Vineyard Journal

January 1, 2008

Today the website masthead was posted. It has been fun sorting through photographs and preparing to share the story of the vineyard. The start of a new year usually brings reflection of the past as well as hope for the future. It is especially true this year as we anticipate the reality of the winery and all the plans we have for it. In this journal we'll share this year's progress along with tasks that are common for each season. Thanks for joining us!

January 7, 2008

Following up on a note from last September: "Supplier says to special-order tanks in January - mirror finish." Okay, let's hope that holds true and I didn't miss the deadline for the Italian manufacturer. The fashion in stainless steel tanks is a "marble" finish or really an etched swirl that hides scratches or imperfections. Don't personally like that look and prefer the squeaky clean appearance of "mirror finish" stainless. May take a little more attention to keep the tank room looking good but I will be able to see my happy face reflecting back at me! Planning two more tanks (256 gallons each) to add to our 160 gallon pair. This will let us experiment with different methods and help us decide which style of tank we like. Phone call was made and everything looks good. Supplier will call back with exact price and delivery date.

January 14, 2008

Coyote tracks are in the vineyard, very evident in the mud. Lots of rain in the last week. Thankfully the water was able to drain quickly away as usual. Vines don't like their feet wet.

 

January 21, 2008

Friends often ask us what the vines do during the winter. They do the same thing humans do. They rest. We wonder why we fight to keep our energy level up, sleep more, eat more. We fight against the natural rhythm of rest. After dropping all of their leaves in the fall, grapevines rest -- conserving the energy they've stored in their roots for a day when they will work much harder.

January 23, 2008

Our matron cat, Chardonnay, insists on making her rounds outdoors on these 20 degree days but soon wants back in to warm her feet. Zinfandel and Riesling sat in the windowsill most of last evening. I finally realized they were appreciating the full moon as the snowcover illuminated the yard. With their nocturnal eyesight, it was probably as good as daylight to them.

January 31, 2008

Yesterday concluded the annual Indiana Horticultural Congress. This three-day event is always helpful and this was our fifth year to attend. The roster included speakers from Texas A&M and Cornell as well as our beloved Wine Grape Action Team from Purdue University. Topics spanned from production issues like wine microbiology, frost protection techniques, sensitive crop awareness, pesticide and herbicide resistance to marketing issues such as internet presence and working with local chefs. Our favorite segment is always the Research Wine Tasting featuring wines made by staff and students from grapes grown in the Purdue research vineyards. These tastings have aided us much through the years in deciding what varieties we will grow. Thanks to all who presented yet another great Congress!

At least three new wineries are slated to open in the next few months including Wildcat Creek in Lafayette, Indiana Trail in Cass County and Belgian Horse in Middletown. We wish them all the best of luck and hope to join their numbers soon! For the latest information about Indiana wineries visit www.indianawines.org.

 

February 9, 2008

Cold temperatures keep the ground frozen and the coyotes on the move looking for food and water. May be my imagination but they seem to travel more in pairs with the snow on. These two were caught on film about 100 feet from our back door.

February 23, 2008

The dining room table is full of building plans and brochures. We have three stacks actually representing three separate approaches to a facility. All have the same floorplan but utilize different materials from SIP panels, clay block and an old barn frame. The Indianapolis Home Show (Jan 25th - Feb. 3) provided some leads on resources that were new to us such as the clay block and a vertical B&B vinyl siding. So far no design/build companies have clicked with our project, so we enlisted an architect today to create what we believe will be an efficient and interesting building for the winery!

 

March 5, 2008

Our eyes were opened today to the world of restaurant supplies. We accepted a gracious invitation from Sysco Food Services of Indianapolis to their Spring Food Show. We tasted all kinds of wonderful food samples and learned of opportunities for equipment rental that could be very helpful. Food service is something we will move slowly into and we hope to promote local sources of meat, cheese and produce as much as possible.

 

March 31, 2008

The first promise of spring is blooming outside our front door! Faithful crocus bulbs push their way through last fall's thick layer of leaves. We've learned to let nature create its own mulch in the woodland garden where the rich loam soil supports our shade loving plants.

April 7, 2008

Today we closed on our financing for building expenses. A big thanks to the good people at Coverdale Mortgage Corp. for their guidance through the interest rate maze.

 

April 18, 2008

This is the time of the year when temperatures become very important. Our vines are suited to cold climates and are at little danger through the winter while they're dormant, but during the spring the warm days nudge the vines awake while many cold nights still lie ahead. Early this week we had lows of 32 degrees then a shocking high of 80 only 4 days later! After so many days of an average of 50, buds will appear and after that point a frost can be disastrous.

April 21, 2008

The past three days we planted our 3rd and 4th varieties of vines. Norton is an American native that produces an earthy bold red. Swenson Red is a light strawberry flavored grape with an adherent skin that makes it great for munching but also turns out a friendly white or blush wine. Arrival of the vines shipped from New York took us by surprise without time to scramble a planting crew. It took several days to plant about 120 vines with just the two of us and we're thankful the weather cooperated as it always seems to do!

April 30, 2008

Whoop, there it is! A frost came last night and left a blanket of crystals on our newly planted vines. They are still dormant enough that there should be no serious damage. We have had some buds on the older vines opening to show their pretty pink leaf tips. The trellised branches seemed to be up above the frost pocket. However, there were a few LaCrescent vines that were behind in last year's trunk growth and were budding at the ground level. They will be challenged again.

May 1, 2008

It's time to gear up this year's spray program. Started midwinter with a dormant application of fungicide for over-wintered spores of anthracnose. This week begins the shoot protection and mite suppressant phase. Every Monday is spray day for the next three months. As nice as an organic vineyard sounds, it is an impossibility in the humid Midwest - that is if you want any grapes at all. There is one little corner along the southeast coast of France that is ideally suited to all-natural winemaking. It enjoys moderated temps from the ocean along with drying breezes from the north that deter pests of all types, but sadly Provence can't produce enough wine for all of us. The rest of the world's vineyard keepers have to spray a little something. Really.

May 3, 2008

Today is another planting day. This time we were better prepared and thankful for help from the Harger clan. Prairie Star vines from Minnesota were the "flavor of the day" with hopes of producing a heavy-bodied white wine suitable for blending with other fruits or occasionally a stand-alone varietal uniqueness in the best years.

Thanks everyone!

 

“goodbye...cucumber sandwiches”

May 15, 2008

What was I thinking? Yes, we are close to being out of the late frost window and we did decide to prune late this year, retaining only 1 bud spurs - but now it's going to take weeks to actually prune and it will be extremely late when the last vines receive their adjustments. Time to take drastic action and say goodbye to my lovely part-time job at The Ruby Pear Tea Parlor. Thanks to all the wonderful people at the tea room who supported me in my dreams and listened to my building woes. I will miss you and your cucumber sandwiches greatly!

May 23, 2008

Long days of pruning are putting my hands and sunscreen to the test. The ergonomically-correct pruners are a plus but I'm now sporting a tool belt to keep my plastic ties and knife handy. New hiking boots provide needed ankle support in the pot-holed aisles - a result of the extra wet spring washing out last year's drought-stressed grass. A hat is a lifesaver in the sun along with the new technology of SPF fabrics! The cuttings are creating quite a mound on the burn pile. Keep going.

May 29, 2008

A visit from the arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts assures me that the anthracnose affecting our sycamore trees is a different organism than that which plagues the grapevines but is treatable by the same fungicide -- two bits of good news. We asked them to put together a program to bolster the sycamores and oaks in an effort to help our oldest and most beautiful anchor trees on the property.

May 30, 2008

The first round of pruning is done for the LaCrescent vineyard. They have been trained to 6 arms on 3 wires. Some produced strong arms last year, but most were pruned to well-positioned buds off the trunk in hope of producing arms this year. On to the Concords.

June 3, 2008

Three inches of rain today. I can prune in a drizzle, in fact it's kind of refreshing, but a thunderstorm is out of the question.

June 9, 2008

Got a spray application on yesterday after missing a week. It's a double whammy when things stay damp, creating a fungus hazard, but also making it too wet to apply the needed protective spray. Today is wet again, already more than 2 inches of rain. I will be wading through the swelled creek tomorrow to get to the vines.

June 14, 2008

All first round pruning is done and it is very very late. The last few rows of Concords were already dropping the tiny petals from the blossoming fruit. In fact, we cuts off tons of would-be fruit in favor of the 1-bud spur training system. Our harvest will surely be small this fall because the vines have progressed the point of generating new fruit. Not a big loss since we still cannot sell any wine we produce. The priority is to maintain strong trunk and cordon development. Two exceptions to the pruning treatment are where birds have nested in the Concords. The nests were spared with the darling eggs resting helplessly inside. One nest is an American Tree Sparrow's where the mother snuggles deep in the loosely woven grass bowl and looks sternly at me with her dark browed eyes. The male flits around nervously in nearby vines, but disappears when I get too close. The other nest is a Robin's, standing like a tall fortress of mud guarding two precious blue eggs.

June 18, 2008

Today we transplanted three Concord vines to vacant holes in the vineyard. Two vines were extras from the very first purchase and have lived 5 years between the last line post and the end post. There were an example of how crazy a vine will get left unpruned. The third vine was from the nursery area near the herb garden. Transplanting older vines is not recommended but these situations needed removed in any case whether they can survive or not. It's worth a shot.

“far north on the horizon”

June 20, 2008

The first day of summer is here already. It has felt like summer for a long time with so many hot days. Now the days start getting shorter. I'm always surprised how far north on the horizon the sun rises at this time of the year. And despite the lengthy days, it seems I am outside and working the whole time. And loving it.

A prayer at Summer Solstice: "Thou art the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea;...and they who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Thy signs; Thou dost make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy." -- PSALM 65:5,8

June 29, 2008

Nest update: Two fat and feathery fledglings in the sparrow nest today. Barely room for them. The robin's nest is empty. Hopefully everyone made it out okay without the cats or raccoons interfering.

July 1, 2008

Last week wrapped up the last fungicide spray and the Japanese beetles arrived like clockwork! We rotate a pesticide with gentler choices like garlic oil and neem oil. After a morning of spraying I'm craving a big salad and maybe some garlic bread!

July 15, 2008

The Butterfly Garden is in it's full glory. Lots of flowering mints, oregano, and anise hyssop keep the butterflies entertained in addition to the expected butterfly weed and bee balm. Hummingbirds visit our Rose of Sharon bush between trips to our feeder and the neighbor's. From the back porch it is a flurry of activity all day long. Summer shows signs of winding down as the day lilies finish their show and the rye grass goes to seed.

July 23, 2008

LaCrescent training is complete. Over the last 5-1/2 weeks I've made another trip through the LaCrescents to position the resulting shoots. A wet spring was very favorable to shoot growth and we now have about 90 percent of the vines trained to a 6-arm system. A handful of the most mature vines were allowed to produce fruit so we will have a little sampling of what to expect next season from these golden beauties!

August 1, 2008

Checked the Concords throughout the week for stressed arms -- tying up any areas that had broken loose or needed extra support due to the expanding fruit load. Also added some tension to the trellis wires. Learning that it is a constant loop, finishing one section only to start over. I miss doing lunch with girlfriends this summer, but I love the new rhythm I'm experiencing with the sun and the vines.

August 6, 2008

The Concords begin their beautiful transformation from green to dark blue. I love this stage when the grape berries are all variations of color. Also starting to see results of the wet spring fungus. Anthracnose is present throughout but held to about 2 percent infection. A few large sections of black rot need treated and removed. Phomopsis was not clearly identified if present at all. Beetles were heavy but short-lived. Some full sprays were avoided by spot treatments. Some moderate 2,4D drift damage especially in LaCrescents which seem to be much more susceptible to this grain-crop herbicide -- deforming important shoots in the vine's critical stage of growth. Roundup damage is very minimal.

August 18, 2008

Every week I start down my list of contractors that I have asked to quote on materials or labor for all aspects of our building. Prices come back slowly if at all. And it is even rarer to get something in writing. I feel as if I am sitting in a restaurant where the host has handed me a menu with no prices. I've been sitting here for over a year and they all wonder why I haven't ordered yet.

August 23, 2008

Talk about sweat equity! Did we pick the hottest day of the year to bottle last year's wine? It topped out at 95 degrees in the garage today where our 12-member crew had gathered in assembly line fashion. Our new bottling pump and filters worked swimmingly along with the "spirited" volunteers. In a few short hours we moved 114 gallons into 540 bottles complete with foils and labels. The picture shows a drying rack full of sterilized bottles awaiting their allotment of wine.

Thanks guys and gals! You are great friends!

 

August 27, 2008

Took about 2 weeks to de-sucker the LaCrescents. This variety wants to be a bush and not a tree. Sorry I cannot accommodate their wishes. I assure them they will be happier in the long run if they do it my way.

August 31, 2008

A 3-week dry spell requires hand-watering the newest plantings. This normally would have transpired all summer long but we have had so much rain that the new holes stood full of water much of the time. These vines are hardy troopers and have survived the typhoons and beetle invasions. Some foliage is a little yellow but they seem strong enough. Watering requires about six 50-gallon tankfuls tractored to the aisles and dispensed about 1-1/2 gallons per vine.

September 1, 2008

LaCrescent field sample: 27 Brix, 20g/L TA

September 3, 2008

Delighted to find a volunteer tomato plant at the foot of our compost pile. Several plump green tomatoes are starting to develop color. I gave them a little Miracle Grow and knocked off a few horn worms. Bird deterrents were implemented in the Concords this week. Concord field sample: 16 Brix, 11 g/L TA

September 6, 2008

The Concord harvest was scheduled for today even though the acid is still high. Last year we waited too long and lots of the fruit fell from the stems before we could get it. Most say even to pick Concords at 14 Brix to avoid a grassiness but 14 blew by me. We are at 18 on picking day. The harvest consisted of those blooms that were spared in our very late spring pruning. New shoots did arise and many failed to bloom. At least that is how it seemed but now after picking today, I realize there is definitely a secondary crop that seems very healthy. This was somewhat confusing to our picking crew who were already volunteering to come back again when the green ones were ripe! We are thankful for so many good helpers who turned out. The weather was fabulous as well. A preceding 58 degree evening kept the fruit on the chilly side while the day warmed up to a very pleasant 78 degrees. A beautiful clear blue sky and crisp air made the work pleasant and quick. The helpers were dedicated to their rows, pushing diligently through to lunch with no breaks. I however was flitting to and fro as usual answering questions and being a half-present hostess. Brian worked with the crush crew. We started at 9:00am and enjoyed a nurturing lunch prepared by both mothers! Picking was finished by 2:00pm with a total of 1112 lbs. of grapes. Clean up followed and the rented crusher was returned by 6:00pm. Must prep was completed that evening around 7:00pm. Thanks to all for an excellent day!

 

Click here for larger group photo

September 10, 2008

Our Concord wine must made a rapid fermentation and we transferred off the skins after only 4 days. The new tanks with their manway openings make easy work of dealing with the solids. Most Concord wines are hot-pressed or heated to release the skin's color and then pressed immediately, fermenting the juice alone. We do not have the equipment for hot-pressing so we have treated our Concord batches as regular red wine grapes. They seem to be fine and are great practice.

September 15, 2008

The LaCrescent grapes were harvested today after a false start several weeks ago. They are funny how their color varies so much. When ripe they should be a deep gold and many looked and tasted ripe but when they hit our lugs they looked quite green still. We decided then to let them hang longer but today was the day they all came off. And even now we have huge variations in color with some a golden brown and others still pea green, all within the same cluster. Today's numbers: 27 Brix, .9%TA. The acid seems to have dropped dramatically in two weeks. This 42-pound harvest was divided into three test batches.

September 22, 2008

Like John Denver sang, "Ain't nothing in this world like homegrown tomatoes." We are enjoying some great tomatoes this year including those from our volunteer plant. Cottage cheese and tomatoes is the pinnacle of summer for me.

September 28, 2008

Conditions continue on the dry side. We watered new plantings again at 2 gallons each.

October 2, 2008

Over 3 days I was able to pick 306 lbs. of secondary clusters from our Concords. Caught these at 15 Brix.

October 15, 2008

Brian and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary today. For a long time on our list of things to do has been a trip to French Lick to tour the two historic hotels there. The cost of actually staying overnight was outrageous so we made it a day trip. It only makes sense that we would combine several winery visits into our journey so we started at Butler Winery in Bloomington, traveled south to Carousel Winery near Bedford and had a fabulous lunch at the French Lick Winery. We spent a long afternoon soaking up the ambiance of the bygone graces of Pluto water. The lovely warm day aided our enjoyment of the beautiful architecture and gardens. It was food for the soul. A look at Indiana's cultural past along with the aspiring wine trails crowned our last 25 years with bright hopes for the future!

October 20, 2008

Picked 2nd crop from LaCrescent vines today and gathered 26 lbs. testing at 22 Brix and 1.4%TA. These grapes have no trouble producing sugar! But the acid is something to deal with. Two test batches will be made from this picking.

October 23, 2008

A hard freeze last night at 28 degrees. Very thankful I grabbed the last LaCrescents in time or that valuable information would have been lost.

October 30, 2008

The leaves fall one by one as a type of countdown to winter. Still it shocks me to feel the cold and to see the empty trees. There is a song called "When October Goes" that seems to match my mood in its minor key. Hearing this song is a kind of bittersweet goodbye to the summer. It helps me mourn the loss and then be able to enjoy the wonders that winter holds.

"Thine is the day, Thine is the night; Thou has prepared the light and the sun. Thou hast established all the boundaries of the earth; Thou hast made summer and winter."
-- PSALM 74:16-17

 

November 4, 2008

Today is election day and I think we'll all be relieved to have the world's longest campaign come to an end no matter what the outcome. I imagine that election days will come as welcome "days off" from the tasting room in the future.

 

“a viable building plan”

November 18, 2008

My hopes of having a building up by this fall are obviously gone. We do however have a viable building plan and have begun to purchase materials. Our architect from Peterson Architecture in Noblesville has been very patient and flexible in helping us explore our options. We plan to file for permits soon.

November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving! A cheery but redundant greeting because when we are happy we are thankful and when we are thankful we are happy. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays for many reasons. I like that it is simple. I like that it is an American holiday and that as a people we honor God as the source of all the abundance we enjoy. And I like that it is centered around food, especially food that is native to our part of the world. Today we enjoyed turkey, smoked venison, sausage casserole, pumpkin pie among many more wonderful and varied treats. We were blessed to see extended family and relish in how the children are growing into fine people. It just doesn't get any better than Thanksgiving!

December 8, 2008

Several days of lovely snow cover persists. I saw a coyote near the front trellis posts this morning. After shooing him off with my shouts from the back porch I later went out to track his movements. He had come straight west along a vine row to the end where I saw him and he ran straight back down the adjacent row. We have suspected that the group has a den east of our property in a nearby wooded area and they likely travel northwest to drink from Sand Creek. They probably cross our property every day. The snow makes them both more challenged for food and more visible.

December 21, 2008

Today begins the last 12 days of the year. The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night -- reminding us of a time when humanity feared the disappearance of the life-giving sun and therefore performed ceremonious rituals to insure the its return. A remnant of that fear may still reside within us. The decreased sunlight takes its toll along with the shocking cold and we struggle to keep our spirits up. A festival of light is just what we need to stay encouraged and get us over the hump into the new year!

At our home we have created our own "12 Days of Christmas" celebration during which we light an additional candle for each night beginning on December 21st. The 12 days are a little shifted from the traditional set that ends on Epiphany of January 6th, but I prefer the rhythm and anticipation that already exists for New Year's Day. Daily readings include scriptural references to the seasons and the Nativity -- inspiring words to help dispel the darkness as we begin to witness the light growing day by day.

We wish you all a very meaningful holiday season and hope to see you here soon!

 

       
         

 

 

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