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



And So Grows the Winery!

We are so looking forward to sharing our wines with you here at our beautiful, tranquil spot tucked away from it all.  Our anticipated opening date is September, depending on weather of course!  A powerful hail storm rolled through yesterday missing us and dropping nearly 2 inches of hail in some areas.  Oh how we sighed with relief.  The baby buds right now are about as perfect, delicate and beautiful as can be.


New Shoots, New Vines

The Pinot Noir broke bud about four days after the Chardonnay.  Within a week the difference was barely noticeable, which makes it convenient for our sprays, as both will be ripening at about the same pace.  Below are images of the same bud, about 10 days apart.  Already you can see the tiny fruit clusters in the bottom image. The vines are looking healthy and happy!

This is the bud we will follow throughout the season.  I had originally picked a Chardonnay bud to follow, but wanted you to see the change of color, "veraison", so have switched to a Pinot bud.  And I have given this bud the name of Anna, after one of my most dearest life-long friends.

Anna reaching to the skies

Here is the same image as above, enlarged so you can see the baby grapes!

I love this bright, spring green spread across the fruiting wire..
A sea of spring!

The Pinot is tasting so good in the barrel we are scrounging around looking for more space to plant more. We cleared away another 1/8 acre or so above the rest of the vines and planted nearly 250 additional plants, following the Biodynamic calendar for the best planting days. The rocks were plentiful, as expected, but we got the vines planted, clone 777 on rootstock 101-14. We will tend to them for three years now before harvesting any fruit from them. One attribute we have learned to develop when raising a vineyard is patience.

I'll take a pic of this vine when it begins sprouting its new shoots.

And the new winery... Coming next!


And the answer to the last blog posting's question about what is wrong with the buds in those last images... They both have double buds.  In each of these buds, one of the double buds will have to be plucked off.  If left alone, the canopy would be too dense and the fruit crop too heavy.  A dense canopy will set us up for mildew issues, as not enough air movement and sunlight will get to all the leaves.  And too many fruit clusters will result in too much fruit which will diminish the intensity of the fruit flavors.  These are just a couple of the little things that make a difference, giving us the highest quality wine possible


Buds Are Popping Out All Over

Chardonnay Budbreak, 2011  
I am officially claiming April 14 as our budbreak for Chardonnay this year.  It looks like the Pinot will be about one week behind.  I am going to follow this one bud for you throughout the year.  I'll need to give her a name. 
The buds are fragile now.  They will pop off pretty easily so we want to be gentle with these newborns.  Weather report is predicting possible large hail tomorrow.  This morning it is sunny, mild, birds are singing happily.  Oh hail, you do not need to fall here tomorrow... just move on down the valley to where nothing is so young and vulnerable. 

Can you tell what is wrong with the buds in the next two images?

You'll find the answer in my next post!


A Photojournalist's Day!

Today, I'll let the images speak for themselves.

Pruning 2011 Complete!
Last few vines!


With a delightful Virginia Veritas Mousseux!

BoomBoom and Tonka want in on the fun too

Good to the last bubble!
Ahh... .

Meanwhile back down on the farm, spring is bursting out all over!

And the winery retaining walls go up, thanks to a hard working crew!

 We so appreciate these hard-working men who are helping to make it all come true.  Thanks, guys!


An Atypical Spring Eve

Just before dark this evening, Arnold called from the sheep pasture to let us know we have a new addition to the farm.  Two in fact!  Our first set of lambs are here!  They were born in the pasture near the creek, away from the rest of the flock.  Dennis, Nathan and I hopped into the car and drove down the mountain to catch a glimpse of the babies before it got any darker. 
As we got to the bottom we could see Arnold standing over a white mound next to the pond. I stopped the car and ran toward him. It was our dear dog, Dan, lying as a cold, wet heap of fur... our loyal, grand ten year old guard dog who has been protecting our sheep for years. Arnold was rubbing him. This poor old dog had walked into the pond sometime today and was too old, arthritic or weak to get himself out and he had been submerged up to his neck in the cold, springfed water for who knows how long.  Arnold had managed to pull him from the water onto the bank of the pond.  Dan was trembling, couldn't move, his massive, thick coat of fur soaking wet with the frigid water.  Dennis instantly went into veterinarian mode and checked the color of his gums, felt his chest to detect the beat of his heart. Dan's gums were a whitish blue.  Not good.  I ran for a blanket from the back of the car and wrapped it around him, rubbing his body, encouraging him that everything will be OK.  I kept rubbing him, trying to infuse some sense of comfort along with the physiological addition of heat.  I looked up.  The evening was near balmy, the first warm evening of the season, which probably helped to save Dan's life. The peepers, those wonderful harbingers of spring, were singing their sprintime chorus behind me, from the marshy end of the pond.  It would have been a perfect evening.  Oh please let my Danny Boy get through this.  He has been my guard dog as well.  A few years back I fell and injured my knee badly. I couldn't get up.  Within minutes Dan was at my side.  He scanned me with his nose, stopped at my knee, then put his front legs on one side of me and stood guard.  I will never forget wrapping my arms around this beautiful protector while I lie on the ground looking up at a deep blue sky that framed his majestic lion-like mane of fur.  Oh, my dear, dear Dan.
Nathan and Arnold lifted him into the back of the Pathfinder and we wrapped a second blanket around him, turned up the heat and he responded by holding his head up.  The color in his gums was returning. Other than not being able to use his right, front foot, he seemed he would recover from this near fatal hypothermia.  Dennis will take him back to Virginia Beach to our animal hospital and give him a good working over.

And oh yes... those baby lambs!  We then drove up to the sheep pasture with Dan warming nicely in the back of the car, heat turned up to 85.  In the back corner of the pasture, next to the babbling creek, in a beautifully tranquil spot, stood a Mama ewe and her newborn twins.  She was cleaning them, they were trying to stand on their feet, their scrawny legs wobbling.  They immediately try to nurse.  This innate awareness always is a marvel to me.  How do they know where to find their food?  Are there wired synapses in their brains that direct them to lift their heads and nudge the warm body above them?  I see the functioning of the natural world as amazingly eloquent and intelligent.  To observe first hand the creation of new life, I am always infused with awe.

Next:  We are within hours of pruning our last vine.  And with that last vine we pop some bubbly... our end of pruning tradition!! Right there in the vineyard... no matter what hour of the day!  It is that much worth celebrating!


Beware The Lambs Who Think They're Goats!

The saga of my fruit orchard continues, much to my dismay.  I planted an assortment of fruit trees seven years ago in a fenced in area of the sheep pasture.  Fruit trees take approximately three years to produce fruit, so after tending to the trees for two years, the next year I eagerly awaited my first crop of peaches, assorted apples, Asian pears, plums.  Our son had decided we needed a couple of goats.  They do clean up a yard of most wild vegetation, but we didn't know they liked bark of fruit trees!  It was too late before we realized they had gotten into the orchard and chewed the bark from all the fruit trees.  All eight trees; gone. We had heard if you spread melted beeswax on the bare tree it might help.  We tried.  It didn't.  All we got was an exterior cabin wall into which the honeybees would build a new hive.  We had left the unused beeswax on the porch and it must have attracted them. 

And so the next spring I replanted my orchard.  Last year was year three for most of the trees.  We got a good-sized crop of Damson plums and Asian pears, and some Elberta and Red Haven peaches.  The apple trees have had a rough time.  But this year... this would be the year; at long last, for a full crop of precious, organic tree-ripened, sweet, juicy fruit.  I walked into the orchard a couple weeks ago.  I stopped in my tracks.  Why was the bark of the trees such a light color?  What is going on?  I moved closer.  The bark was stripped nearly completely around the Damson plum and the Asian pear.  I looked around and shreds of bark were dangling from the trunks. The peach trees damaged but to a lesser degree.   No.  Tell me it isn't so.  I ran to ask Arnold about it.  He said he'd seen the young sheep climbing up on the fencing around the trees, so he had secured the fencing.  But alas it was too late.  My long-last abundant fruit crop; foiled again!  These young sheep have started being naughty in the vineyard as well, climbing up on the trellis wire.  The mature ewes are grazers; are calm, reliable.  These year old lambs must be feeling their oats.  I haven't quite decided how I will handle them till they settle in like their mothers.

Was there any hope of saving the trees?  We tried a new concoction this year that I found on the internet.  It is an organic treatment whose recipe consists of equal parts compost, wood ash, and diatomaceous earth, along with a bit of liquid seaweed, all mixed with enough water to form a paste.   We mixed it all in a five gallon bucket, donned some rubber gloves and spread it over the injured areas.  We also pruned way back, the most affected trees, leaving just a bare minimum on the pathetic Damson plum.

I went into the orchard this afternoon and everything is in full bloom, and all the trees have at least some blossoms, even the Damson.  The mixture we applied seems to be holding up. It obviously cannot replace the missing xylem and phloem, those channels under the bark that are the equivalent to our circulatory system.  But it seems to be protecting the exposed areas from pests and disease and helping the plant to heal.  We'll see how many blossoms actually become fruit.... and how many of these lambs grow up to be sheep!! 

Some pix of the trees in bloom tomorrow!