This morning I stand on the deck, the movement of damp, cold air tingling across my face. The fog slides like a giant white snake through the valley bottoms and makes its way up and over the vineyard. I am in awe. The calendar reads autumn still, but the forces of nature are literally pushing the fall of 2008 into history. Our first autumn in the vineyard nears its end. The fall colors were spectacular from our perch above the vineyard. Here we can witness the seasons advance and retreat and observe the vineyard's response. Up close, as we walk through the vineyard rows, we watch the vines "shut down", settling into their dormancy, slipping slowly into the sweet slumber of winter.
In the early weeks of autumn, we noticed a bit of mildew hitting some of the vines, starting in the upper Chardonnay block. We learned it was the ornery villain, powdery mildew. This fungus can become a real issue if not treated in time. We sprayed with sulfur, keeping within our organic/biodynamic guidelines. We will watch for it next summer, and hopefully catch it before it catches us. Early intervention is the key. Quite advantageous it is that the fruit is removed in the first year, as it gives the vineyardist a bit more time to observe, to learn, to act upon those little attacks of nature without compromising the crop.
A Tiny Treasure Found
Autumn had peaked and the leaves of the vines had begun to fall. I'd walked the vineyard rows many times over the summer and often longed deeply for just one little taste of our grapes. With all the fruit clusters snipped off in early spring, we were left only to wonder and imagine what might have been. While strolling the rows on a glorious fall afternoon, my eye caught a flash of gold at my feet. I bent down and looked a little closer. On one of the vines at the end of a row, I discovered a tiny cluster of chardonnay grapes, golden and ripe hanging on the vine. Now for those vineyardists who have harvested crop after crop, one might think "So?..." But for us, as parents of a baby vineyard whose entire crop was gone from the start, we suddenly were gifted with a treasure of taste... It was as if something had risen from the dead. I was ecstatic. I snipped off the cluster, popped off one grape, held it up to the light... Ah.. such a zen moment! And then I very ceremoniously tasted the succulent little fruit, rolling it around in my mouth. A sweetness hit my tongue, then a bit of tartness.. intensely flavored.... how could it be sweet yet tart at the same time... a very complex little morsel. I smiled and kissed the rest of the bundle. I was pleased, excited for this glimpse into our future. It was delectable. I packed it safely into a jar and brought it home for Dennis to taste. We each held a grape in our finger tips, raised our hands, and touched grapes. Cheers!
Sheep (and Owen) in the Vineyard
After most of the leaves fell off the vines, we introduced our little flock of sheep to the vineyard to graze down the overgrowth. Dennis and our daughter, Marisa, led them up the winding, wooded mountain drive of over half a mile, coaxing them with apples, hoping nothing would spook them and send them scattering into the woods. They cautiously guided them into the vineyard, then quickly slammed the gate shut before any of them escaped. Success! A new field to forage.. perfect, as most of the grasses down in "the lower forty" have been devoured or have dried up for the season. They seemed content and spent a couple of days in the vineyard before we moved them back down. They were much more willing to "head back home" down the mountain. In the spring they will return, after being trained to not eat the vine leaves. How do we train them? You will learn in the spring update.
Soon, as winter settles in and the vines are deep in their winter sleep, we will march on down to the vineyard, pruning shears in hand, and start snipping, pre-pruning the vines, taking each one of them down to two little shoots.... More about that in our winter update.
Posted by Christine Wells Vrooman