Friday, January 03, 2014

Baby it's cold outside .... or will be.

We are expecting the coldest temperatures my vineyard has ever seen over the next several days.   Highs on Monday and Tuesday may not get out of the minus teens Fahrenheit. Low temperatures will approach -20° F to -25° F (-29° C to -32° C).

NWS forecast
Mon Jan 6 forecast from NWS on Friday Jan3.
 While most of the grape cultivars I have planted should be okay, some will be on the edge of having some damage.

Below is a table of cultivars I grow, and the listed "hardiness temperature".  Hardiness temperatures are from this page.

Cultivar Hardiness Temperature
Foch -25° F / -32° C
Frontenac -35° F / -37° C
Marquette -35° F / -37° C
PetitePearl* (non producing) -32° F / -35° C
LaCrosse -25° F / -32° C
St Pepin -26° F / -32° C
LaCressent -36° F / -38° C
Prairie Star -40° F / -40° C
Frontenac Blanc * (non producing) -38° F / -39° C
Seedless Concord* -25° F / -32° C
Somerset Seedless (non producing) -30° F / -34° C
*The source for the hardiness temperatures for these varieties were found elsewhere.

Several things will determine how my vines pull through.  Including but not limited to:
  • Grape cultivar.  (obvious one, some vines are genetically better adapted to surviving cold.)
  • health of vine going into dormancy ( a sick weak vine will not be able to tolerate cold as well.)
  • age of vine   (younger trunks and cordons may be injured, and may need to be trained up from the roots.)
  • temperatures/weather immediately proceeding severe cold.   (Warm temperatures immediately preceding cold will de-acclimate the vine, and make vine more susceptible to damage. )
  • severity, and duration of the cold weather (another obvious one)
  • previous years crop load  (vine puts too much energy into ripening crop load, and may not store enough energy to come out of dormancy well in spring)
  • harvest time  ( a late harvest does not give the vine much time to put energy away before dormancy)
Of these factors,  harvest time and crop load last year may be impact my vines the most.   Crossing my fingers that everything goes fine.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

First ice wine grape harvest at Sampson Valley Vineyard

Ice wine grapes Thanksgiving 2013
Early Thanksgiving morning (11/28), while the temperatures hovered in the upper teens and low 20s, I harvest about 125 lbs of ice wine grapes.   This is the first ice wine grape harvest in the ten year history of the vineyard.    It was an experiment, (somewhat forced).   The grapes looked beautiful.    In this round of harvest, I picked primarily st pepin which I still had netted.   They were about 20 brix at the end of the growing season, but came in at about 29.5 after crush and press when I picked them for the ice wine.   There is about another 400 lbs of lacrosse, but unnetted.   But even though they are not under nets, they look good.
Cold calm day at Sampson Valley Vineyard

Lacrosse grapes

Since I was harvesting for myself, and not a commercial winery, I processed them too.    I was not entirely sure of the whole process, but was somewhat limited by the equipment that I had.   Since the temperatures were not in the single digits, the grapes were more of a snow cone/milk shake consistency, not hard marbles, like many ice wine makers deal with.   This was probably a good thing, since my crusher-destemmer and wood basket press would probably not have worked.

 I easily picked 125 lbs in about an hour (3 lugs full).   I probably could have picked a lot more, but had to get back for Thanksgiving dinner at 3:00.
St Pepin grapes

A very friendly black and white cat came out to help.... it hung out the entire time I was picking.   It even climbed a trellis pole to get a better view.   Maybe he was guarding the grapes for the last couple of months?   I probably didn't need the net!
St Pepin grapes with their guardian cat

Ready to pounce?
Crushing went slowly, and the destemmer sieve got pretty caked with the frozen must.   Unfortunately, the picture is slightly blurry and doesn't do the golden must justice.   Very little juice was visible as I crushed.
Thick ice wine slurry/must

Must before pressing.   Just a bit of juice after crushing.
At the end of pressing, I had a total of 3 gallons of very sweet juice.  The taste was wonderful!   Juice yield was probably a bit higher than it should have been.   I attribute that to the temperatures warming to the low 20s as I crushed and pressed.

I added a bit of potassium metabisulfite, and let the juice sit until Saturday morning.   I inoculated the juice with KV-1116 yeast.   Fermentation started slowly, but is now humming along well.   I plan to pull about 1/2 gallon of wine out early before fermentation is complete, and bottle it in small sparkling wine bottles, and try to make a sparkling ice wine.   The rest will be a more traditional ice wine.

There are another 400-500 lbs still in the field, and if I don't sell them, hopefully I will be able to pick them while they are still prime.

This will definitely become an annual tradition!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

2013 harvest round 1 ... done

Picking Marquette grapes at Sampson Valley Vineyard
September 28, 2013

What a great day for a harvest! ....  What a spectacular turnout!  ....   The harvest party at Sampson Valley Vineyard was  incredible this year.    We harvested over 6,500 lbs in about 7 hours.   The weather was almost perfect.  We worked like crazy, and got a lot done.

Most of the grapes were taken by Leigh's Garden Winery, and some by Vines and Rushes Winery.   Definitely check out these two wineries.   Top notch wines and great people.

We still have to harvest Frontenac for Leigh's Garden Winery on Saturday, Oct 12.   The rest of the grapes are destined for home winemakers, and maybe a few for myself.

I added a bunch of other pictures from the weekend below.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Ripening progress

We measured our sugars today. (numbers below are brix"

La crescent (8 year old vines): 19.5. 
La crescent (6 year old vines): 19.0.    
Foch 16.5.   
Frontenac: 16.0.   
Marquette: 20.4.   
Prairie Star: 16.0 
LaCrosse:  13.0
St Pepin: 15.0

Harvest day target is 9/28.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Nets are on! Veraison going well.

We finished netting all of the grapes yesterday.   It's always a good feeling when the nets are all finally on.    At this point in the season we take a rest from canopy management.   Fungicide spraying usually slows by this time too.    Now we need to hope for good weather until harvest.

Veraison on Marquette is complete, frontenac and foch should be complete soon.   Lacrescent, prairie star and st pepin are further along than I would have thought given the late start.   If weather remains good, we should have an excellent harvest.  (currently scheduled for September 28)
Marquette on Aug 24

Frontenac on Aug 24

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Veraison progressing well

The first signs of veraison appeared on August 7 in Marquette.  By August 17,  veraison is nearly complete in Marquette (greater than 75%) and Frontenac is over half complete.   Foch has not yet reached 50%.  We are expecting at least a week of temperatures in the eighties.   Hopefully the heat will accelerate ripening.    

The nets started going up on Saturday.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

It was Hail!

Last week I posted about some unusual splitting of grapes at the end of July.   After a bit of research, we have come to the conclusion that damage was caused by hail. 

The following evidence points to hail:
-the damage was not there on Thursday (7/25), but was very apparent on Saturday (7/26).
-the weather system that passed by the vineyard had echos greater than 60 dbz (this is often an indication of hail.)
-upon searching for grape damage from hail, I found the following blog with nearly identical damage that I saw
-nearly all the damage was on the exposed side of the grape bunches.

I'm hopeful that the damage occurred early enough that the affected berries will just dry up, and not be a vector for disease.   The limited research I have performed points to that idea.   Now I need to hope for good ripening weather.

My first Japanese beetle

There herrrreee!

Well, they finally made it to Sampson.  I found my first Japanese beetle in the vineyard on Thursday, August 1.   The lone beetle was found on my Marquette vines.   I tried to get a picture, but it dropped to the ground before I could get my phone focused. 

I'm less concerned about Japanese beetles compared to Rose Chafers.   The Japanese beetles are an issue later in the season, and cause mostly cosmetic damage.