30 June 2010

Summer has finally arrived.

Sorry for not posting last week.  I was up in Seattle learning how to make better wine and grow better grapes.  There were two two-day conferences back to back and I am definitely in information overload.  On a side note I got to stay with my younger brother and his wife and do a little catching up.  I also took the train instead of driving and used the bus to get around Seattle.  It was very easy and much less stressful than driving if a touch slower though taking the bus into the convention center every morning was a snap! 
One of the two conferences was the International Cool Climate Symposium.  It meets every two or three years and this was the first one I have attended.  It was fascinating and in some ways much better than the other conference for hearing about ideas and new developments that are directly applicable to what I do day to day.  The other conference was the annual meeting of the American Society of Enologists and Viticulturists (ASEV).  This meeting is an opportunity for researchers to present their experiments and studies and subsequently is much more directed at other researchers and students versus grape growers and winemakers.  Thus I find that some information is far too theoretical or it takes a lot more effort on my part to extract usable information.  I have to admit that the presentation on the use of resveratrol, found in grapes, to combat colon cancer was way over my head.  While I could grasp the ideas I certainly couldn't follow the science.  However the one on crop load versus leaf area was much more applicable and I think a similar trial might be worth running in our vineyard.  I also talked to several people about setting up very small experiments to try and learn things about our vineyard and so I think Mary and I will be implementing some of those experiments this summer.
So, after cramming my head for four days I got home on Thursday night in time to finish getting ready for new counter-tops to be installed on Friday!  Yeah, the end of cardboard counter-tops and better yet no more white tile with dark red grout lines.  They didn't get the counter-tops done on Friday and had to come back on Monday to finish but at least we spent to the weekend with solid surfaces to put stuff down on without checking first as to whether or not the cardboard could support it.
Monday morning rolled around and I had to get my head back in the winemaking game.  I was expecting to lose two days this week to judging the amateur winemaking competition at the Oregon State Fair however I got a phone call Monday morning saying there was a law in the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission) books saying that amateur wines can not be tasted outside the home.  Who knew!  This competetion has been going on for years and I have no idea when the law was written or changed, but if you are at all inspired and are an Oregon resident write your local representative and ask that it be changed to allow competitions.  I'll have more information next week and will pass it along.  The way this competition is organized is that there are 5 judges and we taste through about 130 amateur wines, evaluate them, write up our evaluations and award ribbons.  The winemakers get the pleasure of receiving a ribbon but more importantly to most of them they get to read our feedback and hopefully learn how to make better wine.
As I stated in my title summer has finally arrived, both on the calendar, last week, and in the air.  We are having warm sunny days at last.  I am loving it and hopefully plants will start bursting into bloom.  I took a short walk in the vineyard and the foch is at about 50% bloom.  Count out one hundred days and that tentatively is the start of harvest.  The blooms are not very interesting looking are they, but they smell great.  And no, I am not starting a new ad campaign for chapstick I just wanted you to get a feel for how small the cluster starts.  Our demonstration Chardonnay plant pictured at the top is still growing but hasn't started blooming yet, I'll post a picture of it as soon as it does.
Also my husband thought that I didn't explain what suckering is very well in an earlier post so here are before and after shots.  Suckers are the small extraneous vines that grow on the trunk.  Generally they pull nutrients from the top of the vine so unless we need to train one up as a replacement head then they are all stripped off.  This is done by hand, if they are young enough, or cut off with pruners to avoid damaging the trunk if they are mature enough to be stiff.  I also found a foch plant, pictured below, that looks as though it caught a touch of frost back in May when I was talking about that and now you can really see the difference and the damage caused and why we were so concerned.  There are about 25 vines scattered around that look like this.  I am not sure it is frost damage but it sure looks like it.

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