Friday, October 31, 2008

Harvest is over

The harvest is over now. We pulled in 11 tons of vinifera this year. The harvest lasted about 6 weeks. We have about 10 barrels of red and 8 barrels of white wine from our estate vineyards. The long hang time this year will really make a complex wine and we will keep you updated as it matures in the barrel.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

First Harvest of the Reds

On Saturday, Oct. 4th we will begin the harvest of the western bloc of the vineyard, Kati. This bloc has 7 rows of reds, 4 Cab Franc 214 Clone, and 3 Cabernet Sauvignon rows. The Petit Verdot and Mourvedre are not coming in yet. The sugars in the grapes have so slowly climbed this year. It has been a year that started with a delay of flowering by two weeks, a rainy and cool spring, a cool August, and then a hit from the rains that followed the hurricane Gustav.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Harvest of Chardonnay 2008

So I am testing the Chardonnay on Saturday before Labor Day. Normally, this Saturday we have a party for friends on the Labor Day Saturday. This year we decided to punt. We are too busy and decided maybe a every other year is best. The test of 100 berries in the middle of the Chardonnay bloc comes out to 21.5 brix. Nice I think! Then as the weekend unfolds, the hurricane Gustav is bearing in on New Orleans. Then the weather people start predicting that moisture from this storm would go North to Arkansas and Missouri. On Sunday, I take a group of folks from Avenues Bistro to see the vineyard. The vineyard is dry and sunny. As the weekend continues to be stormy in the Gulf, I began to compile the data. This storm is going to dump 6 inches of rain on Kansas City area. I have grapes that are very prone to late season rot especially Sour Rot. This rot has no spray to prevent nor to eliminate after infection. The best is the ability to prevent the other rots: bunch rot, bitter rot and berry rot. This I have been doing, but....this late in the season, the skins of the Chardonnay especially are very thin. Sour rot can start in the vineyard and wipe out the vineyard in a week. On Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, I make the decision to pick. On Tuesday nite, the rain begins. On Wednesday morning, I pick up a crew of 3 workers at 6am. We begin to pick the Chardonnay in the rain. We finish the day with 1.5 ton in 5 rows. With 14 rows in this bloc, 3 workers the next day is not going to be sufficient. I double the number to 6 pickers, and on Thursday at 11am the rain finally stops. The productivity of picking sky rockets. We finish with about 4 macro-bins of about 1,000 pounds each at 330pm. We end up with 3.5 tons total of gorgeous fruit.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cabernet Franc Clone 214 is true

Well, a lot of times I take with a grain of salt what the nurseries say about a clone of grapes. Well, they are right. Clone 214 (a Loire clone) is an earlier ripener than 332. It is moving quickly with veraison while the 332 is farther behind. Here is a picture of 214 Clone. It looks velvety like Cabernet Sauvignon. It is beautiful. And I think we will try to put the 214 in separate barrels, because it might be a reserve wine.

Oh, by the way here is Corky in action:

Chardonay is moving along...3 weeks before harvest?

Chardonnay is hanging pretty in the vineyard right now. Outside of a little rot pressure early this Spring, we are moving along with some clusters registering 20 brix and the average at about 16 as of Sat. August 16. So if all goes with about a pickup of 2 brix a week, we might sit at 22 in three weeks. Then, the weather determines how long we hang, a little wet weather and we harvest. Here is a picture:

Mourvedre at 16 brix

I am amazed at the size of the clusters of Mourvedre. Here is a picture.

I have not worked with Grenache but these cluster are large. I hand weighed a few and they are over a pound. In spite of the large cluster, the taste is superb and the tannin is a keeper. I like the fruit so much that I planted an additional 1/3 acre this spring. Mataro, another name for Mourvedre is a good variety for Missouri. Let's keep this a secret. Because I would rather be the only grower of this super varietal in this part of the country. As a member of the Rhone Rangers and probably the only in Missouri, this is unbelievable.

Oh, also here is our new puppie, Sophie. She is a wheaton colored scottie dog and she loves to hunt:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mourvedre hanging pretty

I have continued to be very bullish on Mourvedre for our colder continental climate here in Kansas City area. The Mourvedre is on 101-14 rootstock which I continue like versus 3309C. The reason is one, the vines are not as aggressive in growing wild and pushing excessive folage. It seems that 3309 rootstock is so vigorous that the vine continues to grow so excessively that you have to trim the vine every three weeks. According to the book released by Michigan State entitled, "Winter Injury to Grapevines and Methods of Protection", the lower vigor rootstocks such as 101-14 and Ripara Gloire are more desirable because they impart low to moderate vigor and this is often considered desirable to control vine size and to minimize the risk of winter injury to vines. Here is Mourvedre as of July 16th, 2008.

Here is the Cab Franc also:

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Petit Verdot is not Petit!

Most vinifera grapevines that I grow have a maximum two clusters per shoot. So from a fruiting bud, the shoot (it is later called a cane) that emerges will have fruit clusters. Normally, you will have two clusters that are on the fruiting canes and that is it! Since my Petit Verdot is on its third leaf, we have a full trellis of fruit. As I was observing the fruit a few weeks ago, I noticed that some of the fruiting canes had 3 clusters. I thought, wow, this must be an aberration! So I gave a call to my friend Ron Barrett from Kinkeadridge in Ohio. Ron used to manage the Erath vineyards in Oregon before moving to Ohio to challenge himself with growing vinifera in a colder climate. Ron grows vinifera and makes some damn good wine. Ron said it is common to have three clusters on Petit Verdot. Here is a picture that may show on close examination the reality of three clusters.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bloom Time!

This year we are two weeks late for bloom. Here is some Mourvedre on the bottom and Chardonnay on the top. As you can notice, the Mourvedre is in the middle of bloom and the Chardonnay is already baby grapes. It is hard to see, but if you double click the picture, the fruit set is rather nice.
Most important for us around bloom is to vigorously apply our chemical sprays for preventative protection of black rot, downy mildew and powdery mildew. We apply the chemicals with the BTTF (back to the future) airblaster on the 3-point of the tractor. Additionally, we add chemicals such as epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) for feeding the vines with nutrients. The season has been so wet and rainy. I wonder if we have had 3 days of dry weather before it has rained again. The rain is cumbersome in that the vines are growing a lot of leaves and this only means a lot of trimming.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bob Cat in the Barn and Suckering

On this Saturday, the last day of May, I had two workers waiting for me to open up the barn. So as usual I go to the side door of the red barn and go inside. On the other end of the barn is two large sliding doors. So as I walked through the barn I saw a larger animal dart out from the opening in the barn by the doors. This opening is about 1 foot so a larger animal can go through this easily. My first thought was that it was a rather large rabbit. I have seen rabbits many times in the barn. So I proceeded to open the large doors for the workers: Roberto and Raul. Roberto speaks very good English. They proceeded to tell me that it was not a rabbit, it was a Bob Cat!!

Suckers are the shoots that emerge from ground to the cordon canes on the trunks. These shoots are not needed for fruit development or training. Therefore a requirement of sucker removal is essential this time of year. Another reason to remove the suckers is so that leaves on the suckers are not in the way of herbicide spraying to maintain a clean turf. We finished Kati bloc suckering and will finish Stealth Ridge and Limestone Hill next week if we are not dinner for the cats!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bud Break in the Vineyard

We had bud break and began leafing out on April 29th and continued through May 3. Here is Chardonnay in Kati bloc that is looking very nice. We are about 1 week behind with all the cold weather and rain we have been getting here in Kansas City area. The later bud break and leafing is a welcome sign in contrast to last year where we all got hosed with the Easter freeze. We will be doing our first spraying of the vines in about a week with Dithane a fungicide, Sulfur, Magnesum Sulfate (Epsom Salt), Boron, and a little bit of Sticker/Spreader. The film crews have been calling as to when the "Back to the Future" double winged air blaster sprayer will be set in motion. I have been telling them it will be May 11th.

Also, here is Cabernet Franc leafing out. It is on track with the Mourvedre and Petit Verdot.

Sprayer Hood

During the season, it is my preference to keep the turf underneath the trellis clear of weeds. I maintain 1.5 feet on each side clear of grass and weeds. In order to do this, I spray both a premergent and round-up on the ground to kill any weeds and hopefully prevent any from growing. The premergent that I use is Treflan, most commonly labeled as Preen. I buy this chemical in bulk in liquid form I use a 20 gallon spot sprayer with a funnel that was installed to prevent drift of the the spray while going down the rows and on a windy day.

This funnel was purchased at Tractor Supply store and bent to a good shape for spraying. By removing the end nozzle you can slide the funnel over the end and then reinstall the end nozzle.

Also I bought a new wand that is 30" long so that I don't have to lend over as much while doing this from the tractor.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Last year after lunch with the owner of Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City, we went to see a fig tree that was growing on the side of one of his the beer warehouses. The fig tree was enclosed in a greenhouse structure and had succulent, ripe figs growing. My only life experience with figs was eating fig newtons. Wow, what a difference. Once I had the fresh figs, I understood how delicious the fruit really is.
During the winter I received in the mail a copy of Hobby Farms magazine. The magazine had a article about growing figs and described ways of growing fig trees in colder climates. The technique is very similar to what vineyard owners do in very cold climates like Minnesota or parts of Michigan for vinifera grape growing. At the end of the season, you cut the roots on one side and lay the tree down and cover with soil. This is a very easy thing to do. The alternative method is to plant the fig tree in a larger pot and make sure the pot has drainage holes in the bottom. Once the fig tree grows larger during the season, the roots can go through the bottom holes. Then at the end of the season, you dig up the pot and move to the inside of your house.
I bought 4 Figs for $15 a piece from Edible Landscaping. The variety I chose was Hardy Chicago which has fruit that is brown, rich and sweet. Good for potted culture. They say that "in 1999, we picked the first ripe outdoor figs on July 31st. Does extremely well in N.C. and we send this one to enthusiasts up north, because of its early fruiting tendency. Zones 6-8." I will plant one fig at my house and two others at the vineyard. I will keep you updated as the fig grows and hopefully produces fruit.

Cutting for Grapevines Part II

On April 16th, the cuttings of Sangiovese and Zinfandel were put into a tray with rooting hormone on the ends. By April 26, the buds on most were swollen and many of the plants were starting to leaf out. I have never been able to get cuttings to bud that quickly. Above are pictures of the Sangiovese and Zin cuttings.

I believe there are two factors for this quick success. First, having the growing tray off the ground thus allowing the soil to warm up in the tray. I had a glass table with a plastic tray. Second, the use of rooting hormone. The hormone kicks the callusing process in high gear. Now once the cuttings leaf off and develop longer roots you will need to move to a larger area to permantly plant your grapevine.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Upgraded the Airblaster

About 5 years ago I bought an airblaster for the vineyard. An airblaster is a necessary piece of equipment for a vineyard over one acre in size. It has a tank and the liquid fungicide, pesticide or nutrient is channeled to a series of spray nozzles that is blown by a powerful fan in a cloud. This cloud of goodies is able to cover all areas of the canopy and is very effective for the grape grower. The first airblaster rig had a 50 gallon tank and sprayed on one side as you drive down the vineyard aisle. A 50 gallon tank can cover about an acre of grapes. As you can imagine, with a sprayer that sprays on one side, you would have to go up and down the aisle twice to get each side of the canopy of the vines.

Here is a picture of my new airblaster sitting in my pickup truck:

Now this new airblaster has 150 gallon tank and sprays on both side at the same time. The guys at the brewery warehouse where I had taken delivery said it looked like a "Back to the Future" truck. I will have more posts to the blog to show you all the spraying and my gas mask. I cannot wait to use the new airblaster.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cuttings for new plants

In order to genetically create an identical grapevine plant from a vineyard a person doesn't use seeds. Seeds will be pollinated with maybe a different clones or different grapevine varieties. So we use pruning cuttings from a grapevine to make an identical plant. I was helping a new vineyard owner named Vicki Prugh and her vineyard named Racho Caliente (Hot Ranch) is located in Sutter Creek, CA.. She has Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Petit Sirah, Primitivo, Mourvedre, and Barbera planted. Her vineyard is on second leaf and has about 300 vines. She is head training the vines and I have created various diagrams to assist her in the pruning and training of head trained vines. She will either use a goblet training or with a little trimming, free hanging head trained vines. Here is picture of Vicki's with the tallest vine and picture of a Sangiovese vine:

Anyway, in return for my help, Vicki sent me cuttings of Zinfandel and Sangiovese. Both of these varieties I don't grow here in KC area since they are a little winter tender. I would love to do the Italian thing and plant Sangiovese or Nebbiolo vines. However, most people think I am crazy for Cab Franc, Malbec, Mourvedre etc.

So when you want to get a cutting to root, you first take a cutting from your pruning pile that is about a pencil in diameter as you can see here:

As you notice this length is a little longer than a pruner and has about 6-8 buds on it. You then cut on a slight angle just below a bud and it should look nice and green. As you see here:

Next you take the freshly cut end and dip it into a rooting hormone. You can buy this at many nurseries or places that sell plants and trees. This will assist in the cutting to throw out roots or begin to callus on the end.

Next, put the end with the hormone powder on it in the ground about 3 to 4 inches. In about 3-5 weeks the cutting will callus and put out a root. Some of the buds sticking out of the ground will throw a shoot and then you can transplant to a spot in the vineyard or your garden. I have many cutting going from what Vicki sent me and I will give you a progress report in a month.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Getting ready to plant Mourvedre

We are preparing to plant 3 new rows of Mourvedre. This planting will be higher density of 4' between the plants and 9 foot between the rows or 4 x 9. The process began on Saturday by installing 10 foot long telephone poles. Then a wire that will be 18" high for the irrigation wire was installed. Prior to tightening the wire really tight, the wire served as a guide for running the soil slitter down the rows. This slitter will break up soil down about 20" to aid in planting and for the vine to easily set its roots.
Here is the result of the slitting:

With the pickup truck loaded with landscape timbers that serve as the in-line posts, the truck got stuck in the mud. Being very ambitious, I wanted to bring the timbers just next to the rows and strategically drop off 3 timbers at each location. It was not to be, the truck got stuck in the mud up to the bottom of the door. We had to pull the truck out with the '57 Ford 800 tractor.

The truck got very dirty and required two runs in the car wash on Sunday:

Finished with Pruning at Last

The pruning is a major deal in the season of a vineyard. For example here is row #49 of Chardonnay prior to pruning:

And here is row #49 after the pruning. It took approximately 2 hours to pruning the 250 foot row of Chardonnay. Notice how neat and clean the row now looks. Once the flail mower is fixed, (a upcoming blog post) the cuttings that litter the vineyard aisles will be ground up and mulched back to the soil.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pruning - 120,000 Cuts Later

I have only 3 of 58 rows left to finish the pruning. This is the first year that Kati bloc has required the extensive amount of pruning since they are now in the third leaf. I figured out that most plants required 40 cuts with the pruners by hand. Therefore, with approx. 3,000 plants in the vineyard, there was 120,000 cuts made this season. Wow. It's a wonder why my hands are really hurting.