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



Deep Breath Now, Dear Vines...

Fog, Oh Sweet Fog...  After over two weeks of relentless sun, heat, and high humidity, my vines can take a deep breath and relax a bit.  A cloudy day today!  That's good.  Tomorrow hot and sunny again, then it looks like this heat wave might be history and those sweet little grapes can slow down a bit in their ripening and slowly develop their balance in their sugar and acids.  They are ripening faster than I expected due to this hot stretch.  We were hot up here at 1800 ft, but not as hot as everything below us these past weeks.  We averaged about 8 degrees cooler every day, sometimes as much as 10 degrees.  This is a good thing for our Pinot Noir.  They prefer life a bit cooler than the thicker skinned reds.  I have been walking through the vineyard pulling leaves down from the canopy to cover those clusters that seemed a bit too exposed. ..sort of like pulling down the stroller cover to protect the little ones from the sun.

Lucie Morton spent a morning here this week.  We had our pruners, magnifying glasses, cameras, etc and went to work examining the grapes and vines.  The Chardonnay is filling out beautifully.  We should certainly be able to get a bigger crop this year over our measly pickings last year.  And there was absolutely no disease to be found.  Yes!  Fingers crossed for the next few weeks.

The Pinot vines appear to be healthy, happy four year olds, just becoming aware of all they are capable of being.  The difference in the maturation and canopy in the vines this year compared to last is amazing.  My babies have grown up!!  They are in nearly full production mode.  They have worked hard to become strong and healthy.  I have allowed them to defend themselves a bit, spraying minimally which allows them to produce some of their own defenses by producing more phenolics (which enhances flavor).  I am so proud of them!!  And the few morsels of grapes I have tasted that seemed the ripest are absolutely beautifully sweet and rich in flavor.  Just a few more weeks of slow (hopefully) ripening, and a bit of time to rest and hang on the vine before their big graduation day!!

And then there is the interesting Stink Bug issue!  My concern this year has been with the BMSB (Stink Bugs) getting in the tight clusters of the Pinot grapes, piercing the fruit and setting us up for Fruit Rot (Botrytis). We made an interesting observation. The Stink Bugs have nearly disappeared now that the Pinot has turned color. The only ones I found were in the still green clusters. There was a mixture of the indigenous bugs and the BMSB. We studied the clusters and could see that the bugs appeared to have been feeding on the pedicle part of the grapes, where the grape is attached to the tiny stem. Perhaps this is what the BMSB likes to feed on and not the ripe fruit, and once that hardens off it is not so tasty and they move elsewhere?  Also, in most cases we found some webbing. Will have to check with VA Tech to see what that is.
There is much to learn about this new invasive pest. VA Tech and others are working to find a solution. I hope it comes soon, as the amount of BMSB in our vineyard this year was hugely increased over last year.


"Hangin" at the Governor's Mansion!

I was honored to have been invited to a reception at the Virginia's Governor's Mansion for Women in Business. I had met Mrs. McDonnell earlier this year at the Virginia Vineyard Association annual meeting. She told me she would love to hang in her office a copy of the photograph I took that is the cover of this year's Virginia Winery Guide. And so I took the opportunity of this visit to Richmond to present her with a framed copy of the image. As you can see she was delighted and I am so honored to have one of my photographs hanging in her office in Richmond!


Vineyards Beware the Dreaded Stink Bugs!

As most of you that live in the Mid-Atlantic region are aware, the last several years we have witnessed the invasion of a pest from Asia known as the Brown Marmorated Stink bug, or BMSB. Last season I did not see any in the vineyard, other than a few of the indigenous variety in small numbers. This year the story is different. I am finding Stink Bugs in increasing numbers of all ages and sizes all over the vineyard, on the leaves, on the grapes and inside the clusters.

Last year the bugs lived in the forests and didn't swarm into "our" world until the first cool nights of fall, which was mid-September for us.  So they were not an issue for us late in the season or at harvest, given we harvested on Aug 11 and Sept 1.  My concern this year is now that they are already in the vineyard, once we get ripening fruit (which is already beginning) they will puncture the fruit, the sweet juices will drip amongst the clusters and we will risk getting a disease called botrytis, or bunch rot.  A great deal of research is ongoing by major institutions and government bodies on how to address this rapidly increasing agricultural problem.  This might be the year that an insecticide finds its way into our vineyard before we risk losing our crop to this dreaded pest.  Stay tuned.