Harvest 2018 - Pinot Noir

While mother nature didn’t completely cooperate with us on the timing, the Pinot Noir 2018 harvest was done by hand this week and the fruit looks great. The farming aspect of wine making is one of the elements that makes each year in the bottle different (despite using the same vines). Last year we could’ve picked the Pinot Noir any day we wanted once it was ripe as the growing conditions were perfect. This year for some varieties (Pinot Noir being one of them), picking was dictated by the weather.

From the vineyard we took the grapes directly to North Coast Wine Club to have them de-stemmed and crushed.

Red wine gets it’s color by sitting on the skins for a period of time after harvest. Here is the barrel of Pinot Noir must (must is the juice, skins, seeds), ready to be turned into wine.

Pinot Noir must

Harvest 2018 - Chardonnay

This past Wednesday M Cellars, that manages our vineyard machine picked our Chardonnay. The machine actually fits over the row of grapes, shakes the row with ripe grapes dropping down, and collecting very few stems and leaves.

The machine picker in action:

From our vineyard the Chardonnay went to M Cellars to get pressed, and stabilized (the juice sits for a couple days before yeast is added thus starting the wine making process). After stabilizing at M Cellars, we transported the juice to North Coast Wine Club. The picture below on the left is the pump system we used to get the juice out of the barrels we transported the juice and into the NCWC barrels that will be used for fermentation (before transferring them to oak barrels).


Upcoming Harvest - 2018

  Harvest is on it’s way

Harvest is on it’s way

It’s been four months since bud break in the vineyard and harvest is around the corner. Wineries in the area are checking the sugar levels among other signs for ripeness of each varietal trying to determine the perfect time to pick. Each kind of wine grape matures at different times of the year. Some early varietals are already being picked, while some won’t be picked for another month. Here is a look at the two varietals involved in the Rent-a-Row program.

Chardonnay

A look at the progression of the chardonnay over the last couple of weeks in the vineyard. As harvest nears the grape becomes more translucent. M Cellars will be machine harvesting the Chardonnay for us in the next two weeks, depending on weather and ripening. We’ll video tape the picking for you and blog it for you, it’s amazing the technology of the process. The pressed juice will make it’s way to NCWC to start the wine making.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is one of the most popular wines to drink in the world and its also one of the most fickle grapes to grow. Notice the tight bunch of Pinot Noir compared to the Chardonnay above? That makes the grape more susceptible to damage during wet conditions during harvest….like when a tropical storm named Gordon moves through Ohio wine country. The good news is the row still looks great, however we may need to move up the pick date (tentatively Sept 22nd).

Tentatively there will be opportunities both Sept 22nd and Sept 29th. Sept 22nd at Vineyard Woods and at NCWC in Solon (crush the grapes picked) and Sept 29th at NCWC (see the wines as they begin their fermenation, and see the crush process as they bring in other grapes from across the country).

Veraison

Veraison is taking place in the vineyard as we speak.  Veraison is the beginning of the ripening stage of the grapes.  The grapes stop accumulating mass and start accumulating sugar.  Also, grapes during this period start to change color.  The Chardonnay will turn a more golden hue while the Pinot Noir wil begin to show off it's purple tone.  Once veraison starts to occur, harvest generally is 6 weeks away.  Every varietal and growing region is different, but harvest has been mid to late Sept in our vineyard the last couple of years.  We are planning to pick the Pinot Noir on Sept. 28th, hopefully you'll be able to join us and taste the grapes right from the vine and before they head to North Coast Wine Club to be made into wine.    

Pinot Noir

  

Chardonnay

Mechanical Leaf Pulling

Pulling leaves from the growing canopy thins it out and allows airflow to and sunshine to get to the grapes.  Leaf pulling can be done by hand (very labor intensive) or mechanically.  Attachments like in the video below have modernized farming as leaves are taken away from the clusters without harming the fruit.

Below is the before and after.

Grapevine Bloom and Flowering

As you can see the vines are filling out throughout the vineyard.  Crazy to see the transformation of the vineyard from bud break and bare vines not too long ago.

About 4-6 after bud break, the vines will bloom and flower (below).  The flowers are self-pollinating, with fruit set to soon follow in the coming weeks and will begin to look like little grape clusters.  

June Vineyard Update

The vineyard is looking great as between rows was tilled up and new grass planted.  This is done every year with an annual grass planted.  The grass helps with erosion management. 

The vineyard staff goes through and takes off any vine shoots growing from the main vine.  That's 9500 times bending over to pull these shoots off the vine.  My back hurts just thinking about it.

The clusters have started to form on the vines.  It's hard to believe these little guys will grow up to one day be a tasty bottle of wine, but it's true.  Approximately 10-12 of these clusters can produce one bottle of wine.

Bud Break

Late April and early May are important in the vineyard as the hills around the vines are taken down and the 2018 vintage gets its start with bud break. Bud break occurs when the first green leaves push out to start a new growth cycle.  After bud break is a crucial time in the vineyard as these bud are delicate and prone to frost damage.  Just one night below 32 degrees after bud break could severely damage the crop.  

To depict how quick bud break occurs I was able to take a couple pictures early in the week (May 7th) to show the buds yet to have any green leaves coming out from the vines.

As you can see by Thursday of this week (May 10th) there was bud break in the vineyard and soon the entire vineyard will be full of green and we'll have to trim all the excess leaves so the sun can reach the growing clusters of grapes.

The growing season has begun on the 2018 vintage!!

The Winter Rest

Welcome to the first edition of the Vineyard Woods Rent-a-Row blog.  Today we take a look at what goes on in the vineyard throughout the winter while the vines are resting.  The growing season in the Grand River Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) lasts about 6 months.  What goes on the other six months in the vineyard?

The pictures above from left to right depict the vineyard in October right after harvest, early November as the leaves had changed colors from green to yellow (and our first dusting of snow), and mid November right before the vines lose their leaves for the winter.  Take a look at the base of the vines and the difference in the pictures on the left and the right.  Prior to the winter months, we "hill up" the vines to help protect them during the winter.  And by we, I mean our vineyard manager Matt Meineke of M Cellars, who I will be referring to many times during the Rent-a-Row blog.  Matt is a gifted vineyard manager/winemaker in the area and we are lucky to have him tend to our property.  A disc attachment on his tractor helps cut the ground and place the dirt up over the base of the vine for the winter.

During winter the vineyard crews work (often in terrible conditions) to prune the vines.  The pruned vines are left in between rows and when it dries up, the clippings are chopped up and mixed in with the soil in between the rows.  

The winter pruning process is two fold.  There are various pruning and tying methods but I'll be explaing what we do only.  All but 3-4 canes are pruned from last years growth on the first pass through.  This is very labor intensive, for an average row in our vineyard it takes 3 hours to prune.  Our rows vary in size, but generally there are 100-140 vines in each row.  The "winning canes" are medium in size, not too large (buds too far apart) and not too small (too thin and buds too close together).  A general rule of thumb is to keep 3-4 canes that are about the thickness of a no. 2 pencil.   

Another pass is made once the entire vineyard is pruned and the canes are tied to the trellis system (fancy vineyard talk for wires) like you can see in the picture on the right.  From here, the vineyard is ready for spring and summer.  A relatively cool start to the growing season isn't all bad as it delays bud break and lessens the risk of frost.  Once it warms up, the vineyard does best if it stays warm.

This is how the journey of the 2018 vintage starts.