Posts Tagged ‘plants’

LaMotte

La Motte Wine Estate Vineyards.

The Blushing Bride, a rare white or pink flower with silky, pointy petals, is somewhat of a legend in the Franschhoek Valley. The story goes that it was discovered in the surrounding mountains in 1773 and came by its romantic name from its use in a rather romantic tradition. A French Huguenot farmer who was in love would wear this flower in his lapel when he decided to propose to the girl he fancied. The pinker the flower, the more serious his intentions were, causing the bride-to-be to blush at the sight of the flower.
 
Sadly, as with other near-extinct fynbos varieties in the region, the Blushing Bride disappeared from sight for many years. It was rediscovered about a century ago and since then conservationists have been determined to return the iconic flower to its former glory.
 
Today Blushing Brides, rare disas and various kinds of proteas are being brought back to life on the La Motte Wine Estate in Franschhoek, where they can be seen in full bloom in the estate’s large Protea Garden. La Motte’s proud collection of rare flower varieties that are lovingly cultivated and re-established in the area is one of the reasons for it to have been awarded Champion status in the Biodiversity in Wine initiative (BWI).
 
Although best known for its international wine brand, La Motte is an estate that has conservation and sustainability at its centre. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the beautiful Organic Walk guiding visitors through the vineyards, fynbos nursery and gardens on the farm and concluding with a tasting of the organically grown Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc.
 
The walk offers visitors the opportunity to see how passionate La Motte is about sustainable farming and conservation. Visitors have the chance to see and smell the Protea Garden and stroll through the sustainably farmed and organically grown vineyards, the indigenous landscaped gardens (this time of year a carpet of lush green and soft purple and white), the nursery where micro greens and orchids are cultivated, and the biodynamic vegetable and herb gardens that supply the Estate’s award-winning restaurant and farm shop with fresh seasonal produce.
 
Head Chef Chris Erasmus and his colleagues at Pierneef à La Motte restaurant visit the garden in their gumboots every morning to pick out the freshest seasonal produce for their signature Cape Winelands cuisine. Chef Chris also guides on what to plant in the garden and places orders ahead of season. Beautiful things are grown, like purple speckled beans, cucumber-shaped aubergines, peas, watercress, yellow and purple carrots, radicchio, kohlrabi, sour fig, rocket, sweet basil and the fine succulent Pork Bush (“Spekboom”) which can be used in salads.
 
La Motte has been farming organically since 2007 and in 2009 received EU and NOP organic certification by SGS in France and NOP organic certification by LACON in Germany. Everything on the farm bears testament to this ethos.  La Motte has long been a leader in flora conservation work and sustainable, eco-friendly farming practices in South Africa and this commitment has just earned it the title of South Africa’s top practitioner of sustainable wine tourism by the internationally respected Great Wine Capitals of the World (GWC) network. GWC annually awards top performers in wine tourism in ten wine regions of the world, including South Africa. 
 
La Motte was also the overall winner of the South African competition for the second year running, making it the best wine tourism player in the country, thanks to its acclaimed restaurant, art museum, architecture and wine.
 
A closer look at how things are done on the farm reveals a rare attention to detail in every aspect of the farm’s life. The Rupert family and its wider La Motte family are visibly passionate about sustainable farming and conservation.
 
More than ten percent of the land is dedicated to conservation. The entire farming operation is set up to be self-sustainable, which means that almost everything that is needed to keep the farm running is produced on the farm. Everything is about quality over quantity – a method that takes time to yield results, but pays dividends in the long run.
 
One case in point is how water is treated on La Motte as a precious and limited resource. Water used in the wine cellar is treated and purified using natural methods only, never with chemicals. The farm dam provides all the water the farm needs and receives its water from the Kastaiingsrivier and rain. The farm uses drip irrigation to save water and water meters are used throughout the farm to monitor water usage and catch leaks.
 
Special attention is also paid to the rehabilitation of the soil to keep it healthy and chemical-free. No chemicals have been used on the farm for the last seven years. Special earthworms are fed the kitchen waste to recycle it into concentrated compost that is diluted with water and used across the farm to nourish the soil and plants. Only natural methods are used for pest control and fertilisation. Dry mulch is used to keep out weeds and wet mulch is used to keep in moisture.
 
Visitors can extend the Organic Walk by taking the 5km hiking trail into the surrounding mountains.
 
The herbs grown on the farm, including lavender and buchu, are used for the extraction of essential oils that are used to make the range of Arômes de La Motte body products sold in the farm shop.
 
As CEO Hein Koegelenberg explains, La Motte took the path of sustainability at around the turn of the millennium. This meant that quality and consistency would come first. The whole La Motte experience has become testament to this new sustainable way of thinking, and today the estate’s international awards prove that it was a journey the international wine tourism industry supports and honours. It is an ethos that enjoys sharing its passions with guests in a way that both entertains and educates and in the end it has winners on all sides: the estate, its people, its visitors, the environment, the local tourism sector, and the regional economy.

Virginia creeper leafhopper.

North Coast wine grape growers in Mendocino and Sonoma counties are on the lookout for a new, damaging pest that snuck into several vineyards last season and caused considerable damage: the Virginia creeper leafhopper.

Despite bud break that started a week or so later than usual and two frost events in the middle of the month, new shoots in the wine grape vineyards along the northern California coast had pushed out 6 inches and were growing fairly rapidly in the waning days of April.

Weather has been mostly ideal and temperatures were a warmer than normal, reports Glenn McGourty, University of California Extension viticulture advisor for Lake and Mendocino counties.

Bud break in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blocks began the first of April. Should the warm temperatures hold, he expects Chardonnay vines to be back on track to start flowering on time around May 20.

A passing cold front in mid-April sent temperatures down as low as 28 degrees in the coldest spots of Potter Valley and Redwood Valley. However, McGourty received no reports of damage. “Growers kept on top of things with their frost protection,” he says.

To mitigate the impact on endangered salmon and steelhead in diverting water from the Russian River and its tributaries, many growers in the river’s watershed in Mendocino and Sonoma counties have built ponds and reservoirs to store rainfall runoff for frost protection and irrigation use.

Although precipitation since the first of the year has been light, heavy rains last fall and early winter, have filled these off-stream storage facilities.

Since July 1 of last year, the two-county area has received an average of 27 inches of rain. Only 5 inches have fallen since the first of January. Normally, from July 1 through the following mid-May, Ukiah, Calif., in Mendocino County records about 35 inches of rainfall.

“With the reservoirs full, we’re in good shape for water, right now,” McGourty says. “Still, growers will be watching their water usage this season pretty carefully. Wildflowers are blooming and the vegetation in the landscape seems to be drying down about two to three weeks ahead of normal. It could be another dry summer.”

Temperatures in the 70 to 85-degree range through much of April were ideal for growth of the powdery mildew. To control it, growers have been spraying their vineyards with wettable sulfur, stylet oil or other fungicides.

Read on …

Music and wine.

Music and wine.

 

 

Stroll through the vineyards at Il Paradiso di Frassina in Montalcino and the sound of Mozart soothes your ears. If you like Beethoven, Bach or Boulez, not to mention Miles Davis, Madonna or Motörhead, you will be disappointed. Musical variety is not the point here. The Sangiovese vines are given a permanent aural diet of Mozart, pumped through 58 strategically sited speakers, and nothing else.

Sound waves have an effect on the way plants, not just vines grow, according to winemaker Federico Ricci. “Low frequencies seem to have the biggest impact, and that means certain types of classical music. We are still experimenting, but Mozart seems to work best.” Even the most ardent lover of Mozart could tire of the great composer’s oeuvre, but not vines, apparently.

If you think this sounds a bit loopy – like Prince Charles talking to his hedgerows – Ricci points out that the Mozart vineyards are stronger are more resistant to disease than those where there is no music playing. Il Paradiso di Frassina picks the former as much as two weeks before the latter. “It gives us more flexibility,” he says, “and means that we can harvest our grapes when they are perfect.”

 

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Truffles coming to a vineyard near you!

Truffles coming to a vineyard near you!

 

The truffle trend is coming to a vineyard near you.
Thanks to new technology—which allows young oak and chestnut tree roots to be inoculated with black truffle spores—several U.S. wine producers are planting the tasty tuber melanosporum alongside their Pinot and Cab.

Growing secondary crops on a vineyard promotes biodiversity and is key to the long-term health of the land, says Robert Sinskey, of Sinskey Vineyards, which is home to Napa Valley’s first truffle orchard. And given the fact truffles are in such high demand—selling for as much as $1,200 a pound—planting an orchard made perfect sense.

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Sonoma's old vines.

Sonoma’s old vines.

 

In Sonoma’s Bedrock Vineyard, I’m surrounded by 124-year-old twisted vines with the arthritic look of stumpy bonsai trees.
The mad mix includes a couple of dozen varieties. Bedrock winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson points out familiar zinfandel, little-known bastardo, nearly extinct castets and some grapes no one’s yet identified.

He makes a pretty delicious red that contains almost all of them.

“Old vine field blends are the only California wines that aren’t ersatz,” he says. “They’re unique. What’s magical is the sum of the parts.”

His dozen or so red and white cuvees from historic vineyards are among the state’s most fascinating wines, high on bold personality, with warmth, intensity, perfumed aromas and layers of flavor. Tasting them, I’m drinking California wine history.

While Sonoma has the largest concentration of old vineyards in the state, they’re in danger of disappearing.

Twain-Peterson, 32, is one of the people on a mission to save them.

In old tan shorts, grey shirt, and a three-day beard, he tours me around this vineyard he owns with his family, filling me in on its backstory. The founders, in 1854, were “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker and two-time shipwreck survivor and banker William “Tecumseh” Sherman, who later became famous Civil War generals.

After root-louse phylloxera wiped out the vines in the 1880s, mining magnate Sen. George Hearst, father of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, splashed out part of his fortune from the Comstock
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Biodynamic Farming Methods.

Biodynamic Farming Methods.

 

Some of the Côte d’Or’s most illustrious producers are going down the biodynamic route. Are they eccentric or far-sighted?

 

At sunset, a Burgundy winegrower is spraying his vines. The moon is in the descendant and according to the biodynamic calendar, that’s the ideal time to apply the spray. Biodynamic farming is a practice tinged with esotericism, yet some of the region’s most prestigious wine estates have picked up on the trend.

The spray that Didier Montchavet is using on his small patch of vines located between Pommard and Beaune is made from water and cow manure fermented in a cow horn and buried under the soil over winter.

Known as 500, this is one of the most important preparations used by followers of biodynamic agriculture. Other additions include silica mixed with rainwater – also packed in a cow horn and buried in the soil – which is called by its function title, 501. And it’s not just cows’ horns that are used to mature many of the preparations; other body parts from animals, including skulls and stags’ bladders, are an integral part of the process.

Herbal teas – including 504, made from stinging nettles, and 508, produced from the common horsetail plant – are used to “dynamize” a vineyard’s compost. These preparations were first developed in the 1920s by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, and although they might seem a bit loopy to many observers, they have been embraced by winegrowers in France and Italy, and as far away as Chile and New Zealand

Steiner adherents also carry out their work according to the position of the stars and the constellations of the zodiac. “There are some very esoteric things in Steiner’s writings, like how to see the influence of Mars in a plant, which is something that I can’t do,” admits Montchovet.

Some biodynamic winemakers follow a calendar created by another pioneer of the movement, Maria Thun, who died earlier this year at the age of 89. She turned Steiner’s ideas on sowing, pruning and harvesting by lunar and cosmic rhythms into reality, producing an annual calendar for biodynamic farmers after years of research on her farm in Germany. 

Hardcore enthusiasts religiously follow… read on

After an exhilarating first day at the Cape Wine 2012, Professor Alain Deloire from the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, kicked off a fascinating seminar on “A passion for old vines”.

The beautiful and charm of old vines. (Image courtesy of Martin Redmond)

On a academic level an old vine could be defined as an old woody structure consisting of roots, a trunk and arms. The aspect that distinguished it as an old vine however, is the fact that such a vine is “full of memory”.

On a genetic level, the old organs on such a vine, are not only able to annually give birth to new leafs and berries, but miraculously also pass on its “memory” to these new organs.

It is this “memory’ that makes old vines so precious. In a sense, old vines will after years of being cultivated in a specific site, become at home that environment. They will adapt themselves to a specific climate, soil and people. This will then be stored in their “memory”.

European producers and even consumers have been aware of this for centuries and because of this a strong relationship exists between the perceived quality of a wine and the age of the vines. Older vines are simply seen as producing better quality wine and are equally true for both red and white varieties. This quality aspect is founded on the fact that an old vine has an established root system.

The European producers are also in the habit of isolating buds containing the “memory” when and where ever old vines are discovered. This genetic material are then used to transfer the “stored” memory to new vines.

In a country where vineyards are being planted for production “runs” off between 20 and 25 years only, such an approach to old vines asked for a serious mind-shift.

Can this be to tall an order and to big a dilemma for an industry so focused on just keeping the boat afloat on an ever changing global economic ocean?