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



A Season of Bounty

I can't help but take a moment away from the vineyard and winery life to stress the value of family during this time of the year.  We were blessed over Thanksgiving to enjoy the presence of each member of  three generations of our family... all together here on our mountain.  Missing was our 94 year old paternal patriarch whom we lost this year and whose memory is deeply cherished by all of us.  Remaining from that generation is the sole living great-grandparent of our clan, my very proud World War II navy veteran father, who remained deep in the sunny south, as any place north of the Florida state line beyond October is a bit too cold for him.

And so our four and their families, including five wee ones (all under the age of five) gathered for days up on this mountainside.  Looking back at our time together I hear the laughter, the stories, the newborn cries and toddler tales.  I remember the warm sunshine, blaating sheep, childrens' squeals in an echoing barrel room, their foot races across the new winery deck.  I see the horizon at daybreak painted in red.  I smell the baking pies, the turkey and the soft scent of a newborn.  And I remember what I have dreamed of for years... seeing bottles of wine, made from the grapes we raised from this land, set on our Thanksgiving table.

When I began my blog in 2008, before we even planted our vines, I recall musing about the day we would set a bottle of our own wine on our holiday table, an event that seemed so dreamlike and far away.  This Thanksgiving of 2011, that vision became real and we did indeed pour into our glasses  our very own wine.  We raised those glasses and offered thanks for our many blessings, and we put that wine to our lips.  And it tasted oh so wonderfully good.  A dream fulfilled.

Thank you.  Thank you to all and everything that made this dream come true.  And I thank all of you, my readers, for sharing this journey with us.  You have made it all the more special.

And here, I share with you images of my many joys...

And a Happy Holiday season to you all.


A Quiet Time of Year

Ahhh...Time to catch our breath. Activity has slowed down in the vineyard and down in the winery.  Time for us to rest a bit, while our sheep take over some of the work load. Our sheep have been grazing the vineyard floor for nearly a month now, and they have everything inside the deer fence looking quite manicured.  I so enjoy sipping my morning coffee while looking down on the vineyard and seeing these mounds of white scattered about, working away at a job we humans now don't have to do. They have cleaned up just about everything, especially the thicker, high grasses that would have collected debris over the winter and harbored things we don't want harbored!   In addition to the valued grazing they do, they are adding nutrients, especially potassium and phosphorous for which we are always fighting a slight deficiency.

By spending all this time up in the vineyard, the lower pasture grasses have a chance to catch up and will provide the sheep with fresh grass as we head into winter.  They'll go back to work in the vineyard in early spring and stay in there until bud-break in mid-April when they are allowed to roam free on the property, keeping all our lawns mowed down.  Ya gotta love 'em! 

In the fall, we collect their manure that has accumulated near the sheep barn and compost it with the grape pomace (skins, seeds, stems left over from the wine-making process).  This composts over the winter and is ready to return to the vineyard in the spring, adding again the nutrients and organic matter that help keep our vines healthy. This inter-connectedness and re-cycling of what is produced on our farm and vineyard is a beautiful example of sustainability and eco-balance.  We honor our sheep by including an image of them on our label.  They truly are an integral part of Ankida Ridge and the wines we can create.
 Before winter sets in during this quiet time of late fall, we go into the vineyard and remove any secondary fruit or missed clusters.  It is important to remove this fruit from the vine because it could be a source of fungal pathogens that could overwinter on the vines and infect the young fruit next spring when the weather warms up. 

Strolling through the autumn vineyard and snipping off this fruit is actually a lovely job, especially when the sheep are in there with me.  They tend to congregate around me.  I love sitting on the ground as they gather around and sniff my hair and put their chins out for me to stroke them.  This time of year is my favorite, when the days are warm, the breezes cool, immersed in the peacefulness of a quiet vineyard.  Just beautiful. 

 In the winery, we continue to smell the wine in the barrels daily.  Our 2010 vintage inventory is depleting fast, which is good and bad, as we have to limit our sales now to have enough wine left to carry us through the release of our 2011 vintage.

The barrel room is essentially complete and now we head upstairs to work on the tasting room over the winter in preparation for our official spring opening, hopefully around the time the redbuds and dogwoods are in bloom.  It is a feast for the eyes.


The Last Press

"Crush 2011" officially ended at Ankida Ridge this past week when we pressed the last of our grapes.  Crush, in the wine industry, is that time of year between the beginning of harvest and the end of processing the fruit, with much of the action happening on the "crushpad"( above.)  After  the de-stemming (for red grapes) and sorting, then fermenting and pressing, the juice is put either into barrels or tanks to undergo the aging process.  This is a time of year like no other for those in the viticulture/wine-making industry.  The demands on body and mind are rigorous.  The days are long and strenuous. But, oh how I will miss it all.  There's an electricity, an energy in the air that is vibrant, exciting and so very rewarding.

For the grower, harvest is the culmination of a growing season full of challenges.  With the picking of the fruit, the grower then passes the baton to the winemaker and with that comes a sense of relief the grapes are off the vine and at last free from dangers that lurk there!  Now that we are making our own wine here, I don't have to say goodbye to my grapes, and I can continue to be involved it their transformation into wine, and that is so gratifying for me.  

For the winemaker, the responsibility now falls into his/her hands to create the wine, to oversee the entire crush process, to keep the juice safe from bacteria, spoiling, etc. and tend to the slow progression of the aging process.  Nathan has done an amazing job in the winery and I am his willing helper! 

He moves with precision; coordinating bins and barrels, sniffing juices, tending to a multitude of equipment parts. Siphoning, measuring, testing, punching, pressing, lifting, pushing. It's all a ballet of sorts, a grand production after a year of preparation!  Thank you, Nathan!  Great job!

While the grapes are fermenting, the entire winery is filled with the yeasty, sweet fragrance of the fermenting fruit.  The fruit needs to be "punched down" twice daily at first.  I love punching down the fruit.  There is a punchdown tool designed for this purpose, but I prefer to punch down my Pinot grapes with my hands, usually listening to Bach or Mozart!  As the rising cap of fruit is pushed down into its own juices, a purple, bubbling sweet juice rises and the fragrance is entrancing... vapors of summer sugars permeating the air I breathe.  The juice up to my elbows is so warm... my last contact with the grapes I cared for all season.  It fills the senses.

Our wines are now all in barrel and we sniff the wine nearly daily to be sure no off odors are developing. The wines have a beautiful smell and are developing a lovely, early aging flavor. We will watch them closely over the winter and spring months and care for them just as we did in the vineyard, cherishing the opportunity to create a vintage to savor, enjoying the fruit produced in 2011 as the years go by .

The vintage of 2011 also gave us the latest addition to the Ankida Ridge Vrooman Family Vineyard's roster.  Introducing Curran Wells Lucas, born Sept 15 to our daughter, Tamara and hubby, Gary.  And right in the middle of crush season!  More excitement and goodness added to the 2011 vintage!

Our Wine Club has officially opened and first shipments are on their way!  We will not be selling this first 2010 vintage anywhere but through the winery and Wine Club shipments.  Our production is extremely limited.  If you want to buy any wine, click here for more info.

And... we are now open for "Personal Tour & Tasting" visits.  Click here to learn more about how you can visit us.

We look forward to your visits and sharing our wines with you!
Our Wine Club insert, delicious recipes included!

   Bon appetit and cheers!!