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!!
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.
We had an incredible harvest this year! We were surprised by how many quality grapes our vines produced, especially considering they are only 4 years old! This year, we harvested between September 12-26th and were absolutely amazed with the numbers our grapes reached. All our grapes (except the Seyval, which we lost completely to the birds) reached brix levels of 22-24 and an acidity of 7-8. These were the numbers we dreamed of achieving and this year, we got them!
As we intend on building our winery over the coming winter months, we are still not equipped to make the amount of wine that our vines produced. So, from September 12-17, we harvested the grapes that we wanted to keep for ourselves and decided to once again sell the rest. We began our harvest with the Epicure, considering they were not netted and most at risk of being eaten by the birds.
That week we also harvested some of our Pinot Gris…
We ended up with over 500L of wine! This time we are experimenting a little more with a small oak barrel, using different yeasts, and attempting a natural sparkling wine!
The following weekend, we hosted the Langley Fermenters group crush once again. Unfortunately, the weather did not hold up for us and it ended up raining cats and dogs that day. But, spirits were not dampened! We ended up renting some tents and still had a delicious Bar-b-que, which Axel Kroitzsch generously provided for everyone. More than 20 people showed up to help, despite the miserable weather!
And here it ends… The last harvest where we’ll be crushing, destemming and pressing in a driveway and using these small presses and buckets. Also, the last harvest where we will be selling our grapes to others and making our wine for us to keep. Next year, we will be making wine that we intend to sell and the work will take place in our brand new winery – that will be some serious business!!
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!