Posts Tagged ‘Vineyards’

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.
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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.”

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South Africa is looking at its biggest ever harvest this year despite a late and slow start to the growing season.

According to the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (SAWIS), the 2013 grape crop is expected to hit 1,491,432 tons, exceeding the 2012 crop by 5.4% and larger than the last biggest harvest, 2008, by over 4%.

The overall harvest therefore –including juice, concentrate and wines for brandy and distilling – will reach over 1m litres, with an average 773 litres per ton of grapes.

In terms of quality, producers “are excited about a promising crop”, with good colour, structure and flavour particularly in the reds.
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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.

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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.
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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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Dante Alighieri.

Dante Alighieri.

 

A winemaking descendant of the poet Dante Alighieri is urging the local government of Veneto to tighten planning laws to protect Valpolicella from urban sprawl.

Count Pieralvise Serego Alighieri, the owner of Serego Alighieri, has said that the combination of lax planning regulations and growing population is putting the countryside at risk.

Along with other producers and environmentalists, he has presented the government with an appeal that demands an immediate freeze on the building of all homes, factories and industrial estates in the area around Valpolicella.

 

 

The appeal adds that as the population of the valley outside Verona has doubled in the past 25 years to over 70,000, the beauty of the countryside is at risk.
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Frozen Canadian grapes!

Frozen Canadian grapes!

 

In the Ontario town of Beamsville, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Niagara Falls, a small crowd of bundled-up figures crouched in a moonlit vineyard on a frigid January night, picking a crop of hard-frozen Gewurztraminer grapes.

With stars shining overhead and ice crystals glittering in the air, the temperature had dropped to minus 10 Celsius, or 14 Fahrenheit. Conditions were nearly perfect to harvest fruit for this year’s ice wine, a Canadian speciality.

Malivoire, one of the Niagara region’s boutique wineries, picks its ice wine grapes by hand. For this annual rite of winter it relies on a corps of more than a dozen volunteers, selected by a lottery, to get the grapes off the vine and crushed at just the right moment.

One of those chosen for this year’s harvest was Susan Smith, 64, a first-time picker who said she was attracted to the mystique of ice wine.

“This experience is something I’ve wanted to have for a long time,” she said. “Having those juicy, fragrant little bunches in your hands and being out under the stars.”

COMPLEX, FRUITY

Ice wine is almost a nectar that is rich with the flavours of apple, peach and apricot. Its hints of honey, nuts and, maybe, a dash of caramel provide a refreshing counterpoint to a blue cheese or fruit-based dessert.

“There is nothing else quite like ice wine … It’s a guilty pleasure,” said Eric Nixon, who works at Malivoire, adding that the wines – which sell for about double the price of most non-vintage Champagnes – are often associated with special occasions.
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(image courtesy of Aletta Gardner/EWN)

(image courtesy of Aletta Gardner/EWN)

 

As the smoke clears after the unrest in various fruit-growing areas of the Western Cape, and with the next round of protests demanding higher wages for farm labourers and seasonal pickers on its way, the South African wine industry is weighing up the implications to its business model and to the way of life for many among the vineyards.

 

To date, the strike for an increase in the minimum wage from R69 to R150 a day – which has involved the intimidation of farmers and their full-time employees, looting, the destruction of property and the loss of life – has largely been confined to fruit farms that do not produce grapes for making wine.

But with cellars gearing up for the 2013 harvest and the pay dispute apparently no closer to resolution than it was when violence broke out in De Doorns, Wolseley, Grabouw and elsewhere last year, it seems inevitable that more wine farms – especially those using part-time workers – will soon become the focus of attention for the strike leaders as well as the political and criminal factions seeking to gain from the protests.

Should the wine grape harvest this year be seriously disrupted, it is a very real possibility that some farmers could go out of business.

Many will be among those whose only source of income comes from the grapes they sell to wine producers and whose business model revolves around low prices and large tonnage. Others up against the wall will be those making or selling wine whose success hinges more on offering the best prices than it does on the best quality, and who operate in sectors of the market where branding is not a factor.

On the other hand, the South African wine industry also comprises large corporations as well as a number of private wine farm owners with the means to weather the storm.

Many of these stakeholders are already paying way better than the minimum wage while providing their staff with decent accommodation and more, such as crèche and church facilities.

But of as much concern to these stakeholders as the cost implications of having to pay more to their workers or hiring fewer people and opting for increased mechanisation is the straining of the relationships they have with the farm hands and how to embrace a business model revolving more around quality and branding rather than tending to play the price card.

 

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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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