With the summer sun high in the sky, our vineyard is simply thriving!
Being the first year that we left our vines to produce grapes, we had no idea what the result would be. All we were able to do was wait to see if all this work we’ve done would be worth it. Earlier this spring, we waited with anticipation until we saw the vines flower – and they did! We then worriedly waited to see if any berries would form – and they did! Since then, we have been waiting to see if the grapes would grow and have the chance to ripen… And here, our expectations for our very first harvest year have been surpassed!
In fact, all our varieties are producing what is looks to be an incredible harvest of beautiful, healthy, and RIPE fruit!
Last week, the Pinot Gris reached the stage of véraison, which refers to the onset of ripening and the increase of sugars (future alcohol) in the fruit. You can actually see this happening by the changing colour of the grapes – from green to rose – like in the photo below. With a number of weeks still ahead of us of warm and dry weather, we now feel confident that we can successfully grow Pinot Gris right here in Yarrow!
Our Acadie grapes are actually already deliciously sweet and will probably be the first variety ready for harvest this year!
Lastly there is the Epicure, which have tended to be a bit behind the other varieties since planting. They are also producing beautiful grapes, but will need a bit longer to ripen this year… they are still giving a strong ‘green pepper’ taste, which should hopefully burn off in a few weeks time.
In the meantime, we’ve been working at maintaining a health canopy that has good air flow and allows the sun to penetrate the whole vine and reach as many leaves as possible. This involves pruning the top and sides of the vines, as well as pulling some leaves around the grapes to ensure the winds can reach them – which helps to keep the grapes dry from any moisture and therefore, prevents mildew or bunch rot.
This week we’ll begin testing the sugar level of the grapes, which will tell us exactly how ripe they are… and ultimately their potential for wine making! Very exciting times!
With a record-breaking July that brought us the most hours of sunshine we’ve had in 60 years and a beautifully warm and sunny August as well, the conditions have been perfect for growing grapes! Despite our vines being only 2 years old, and that we snipped off as many little grape clusters we could see this spring to encourage the vines to grow roots not grapes, last week we discovered this…
Not only did we find beautiful clusters, but they were ripe, sweet, and full of flavour! Since we are the first to begin a vineyard in the Yarrow area, these grapes have given us all the encouragement and reassurement we needed to know that our vineyard holds the potential to create amazing wines!
Of course, these past months have also involved a lot of maintenance in the vineyard, such as weeding and pruning. Thankfully, we’ve had tons of help! We owe a huge thank you to Josh, who has been invaluable in keeping the weeds under control all summer long. Also, Laurent’s parents came to visit from Belgium and helped tremendously with pruning.
Now with our work in the vineyard pretty much done for the season, and with the cooler temperatures and wetter weather, the time has come to seed grass between our vineyard rows. We decided to seed a mix of grasses that will add beneficial nutrients to the soil and keep our vines happy. Laurent and my Dad teamed up to tackle this task…
With the growing season coming to a close, beginning construction on the winery will be what keeps us busy over the coming months. At least we now know that we will have ripe, healthy, and tasty grapes to make our wine – one very important thing we can check off our list!
During the month of May, our vines have grown incredibly, jumping full force into early summer.
This means we have also been busy keeping up with the pruning. These past weeks we have been continuously strolling up and down the rows, taking off any sucker shoots to ensure that the energy of the vine is being put into the straightest, strongest, and most desirably placed shoots. For those vines that had already established themselves last year and were only pruned back to the fruiting wire, we have left three to four shoots at the top like in the photo below. Just in case… we also left one shoot at the bottom, should anything happen to the upper part of the vine.
Later on this season, we will begin selecting and training one or two of these best shoots to grow horizontally along the fruiting wire. We are using the vsp cordon training system, but are still in the process of determining for each variety whether we will use spur or cane pruning method. We still have some time to figure this one out and I’m sure there will be a more detailed post about all of this in the near future.
Of course, the vines have not been the only ones springing to life – so have the weeds! So, in addition to pruning, we have also been back to weeding. However, because of all the work we did last year, the weeds have not come back as strong as before. Amazingly, we have already finished one round of weeding the entire vineyard. Now, we just need to stay on top of it!
In addition to this, we also planted a new smaller plot. Here we are trying a row of Riesling, just to see how they do in this soil and climate. Although we just planted the Riesling a couple of weeks ago, they have already budded and begun to grow, which is an encouraging sign! The remainder of this plot has been dedicated to more Pinot Gris as they seem to be growing great so far in the other plot.
Lastly, birds have also been creating new little lives on our vineyard! A few weeks ago while weeding, we encountered a Killdeer who was not particularly happy with our presence. We were really surprised to see it in the vineyard because they are shorebirds, but apparently our little creek must provide a good enough shore for them. Interestingly, the Killdeer did a little ‘broken wing’ dance for us, which meant there was most likely a nest nearby. By pretending it had a broken wing, it hoped we would think it was injured and follow it, therefore leading us away from its eggs.
Because of it’s persistence, we realized there must be a nest in the area. This made us a little worrisome and be extremely cautious about where we stepped – Killdeer eggs are pretty well camouflaged and laid simply on the ground among rocks and blades of grass. So each time we went out to this particular section of the vineyard, we searched for the nest, while the two Killdeer would continue to try and persuade us to leave. It wasn’t until the following weekend that our friend Freya actually spotted the eggs! Thankfully, we then knew where they were and were able to section off this part of the vineyard in order to protect them.
Then, just this weekend… this is what we found!
Now they are scurrying around on their wobbly little legs throughout the vineyard.
We also had some Canadian geese nest near our creek… and last week we noticed these little guys!
After an exceptional week of summer-like sunny weather, our vines have finally come to life!
This brings us to the next task, which is to begin nipping off unwanted buds from the vines. As we want all the vines’ energy to go towards growing particular shoots that we can later train, we need to nip off any buds and sucker shoots that are growing in other places. For example, in the photo below, there are a number of various shoots growing from the base of the vine.
Therefore, we need to remove these shoots so that the only ones remaining are those growing from the previous years shoot that we had pruned back a couple months ago, like in the photo below.
For those vines that had reached the wire and were thicker than a pencil, and so were pruned back only until the wire, we simply nip all the buds along the vine leaving four near the top. From those four buds left, we will later choose the two strongest shoots to train to run horizontally along the wire.
As they are still young, we can simply pinch the buds off with our fingers.
Unfortunately, with the growth of vines also comes the growth of weeds. So needless to say we have spent some hours weeding these past weeks. However, because of the thorough work we did last year, it has been a lot easier to manage… leaving us some time sit back and enjoy delicious bottle of wine under this beautiful May sunshine!
After a busy first summer and fall, winter in the vineyard has been rather peaceful. These months have given us some much needed time to rest and recharge for year two ahead.
The first task of the year is to prune our vines back in preparation for their ‘spring awakening’. With pruning, however, timing is everything. Pruning grapevines encourages them to bud, but because opening buds and young shoots are sensitive to freezing temperatures, you must be sure that there is little risk of frost in the days ahead. As we have had a relatively mild winter this year, we decided to prune our vines during the first weekend in March.
Because this is the beginning of year two in our vineyard, how we would prune our vines was another question. There is much debate surrounding whether you should prune second year vines all the way back to two buds, which would encourage root development and a stronger, more stable vine, or prune the vine only to the first wire, which would allow the vine to develop faster and produce an earlier harvest. Considering these two options, we decided to do both! For those vines that seemed to be already well established and thicker in width than a pencil, we pruned back to the first wire.
For those vines that were smaller, thinner, and more delicate, we cut back almost to the ground again, to only two buds.
Although we know pruning is required for the vines, it was certainly nerve wracking cutting them down – especially after an entire first year of hoping they will grow! So, when pruning we were very cautious, using sharp pruners and cutting on an angle to prevent any moisture from accumulating. Together, the four of us were able to finish pruning the entire vineyard in two days… and now, we patiently wait for our vines to awake from their winter slumber.
August has arrived and the beautiful long sun-drenched days have burst our vines to life! Some have even began to give fruit, which is very exciting!! But, all this growth means that we are now entering the phase of canopy management.
During this first year, there are many things to do to prevent disease and ensure our vines will produce great quality grape yields. For example, during the first year it is important for the vines to put as much energy as possible into establishing a strong root system – not into producing grapes. Therefore, during the past few weeks we have been searching through the vines to snip off any little grapes we see. Yes, it feels cruel… but it must be done. At least we know there will be plenty of years ahead for our vines to grow beautiful grapes for us.
Also during the first year, selection of the vines’ future trunks are done. Here, the straightest and strongest shoot is selected from each vine and all the rest of the shoots are pruned back. Only the second straightest and strongest shoot is left and cut back to two buds, which leaves the vine a second option and chance to survive if anything detrimental ever happens to the main shoot over the first couple years. In some cases, selecting the straightest shoot was challenging because they grew more like a like a bush than a vine, like in the photo below. But generally, the selection process was relatively easy, especially in the l’acadie where there was almost always a dominant shoot making it clear which one to leave and which ones to prune back.
It is also important to train the vines to grow straight. To do this, we used bamboo sticks and inserted them into the ground at the base of each vine.
Then, Laurent fastened the bamboo sticks to the wire using a vineyard clip.
After this, we taped the vines to the bamboo sticks using a tapener gun… much faster than tying them by hand!
In addition to all of this work, we also watered the vines last week. Because we are following the tradition of terroir, and especially considering the amount of rain we receive in this region, we decided not to install an irrigation system. However, during the first years the vines need a little help during the hot dry summer months while they are growing and establishing their roots. Last month we had been lucky, receiving at least one rainfall every two weeks to water the vines for us. But these past weeks have been very hot and very dry, so we had to water the vines by hand. Again with the generous help of Sheila and Barbara, we watered the vines by dipping our buckets into a large water tank pulled behind the tractor and pailed the water onto the base of each vine. Ugh! This was exceptionally exhausting work, especially because it was done under the scorching summer sun. I never thought I would say this… but hopefully we get rain sometime in the coming weeks!
Aside from a little more watering and weeding, we are almost done for the year! The next step will involve planting a mix of grass seeds between the rows. But for this, we’ll wait until fall when the weather is cooler and the rain season begins.
These past weeks, our vines have been soaking up all this beautiful sunshine and as a result, have kicked up their growing speed to high gear. Some, especially the l’acadie, are already reaching two feet high! Growing much faster than we anticipated, we decided to move ahead with installing the first wire on our trellis so the vines have something to support them in the coming months as they continue to grow.
Armed with their handy-man belts, Laurent and our close friend Joe began by pulling the 12.5 gauge tempered, high-tensile steel wire down the rows.
Then, they attached the wire to the end post at the far end using fencing stapes and a gripple wire joiner (explained in more detail below). Considering our climate and the variety of grapes we have planted, we decided to install the first wire at the height of 3 feet. So, walking back up the row, they attached the wire to each post at the height of 3 feet using a fencing staple, or u-shaped nail. Cleverly, to determine where 3 feet was on each post, they measured 3 feet onto themselves and marked it with a coloured piece of tape. Then standing next to each post, they simply hammered in the staple at the height of the coloured tape.
While the wire was being installed by Joe and Laurent, the rest of us continued battling the weeds. Jessica (one of my closest friends) and Sheila (who came out once again to generously offer her help) both helped advance our positioning in this ongoing war. Importantly, Scarlet was assigned insect patrol (to which she served dutifully).