Posts Tagged ‘Vines’

Photo by Anthony Two Moons.

Photo by Anthony Two Moons.

From Santa Barbara to British Columbia, Native American vineyards are a growing business

When the first wine grapes were planted in California by Spanish missionaries in the late 1700s, the Chumash people’s economic empire extended from the Malibu shores through Santa Barbara to the Paso Robles plains. But by the time the modern wine industry emerged on the Central Coast a couple centuries later, the Chumash were struggling, much like many Native American tribes. The few dozen who managed to achieve federal recognition as the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians were left with a little slice of land, where most residents lived below the poverty line.

Fast forward to today, and the Chumash are once again propsering, thanks to a successful casino and resort they built on their Santa Ynez Valley reservation in 2004. Six years later, with hopes of expanding their reservation, the 154-member tribe bought a nearby 1,400-acre property for a reported $40 million from the late actor-turned-vintner Fess Parker. The land came with 256 acres of vines, the Camp Four Vineyard, planted with 19 different grape varieties. While honoring existing contracts for the fruit (one-third of it goes to the Parker family’s brands, while most of the rest is sold to about 70 small producers from all around the state), the Chumash started making their own wine, and released their first vintages of Kitá Wines last month.

While the project is the latest in a small but growing number of Native American tribes entering the wine business—including three in Northern California, one in Arizona, and one in British Columbia—the Chumash are the first to tap one of their own to run the show: Tara Gomez, the 40-year-old daughter of the tribe’s vice chairman, is the first head winemaker of Native American descent on the continent.
Read on …

 

A French study found chemical residues in wines, but at low levels; experts hope to eliminate need

Disturbing reports of pesticides and fungicides in French wine have raised concerns for consumer safety, but the laboratory that sounded the alarm said the results of their study were misrepresented. The lead author said that chemical residues in wine are too small to have an effect on drinkers, but he added that vineyard workers are being exposed to a significant health risk.

“You’ll consume much more pesticide residue eating apples and strawberries than drinking wine,” said Pascal Chatonnet, Ph.D., owner of Excell laboratory, which works with wine and food industries in several countries, and runs labs in France, Argentina, Spain and Chile. “Your liver will be completely destroyed long before you’ll have toxicity from pesticide residue in wine.”

According to his analysis of 325 French wines produced between 2008 and 2010, 90 percent of the wines showed traces of up to nine molecules related to pesticides and fungicides. None of the molecules are known carcinogens, and the vast majority of wines had levels significantly below legal limits. Only 0.3 percent of the wines did not meet current regulations. “There is no health problem in drinking wine in terms of pesticides,” said Chatonnet. “We have no reason to believe there are high levels of pesticides in wines.”

Read on …

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 …

Chinese wine industry could endanger Panda's habitat.

Chinese wine industry could endanger Panda’s habitat.

The habitats of endangered giant pandas are being threatened by planned vineyard plantings in the Chinese provinces of Shaanxi and Sichuan.
According to the South China Morning Post, authorities in Shaanxi plan to plant 18,000 hectares of vineyards, and similar schemes are in the pipeline for Sichuan, putting the 1,600 wild giant pandas that inhabit the provinces at risk.

While the Chinese government has set up reserves for giant pandas, the animals don’t always remain inside them.

“Vineyards around a panda reserve can definitely affect the animals.

“Pandas move outside of reserves, so the forest outside is an important habitat. If forest is cleared to plant grapes, there may be direct loss of panda habitat,” climate change specialist Dr. Lee Hannah said in a study of the impacts of climate change on wine production and conservation.
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.”

 

Read on …

wine950

Somewhere in the manicured farmlands of Napa Valley, a 52-year-old winemaker named Abe Schoener stood in a puny and weed-choked tract of land surrounded by 40 gray and contorted barren vines, which he surveyed with paternal satisfaction. “My view when I started leasing this was, It’s 60-year-old-vine sauvignon blanc,” he said, smiling. “How bad could it be?”
No other winemaker had been willing to find out. Though it’s believed that these could be the oldest sauvignon blanc vines in all of California, their average annual yield — about 30 gallons of wine, or 14 cases — is so paltry that investing in this scruffy vineyard, which is owned by the McDowell family, who threaten every year to uproot the vines and replace them with cabernet sauvignon, would hardly seem worth the effort.

Schoener (pronounced shurner) views this matter, and almost everything else, differently. The most frequently used word in his extensive vocabulary is “interesting” — as in, “I find it interesting that I have absolutely no desire to own my own winery” — and his days seem to be consumed by the desire to evade predictability. “No one else would want to work in this vineyard, because it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s perfect for Scholium,” he said, referring to his one-man winery, the Scholium Project.

 

For the past eight years, Scholium has made sauvignon blanc from the McDowell property, though the wine’s label makes no mention of the actual grape, much less the oldness of its vines. Instead, the bottle simply reads, “Glos,” a reference to the name of the street that the vineyard is on, as well as the Greek word “glossa,” which translates to “word” or “language.” (In a previous life, Schoener taught classics at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md.)

 

Standing beside him on the McDowell property were three of his interns, all of whom have pruned and harvested the vines: Alex, a former chef at the French Laundry; Brenna, a comprehensively tattooed wine director; and Courtney, a wine journalist who, when I asked her what the wine from this vineyard tasted like, sternly informed me, “It tastes like Glos.” (Later I paid $45 for a bottle, which is pale and restrained and unlike any other sauvignon blanc I’ve encountered. I guess that means it tastes like Glos.)

Read on …

856673_21687388_460x306

Considering the impact of pesticides on soil and to lighten wine’s impact on the soil, David Xavier Beaulieu co-owner of Chateau Coutet – an estate in the Bordeaux, has developed a new solar-powered vineyard robot.

Dubbed the Vitirover, the robot is created especially to mow wild plants between vine rows that for now required heavy polluting tractors and herbicides. The Vitirover is remote controlled using a smartphone, and is built-in with GPS so that robot never goes astray.
Read on …

 

The result of a very cold harvest!

The result of a very cold harvest!

 

The ice-wine grape harvest has begun in Ontario’s Niagara Region.

The Niagara Falls Review reports that temperatures dropped below minus-10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) earlier this week, which is the point at which the harvest can start.

“It’s exciting for us,” says Brian Schmidt, the winemaker at Vineland Estates Winery. “And I don’t like to have the picking hanging over my head. I like to get it done, as there’s been times in the past we’ve only had three chances to take it off in a season.”
Also read:

7cb819489dab2778e5b722c57ebc95ee

 

Digital snapshots may make cute holiday memories for all to share, but now a similar technology may soon help create superb Syrahs or marvelous Merlots. Researchers have created a new way to peer inside a grape to identify its composition and variety through computer imaging. This could cut back on laborious chemical analysis for winemakers.

Francisco José Rodríguez Pulido, a researcher at the Univ. of Seville, says that the new system could work for both small growers as well as large companies.

“The cultivation of the vine and the production of quality red wines are facing serious problems due to high temperatures and climate change,” says Pulido, adding that it makes it difficult for growers to know when to pick. “Usually, there is a gap between the pulp and the seed maturation, particularly in red grapes,” which means that the different parts of each grape mature at different speeds, making it tough to pick at the right moment to maximize phenols – the coveted flavor notes that contribute to taste, color and mouthfeel.

Pulido says that the process takes just a few minutes. A camera snaps a high-resolution picture of the seeds. Then, customized software identifies the seeds in the image and measures their color according to a standardized index of colors

The close relationship between appearance and chemical composition makes it possible to estimate how mature the seeds are – which is a good indication of when to pick the grapes. The process was tested and proven in Spanish grapes, but Pulido says that it should work in any type of red or white wine.

Pulido and his colleagues published their research on the new method in the journal Analytica Chimica Acta.

Gregory Balint, a professor at the Oregon Wine Research Institute, says that determining grape maturity is a toilsome process, and a digital tool could help – but he is not convinced that color is the best way to determine ripeness. “I couldn’t see any correlation between basic data like soluble solids, acidity and pH and these colorimetric parameters,” he says.

“Many winemakers are still using these basic parameters to schedule the best time for harvesting. Moreover, many winemakers and growers are using the sensory evaluation of the berries, including seeds, to assess the maturity levels,” says Balint. He adds that winemakers could use something like this method in conjunction with other tools.
Read on …

Fire risk for South Australia high!

Fire risk for South Australia high!

 

Several parts of South Australia are facing ‘catastrophic’ fire risks over the next few days as temperatures across the region are expected to hit near-record levels.

 

Dozens of firefighters are already battling to keep a fire under control in the Sevenhill area of the Clare Valley, while temperatures in Adelaide are forecast to hit 44C tomorrow (Friday) – with the heatwave expected to last more than a week.

The Clare Valley blaze, which has so far remained within fire control lines, is burning across the wooded slopes overlooking vineyards near Sevenhill. To date no damage to vines or wineries has been reported.

 

Read on …