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



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.

No comments:

Post a Comment