After what felt like a never ending winter, with a record breaking snowfall, an ice storm, and then a very cold and wet spring, we finally made it to May and now, at long last, summer is approaching. Due to our unusually wet and cold spring, we, along with all our fellow local farmers, experienced a rather delayed start to the season. Bud break on our vines was almost three weeks later than it was last year. Thankfully we are specializing in sparkling wine and don’t have to worry about our grapes reaching high brix (sugar) levels. This shorter season will likely have an impact on that!
On the positive side, the delayed spring left us ample time get all the pruning done. As this is our ‘experimental’ plot, we decided last year to spur prune to see if there was any differences in the vines’ production. What we found was last year, we had exceptionally lower yields. While this may have been attributed to a number of reasons (for example, the fertility in the soil; the heavy rains during flowering, etc.), we decided to go back to cane pruning this year to see if this will help our situation.
We found that in our climate and with these vines, cane pruning seems to work quite well. After the pruning was done, we then tied all the cordons along the fruiting wire so they would be ready to go once the weather finally warmed up.
Once that was done, and the weather did begin to warm up, we began working the land for out new 2.5 acre plot. In this plot, we have decided to plant more Acadie Blanc (as we have fallen in love with this vine and wine) as well as a few rows of Dornfelder. Dornfelder is a German red variety, which we think may grow well in our climate. We intend to use this for our rosé wines, or perhaps a sparkling red (!).
After a couple rounds of tilling, the transit came out and we began measuring and staking each of our future rows.
Then, it was ‘all hands on deck’! We had basically one month to get everything done before the vines arrived.
Once all the stakes were accurately placed, we had a collective sigh of relief, and could then move on and begin to pound the posts in.
But… problems with the post pounding machine began (of course). We were delayed even more. After some time it was finally working and we were able to get the posts into the ground.
After all of this, we basically had one week left to dig approximately 3000 holes before the vines would arrive and need to be planted. While we attempted at first to dig the holes ourselves, we learned rather quickly that we would never get it done in time. So, we hired the machine to do it for us. But… this led to more problems and even more delays. The vines had arrived and needed to go into the ground, but we only have half of the holes dug.
Planting day came and thankfully the machine began to work again and we were able to get all the remaining holes dug and everything planted in that one day! Amazingly, we actually did it!!
And within a few weeks, they have already begun to spring to life. This marks the next phase of this crazy adventure for us….We have just doubled our vineyard (and workload) to 5 acres!
Last month we received our Manufacturing License, which means that this year is our first REAL harvest where we are able to keep all of our grapes for us and us alone, in order to create a beautiful wine to bottle and begin selling next summer. It has been a huge learning curve, especially for Laurent, figuring out how to use all our new equipment, but we (HE) did it!
So, on August 27th, we had our very first harvest. With the help of family, some of whom traveled quite the distance to be here with us (like Laurent’s parents who came from Belgium and my Aunt Wendy from California) and friends, we harvested two varieties to make our sparkling wines. With the Epicure, we intend to make an off-dry sparkling and then with the L’Acadie, we will blend with some of our Seyval to make a brut sparkling.
Duane Storey, a local friend and mutual travel-lover, brought his photographic talents to capture this day for us. Here is a selection of his pictures for your viewing pleasure!
We celebrated with a lunch and some wine out on our outdoor crush pad, where my grandpa (John Giesbrecht) joined in on the festivities.
and then after some more work…
we ended with champagne, a BBQ, and more wine once all was done.
We are so grateful for all the work everyone put in to this harvest! And especially, Laurent’s parents (Lina & Jean-Marc), who deserve a special thank you for traveling all the way from Belgium to be here for us to help. A big heartfelt merci/thank you to all!!
While we did sell most of our grapes last year, we kept a little for us to do a few more ‘test’ batches before the big official harvest this fall. We tried different yeasts and fermentation techniques and while some of our trials were misses, some turned out to be real hits!
For example, our L’Acadie turned out even better than last year! With a little older vines, the wine is more balanced, offering notes of green grass, honeysuckle, green apple, and citrus with an elegant minerality. The best, however, is our L’Acadie that underwent a malolactic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation is when the tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. The end result is a more full, rounded, and creamy textured wine, adding another dimension to enhance its complexity. Here, notes of stone fruit emerged, along with honeysuckle, dried grass, and citrus. This one is definitely a winner and will be repeated again next year for sure!
As we intend to begin selling our wine next year, development of our marketing strategies have begun. One major marketing tool will be our wine label. We are in love with our logo and find it represents perfectly the clean, crisp elegance of our wines. We also decided that the aromatics of our wines lend well to the Alsacian bottle shape and so have chosen this bottle for our future still wines. Everything else, however, is still a work in progress.
While I am sure there will be many ‘mock-up’ labels to be made in the coming months, this is the first one that we’ve grown to really like. Although not seen in the picture, all the wine information runs along the side. While we still need to work on dispersing the leaves more elegantly… this is our first solid draft. It’s so exciting to see everything slowly, but surely, come together!
With the long summer days, our vines have burst to life, filling the vineyard back up with their lush greens. Although this June has been a little cooler and wetter than last year, the vines look amazing with everything on track for an excellent harvest this fall.
These past months, we’ve been busy managing the canopy – selecting and removing excess shoots and gathering and positioning them into the trellis system as they grow.
After flowering last month, the grapes are slowly beginning to develop. We have noticed, however, that due to a rather rainy period during the flowering of our Acadie, these vines have experienced the outcome of coulure. Coulure is the dropping of flowers, often due to rain or wind during the flowering period. As each flower is potentially one grape, this leads to some clusters not developing as they should. They end up being rather loose, with some grapes either missing or very small.
This is not as bad as it looks though, as although the yield will be reduced, the loose clusters allow for increased air circulation making the grapes less susceptible to rot in humid conditions. Also, as there are fewer grapes, those that are left will ripen more quickly and have a more concentrated flavor, which is all better for wine making.
Aside from the Acadie, all our other vines are looking great.
Now, after a cool June, all we can do is wait and hope that the hot summer sun will come back to us and start ripening our grapes!
Very exciting things are happening for us here at the winery! After planting our vineyard 4 years ago, we are now ready to leap into phase two of development – construction of our winery!
This winter we received our manufacturing license, which means we now have the green light to move ahead. But planning for construction of the winery involved some big decisions to make. One of them being whether to start fresh with construction of a brand new building, or to use and work within an existing horse arena that we have on the property. As a major reason why we took over my Grandpa’s retired horse ranch was to keep the land (and his life’s story) in the family, we decided that keeping the arena standing was important for us.
So, we decided to build our new winery in the arena, to sit atop where my grandpa, my dad, and I, among many other family members, all rode our horses for years.
Then in February, we broke ground!
The next step was to pour the foundation…
then the framing began…
and within one week it was done! The finished product is a 70 x 35 foot winery, with 14 foot high ceilings. And we couldn’t be more happy with it!
At the right of the winery, in front of the large door, will be our covered crush pad. To give us the option, our crush pad will also extend to outside of the arena. To do this, we had some massive doors built into the side.
The next step includes all the plumbing and electrical and the pouring of our cement floor. We are well on our way to being done for this years harvest in the fall!
In addition to construction, we have also been at work in the vineyard. Compared to the record breaking temperatures we experienced last year at this time, the spring we have had this year has been considerably colder and wetter. But regardless of the weather, the vines need to be pruned! So, dressed in gum boots and rain coats, we set out to give our vines their annual haircut.
As these 2.5 acres are our test plot, we have experimented with various methods and techniques to contrast and compare the vines productivity. Originally we planned on spur pruning the Pinot Gris and cane pruning the Epicure, L’Acadie, and Seyval Blanc as we have read that each of these varieties produce better with those methods. But, last year we tried both pruning methods on each of the varieties and found there was no difference in their quality or productivity. So, as spur pruning is relatively easier to do, we decided to use this method throughout the vineyard.
With the pruning done and construction well on it’s way, we now have some time to sit back and wait for the sun to spring our vines to back to life.
This year, the end of summer brought us two ‘firsts’. One of these ‘firsts’ being the first harvest here on the vineyard!
The first week of September we began monitoring the grapes, specifically the brix (sugar) and acidity levels, in order to determine their quality for making wine. Thanks to the beautifully warm and dry summer we had once again this year, we were thrilled to see that our grapes were ripening perfectly! By the second week in September, the brix levels in all our varieties reached the ideal level for making wine – varying from 22-26 degrees. The grapes were ready to harvest.
However, because it isn’t until next year that we plan to be fully equipped for wine making with the construction of our wine making facility, we were left in somewhat of a predicament: We had perfect grapes for making wine, but couldn’t use them all ourselves – and because we had no idea regarding the yield or quality of grapes we’d produce, we were unable to advertise to potential buyers our grapes in advance.
Thankfully, a family acquaintance of ours is an experienced, and national award-winning, amateur winemaker: Axel Kroitzsch. We contacted him to see if he, or anyone he knew, would be interested in buying some of our grapes. It turned out that he was, and so were other members of his amateur wine-making club, the Langley Fermenters. So on September 14th we hosted the Langley Fermenters 2014 Group Crush event, which involved members coming out to our vineyard, harvesting (beginning with the Acadie, which had the highest brix level), and crushing them for their own wine-making – all while enjoying a delicious BBQ and sipping on various members’ wines. Needless to say, we had an amazing time!
The following weekend, we hosted the Langely Fermenters once again to harvest the Pinot Gris and Epicure. In addition, our entire family came out to help with the harvest, as well as harvest some grapes for our own micro batches of wines we planned on making.
To harvest, we filled the bins that had been placed along the rows…
while Laurent and Tyler collected them.
And after some picking was done…
we all enjoyed a delicious BBQ, generously prepared by Axel…
including our second ‘first’ – who arrived late this summer. Laurent and I’s first baby, Luca, who was born on August 31st (just in time for harvest!). This marks the arrival of the next generation – lets hope he also has a passion for wine!
After harvesting, the grapes were put into the crusher/destemmer…
and then into the press to collect the juice.
Lastly, the juice was put into the carboys… now, ready to make some wine!