A personal perpsective of life in our Virginia vineyard... Christine Wells Vrooman



Berries, Bella, Sun and SAR!

Red, Black... And Blue!

The season is here! I just picked four pounds of wild red raspberries, putting three in the freezer that I will  blend into preserves with the blackberries I'll be picking next week. Scrumptious, sweet, wild.  There is no comparison in flavor to the cultivated varieties. Our red and black are wild, the blueberries cultivated.  Why are the wild so flavorful?  Well, that brings me to the explanation of "SAR", Systemic Acquired Resistance".  Simply put, it refers to the response of the plant to various elements, pathogens, diseases, etc.  The wild varieties are the products of generations of self-defense.  Studies have shown that every time a plant reacts to an attack, its defense mechanisms are stimulated; its "system acquires a resistance" to attacking pathogens.  And with that reaction in grapes, the phenolic and flavonoid compounds (chemicals that create flavor and character to wines) are released.  When a plant has an "ancestry" of strong defense mechanisms, the result is a fruit of intense flavor.
In our grocery markets, the organic produce typically has more flavor than their conventionally grown counterparts.  The conventionally treated plants that are sprayed with chemicals their entire life do not need to defend themselves to the same degree, thus are not quite as colorful and tasty. Wild blackberries are the perfect expression of SAR's benefits.  And hopefully, so will our wines! 
This is a very simplistic explanation to a very complicated process. For further reading: http://www.organicwinejournal.com/index.php/2008/11/wine-quality-organic-viticulture-and-vine-systemic-acquired-resistance-to-pests/

Shhh.... Don't Tell Dan
Bella is our sweet two-year-old female Maremma that helps her counter-part, ten year old, Dan, protect our flock of sheep.  Bella's cycle of reproduction is upon us.  After running some tests on Dear Old Dan, it was determined he is, alas, too old to become a proud Papa.  So after doing some research, we found a new love for Bella up in Northern Virginia.  She has spent the last week up there in the sweltering heat of this past week.  The news is good.  We apparently have a mating and if all goes according to schedule, Bella will become a first time Mama the end of August.  I am hoping Dan will forget that nothing happened between him and Bella, and he will see those babies being born and think of himself as the proud Papa we had always hoped he would be.  
Here Bella sits with her handsome one, "Gnocchi" behind her.

The Importance of Sun at Fruit Set
As mentioned in an earlier post, our Chardonnay bloomed during a long, wet spell, and thus the pollination of the fruit was greatly impacted.  In the images below, you can appreciate the value of sunlight at a critical time in fruit development. And we are so grateful to the "weather gods" that they spared us our beloved star, our Pinot Noir.


What Might Have Been
Walking through the vines yesterday, I stumbled upon a dreadful sight; a cluster of Black Rot infected grapes.  I am assuming the spray had somehow missed this spot and the end result speaks for itself.  Had we not sprayed our two conventional sprays directed toward this pathogen, this is what our vineyard would have looked like this year.
Be still, my heart!
With each successive year the source of the disease will be lessened, and with each year, our sprays for it will also diminish.  As much as I am opposed to the reckless use of chemicals on our earth, there are some instances where a judicious and calculated use is needed.

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