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



Harvest 2012

The lapse in blog posts over the last couple of months offers some insight into the "crunch" during "crush" season when all energies and time are consumed by harvest and everything that goes into it.  I find it hard to believe we have now harvested our third crop of grapes.  I so clearly remember the night before we planted our vines in 2008 when I tried then to imagine three seasons ahead to when we would harvest our first vintage.  We had no idea at that time if we would even be able to grow the finicky Pinot Noir grape up on this mountain. 
And here we are four and a half years later, still somewhat stunned by the beautiful wines this mountain has given us.  We are so very grateful for all of it. 

For this, our fifth year and third vintage, the season began with an abnormally warm spring, but actually ended up as very average in temps and rainfall.  We harvested our Pinot Noir on August 22 and our Chardonnay on August 25.  Every year presents its challenges... too much heat, not enough sun, too much rain, too little rain.  This year seemed to be balancing it all just beautifully, not too much or too little of anything.  All seemed to be going so very well.  That is, until I noticed a strange swarm of fruit flies that I had never seen in the vineyard.  Dr. Pfeiffer, of the entomology department at VA Tech posted something about a new import from Japan that hit Hawaii just a few years ago and was making its way acrosss the US.  This new pest is named the Spotted Winged Drosophila, or SWD.  I renamed it the WMD... weapons of mass destruction!  The difference between this fruit fly and the ones we are accustomed to is that this variety attacks healthy fruit and can ruin a crop in a short amount of time.
My father was visiting at the time and I put him to work to make traps out of plastic water bottles, filling them with a cider/wine mixture and using the plastic label to hang them from the line posts in the vineyard.  And my oh my, we trapped many a fruit fly.

Dr. Pfeiffer and our vineyard consultant, Lucie Morton, both came for an impromptu visit to confirm what I suspected.  It was confirmed... the SWD had made its way to Virginia and had found our vineyard.

While visiting, Dr. Pfeiffer and Lucie got to enjoy a bit of the Peaceable Kingdom. 

The guinea fowl and chickens were no match for the vast numbers of SWD we had to deal with.  Dr. Pfeiffer explained that there is ongoing research to determine how Virginia will be able to deal with this new pest, which I am sure you will be hearing more about. Preventative measures, monitoring and treating are all being discussed.   For one thing, the SWD is attracted to berries such as black, red and blueberries.  The hillside above the vineyard is covered with wild blackberry and red raspberry bushes.  So our winter task will be to remove them from the premises.  I noticed it was when the blackberries were finishing their season that the influx of SWD hit the vineyard.  We will set out monitoring traps early in the season and monitor closely, helping us to stay on top of the issue from an earlier point.  The SWD will be a serious agricultural issue in the years to come until a solution is discovered to minimize the damage to crops.

In spite of this new pest, we had a successful harvest on August 22, thus officially opening "Harvest, 2012!"

Coming next:  Processing the fruit and a stomping marathon!

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