come off anyway.
In speaking with other growers, it looks like the highest damage numbers might be around 30%. With those percentages, I'm really glad we dodged a bullet this time around and I'm hopeful the warmer temperatures will persist. Thank you Cayuga Lake.
The vineyard has some additional excitement this week - the first clusters of 2012 began to emerge. While these clusters are smaller than your pinky fingernail, we're thrilled to see this development knowing how much effort has gone into the vineyard thus far. We still have quite a bit of the season ahead of us, but this is a promising sign of things yet to come.
Depending on the area of the vineyard and the clone, some shoots are already out 2" while on other vines, the buds are just beginning to swell. We figured that by planting seven different clones of Pinot Noir and four different clones of Riesling on our site we would avoid an "all eggs in one basket" approach and benefit from the clonal differences. Some clones may ripen earlier than others, while some may benefit from a warmer summer, and others may push buds first. These "clones" that I'm referring to are not GMOs, but rather mutations that been observed in the plants for centuries. Pinot Noir is one of the most susceptible grape varieties to mutation (there are hundreds of clones of Pinot Noir) and has been linked to the white varieties of Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio) and Pinot Blanc. As you can imagine, there are pros and cons to each of the clones depending on the growing season.
Cooler Temps on the Way
As we hold our breath as we look at the weather forecast and see some cooler temperatures over the next couple of nights, we're hopeful that these low temps will be the last of our growing season. The forecast for next week has temps in the 60's and 70's, which should put the vines in a much more comfortable place and point us in the right direction.
Well, that was quick...
Last weeks beautiful temperatures in the 70's and 80s were met with an unpleasant surprise last night - Snow. In viewing the map on Weather.com this morning, it appeared that the Cayuga Lake thermal barrier held off the snow until about 4 a.m. By 6:30 a.m., the wet flakes switched back to a misting rain.
Although slightly confused this morning, the pooch was probably the happiest to see the white stuff on the ground. Her Swiss roots had her prancing through the slush with a Swissy smile on her face. We didn't share her same enthusiasm.
So, what does this mean for the vines?
Well, the last reference that I have to these conditions for grapevines in the Finger Lakes would be the Mother's Day snow of 2010. In a similar fashion, a couple of inches of wet snow fell and disappeared by days end. We did have bud break by that point and some significant shoot growth - unlike now where we are probably 80% through bud break. The vines seem to handle the snow in stride that year and, on most accounts, appeared to be unscathed.
We'll continue to monitor the progress of the vines and keep our fingers crossed for the season.
Farming at its Roots
Growing grapes for wine continues to be farming at its core. This season has had fluctuations between 84 degree days and 23 degree nights - having a devastating impact on other Finger Lakes fruit growers (i.e. cherries, apricots, & nectarines to name a few). We are constantly reminded (and humbled) that while technology has given us certain advantages and lead times to prepare, at the end of the day, Mother Nature still has the upper hand.
After a relatively mild winter and abnormally early spring weather, we are experiencing an earlier than normal swelling of the buds. The vines were planted in Spring of 2010, and this is the first year that we might harvest a few grapes from our estate property for inclusion in Heart & Hands wines.
All of the pruning is finished, and now Tom and Conor are positioning and tying the vines to the fruiting wire.
Pinot Noir Vines: Heart & Hands Wine Company