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



A Visit from Mizuho
We were fortunate to have Virginia Tech's Grape Pathologist, Dr.Mizuho Nita, come for a visit to check out our vineyard last week.  As you know, organic (or near-organic) viticulture practices are rare in Virgina, as well as dense-planting of the vines.  To put the two of them together, even rarer.  Combine that with the planting of Pinot Noir grapes... unheard of in Virginia, and perhaps the entire East Coast.   As Mizuho walked through the vineyard, I noticed him nodding his head a bit.  I surmised he was liking what he saw.   I think he was impressed by the health of the vines and perhaps a bit surprised to find us essentially disease-free.  No phomopsis, no leaf-roll virus, no antracnose, no insect damage... the list is long.  And most importantly, no Black Rot! Only a spot here and there, thanks to our two conventional sprays that are considered some of the more enviro-friendly of the conventional sprays.
We do have an area in the Chardonnay block where the vines are somewhat pale in color and the growth a bit weaker in relation to the rest of the vineyard.  We are trying to figure out the issue.  I collected petiole samples (the stem from the leaf across from the fruit cluster) from both the weaker Chard and the stronger Pinot Noir vines. The results have just come back and we are finding the weaker vines to have very high potassium levels, often caused by a deficiency of magnesium.  So we will try to adjust those levels by applying some interim sprays of Mg to see if it helps.  I feel so fortunate to have such a great team of professionals in our court.  Thank you Mizuho and Lucie!

Fruit Bloom and Days of Gloom
When the Chard fruit was just beginning to bloom in mid-May, we were enveloped for the next five days by the gloomiest of weather patterns.  We had days of rain, fog, drizzle and not a drop of sunshine.  I remember emailing Mizuho and Lucie about my concern the fruit would not set in all this dark, damp weather.  And that is precisely what happened.  Much of the fruit clusters in the Chard are pitifully thin.  I suspect we will have only about half the fruit we were anticpating.  The blessing is that our Pinot bloomed about a week after the Chard, when the sun was shining.  Our Pinot clusters are thick and full.  A blessing.  The Pinot is our shining star, and we expect to have a beautiful crop of this much sought-after grape that is considered so hard to grow in Virginia.  Mizuho warned I will have to baby them as they ripen, and of course I will!  I will post an image of our beautiful Pinot soon, and you will be able to see the vast difference a bit of sunshine makes at just the right time.

Where the Wild Things Grow
It is obvious in the forests around us that the wild berries loved the heavy dose of nitrogen soaked into the earth this winter by weeks of slow-melting snow.  Our crop of wild raspberries and blackberries are going to be amazing.  I froze strawberries from last month and will be mixing them into preserves with a combination of our planted blueberries and the wild blackberries and raspberries.  The raspberries are ready to burst forth, and the blackberries will follow a couple of weeks behind them. Mmmmm....


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