Friday, March 2, 2018

Thomas Fire spurs sustainable recovery

The largest wildfire in California history had case closed on the 28th of February.  The final statistics of the Santa Barbara County fire show:

Acres Burned - Containment:281,893 acres - 100% contained *** CAL FIRE is no longer in Unified Command of the Thomas Fire. Visit inciweb for more information on this incident.
Structures Destroyed:1,063 Structures Destroyed, 280 Structures Damaged

Already, the rebuilding is beginning, even though some are questioning if that's wise and new mudslides threaten.

But one vineyard is doing something different. They are applying everything they learned during the fires to expand and install sustainable and safe energy systems. Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards & Winery, in the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma, won an award in January, not for its wines, but for its environmental and economic leadership. The 16-acre property was recently in the news for its microgrid system that held up with remote management during the devastating fires in Northern California. The staff was sent off and managed the entire winery and grid from positions of safety.

They are now expanding into a remote area perfect for growing grapes but without utilities. To bring them in would be astronomically expensive, so they are going completely off the grid, applying what they learned from the original site during the fire emergency. They will have no back up if something goes wrong. Gutsy! The new Silver Cloud Vineyard is planted with three varieties.

Stone Edge Farm applies new technologies to conserve resources. The farm is divided into watering zones that receive information from a weather station on the property. A smartphone remotely controls 150 irrigation valves and 25,000 emitters. Metering and monitoring have reduced their water usage by half. A fiber-optic network monitors each electrical circuit in their microgrid setup. Electrical power is provided by a combination of photovoltaic arrays, a fuel cell, and, soon, a microturbine. Very exciting. I'll be following them for certain.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

World wine production plummets

The Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV) in its press release called it "A historically low 2017 production especially in Western Europe due to unfavourable climate conditions."  GLOBAL ECONOMIC VITIVINICULTURE DATA estimated 2017 World wine production  at 246.7 mhl, a fall of 8.2% compared with 2016.

In 2017, world wine production dropped to its lowest since the 1960s, mainly due to a drop in production in Europe as a result of several climate change factors. Extreme weather events -- frost and drought -- significantly affected wine production in the three main regions in  France, Italy and Spain. Production was down in Germany and Greece as well.

The US maintained it's high level of production despite the fires in California as they took place after the harvest. Argentina recorded a 25% increase in production. Increases were also noted Brazil and South Africa. Chile declined for the second year. Austalian production grew and New Zealand maintained a high level despite a slight decline from the previous year, which had been especially good.

Vintners around the world are concerned about the abiotic stress caused by climate change. In the next blog entry, I will look at the movement to use biotechnology to improve resistance of vines to changes in climatic conditions, including drought, heat, freezing, and soil salinity.

OIV Press Release

Wine Market Reports

Friday, January 12, 2018

Daria's Vineyard

I painted a sign for our vineyard the year we planted our first grapevines. It helps us remember when we established the place. I think I did a pretty nice job on the signage. Now we need to design some logos and establish names for the wines and design labels for the bottles. Am I getting ahead of myself?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Licenses & fees

We're not ready to make wines yet, but the time may come this year when we may actually have a crop of grapes to try fermentation. We decided that if we didn't succeed in making wine, we'd go the distillation route to an eau de vie or vodka. So I have begun my research into what it would take.

It is illegal to distill for home use in Ireland. It is illegal to distill without a licence regardless of whether you intend to sell it or not. Plain and simple. In several other countries you apparently can but not in Ireland. Unless you use brewing vodka kits, with no distillation. There are robust yeasts that can get quite high alcohol concentration without distillation. These are just neutral wines which are treated with carbon to reduce smell and taste. Alcohol can be tax relieved in the case of wine, beer or other fermented beverage produced at home for personal use and not for sale, but it must be authorized by Revenue.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Clearing the grass

Croagh Patrick, the Holy Mountain
The weather was beautiful today so we took a walk to the summit of our land to see the views, plant a few more trees and enjoy the St. Stephen's Day holiday. The views were stunning but the land is very wet. The trees we have been planting out on about 1/3 of our ten acres are doing very nicely. The leader species - birch, willow, and alder - are growing vigorously. The ash and sycamores are coming along nicely too, but at a slower pace.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Pruning the grapevines

What a mess!

The job was daunting. We'd been gone most of the summer sailing, which isn't prudent when you are trying to start a vineyard, but hey it's all an adventure isn't it? Meanwhile the weather had been mild and moist until last week when we finally had a cold snap. Frost, sleet, hail and snow finally put the vines to sleep and they dropped their leaves so we could see the structure of the vines themselves. And what we saw was not pretty. I kept going up there and coming back down without having done a thing.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

LA region fires affect vineyards

First it was the northern wine country; now the Skirball fires are ripping through the outskirts of Los Angeles. Almost 200 homes have been destroyed by the fires which remain out of control. About 200,000 people have been told to evacuate. Loss of power is reported at more than 250,000 homes in Ventura County. The San Diego Freeway was closed. Fueled by hot Santa Ana winds, it is unusual that a wildfire like this has ripped through in December. A state of emergency has been declared yet again.