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!