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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
to all for an excellent day!
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
"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
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
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!