Monday, November 13, 2017

Fall has finally arrived in the vineyard

Fall arrived, if only for one day. Today it's back to warm and wet but yesterday it was cool, crisp, and sunny with frost overnight. The red vines have dropped their leaves but the white vines and hanging on. The grass and weeds have control. Next have to get out there with a shovel and dig out the docks. Then Alex will have to strim. Finally we will go in and select out the main shoots and prune away the rest. Then Alex can build the overhead trellis system we'll be adopting from Spain. Trying to be patient.
Red vines have dropped most of their leaves
White vines hanging on to leaves

The rest of the garden doesn't look too bad. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Some ways you can help the California fire victims

Google Crisis Map 
California’s Wine Country is in a state of emergency as more than a dozen wildfires burn through large swaths of land in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Yuba counties. The fires have destroyed at least 3,500 homes, caused at least 30 fatalities, and forced an estimated 25,000+ residents to evacuate, with that number expected to rise. 8000 firefighters are involved in the fight, some from as far away as Australia.

I look at the newspapers and online posts each day with horror. I followed and am helping victims of the hurricanes in the past weeks since Harvey, Irma and Maria wreaked such devastation, and now fire in Napa and Sonoma. There isn't much I can do from where I am in Ireland, but if I can help direct people to things they can do, then I will try. Essentially, you can donate money, supplies, or time. Here's where.

The Atlas Fire burns east of Wooden Valley Road in Napa County, California.STUART PALLEY

Some things you can do for the Calfornia Wine Country today.

If you’re local, Google is maintaining a Crisis Map with open shelters and other resources listed. The Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau has a list of hotels offering special rates for evacuees and the Sacramento Bee has a list of ways for local people to help. The Bay Area NBC affiliate is maintaining an up-to-date listing of things people can do to help. Here are a few specifics.

1. Donate to the Red Cross

The  Northern California Red Cross, which helps distribute disaster relief aid, has set up a special service for disaster management and relief in the wake of the fires. In addition to online donations, you can call 1-800 RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also volunteer for service and they will deploy volunteers where needed. More than 5000 people have volunteered in the first 48 hours.

2. Open your home to displaced people

Many thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes, thousands already have no home to return to. Airbnb has launched its Open Homes program for those seeking shelter free-of-charge at a residence outside of but near the affected area. The company is also looking for those willing to volunteer space at their own unaffiliated home for evacuees. If you have a room to spare, please contact Airbnb who will coordinate emergency shelter for those displaced by Wine Country fires.

3. Donate clothing

Most people left their homes with just the clothes on their backs. There is a need for clothing as people remain in shelters for prolonged periods. San Francisco store Love on Haight is giving away free clothes to fire victims. If you are looking for an easy place to donate, they have set up several collection points in the city. They need volunteers..."In SF...feel like helping...we need people to help sort clothes...donating clothes? bring them is always more awesome!"

Many of the volunteer organizations are inundated with clothing and need money to purchase other supplies.

4. Donate money

There are many relief organizations setting up fund raising. Two reputable regional groups that assist victims of the disaster are:
GoFundMe has put together a centralized location for all the fundraising campaigns supporting relief efforts here.
  • Jake Kloberdanz, a local winery owner, started a GoFundMe campaign specifically to raise money for fire and rescue organizations to help fight the blazes.
The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund is collecting cash donations here. The City of Santa Rosa set up a YouCaring page to assist Tubbs Fire Victims. Bay Area sports teams, including the San Francisco 49ers and the Golden State Warriors, pledged $450,000 on a YouCaring page and have invited fans to contribute to #BayAreaUnite for California Fire Relief.

5. Donate food and supplies
To donate to food pantries visit these pages: 

6. Donate pet supplies

Petaluma officials have posted on social media asking people to donate supplies, including baby food, pet food, water, blankets, and toilet paper, to evacuation centers (NBC Bay Area has a full list of  drop-off locations and reputable charity drives).

You may also donate to local animal shelters, which are helping people keep their pets safe.

7. Volunteer to help at shelters
The Bay Area NBC affiliate is maintaining an up-to-date listing of things people can do to help, including information about how to find out where volunteers are needed. 

Those who want to volunteer should sign up and update a volunteer profile here with the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, or visit the Northern California Red Cross page here.

Our first harvest

A few more red grapes.

This is for the white crop.

Well, we aren't going to be making wine just yet, nor is there enough for a jar of jam. But tasting these delicious tiny morsels that explode with flavour has been fun. We decided to pick today because we are expecting Hurricane Ophelia to hit on Monday. It might even cause a stock market crash according to an article in Forbes. Another article in Forbes today describes how rare it is for hurricanes to come up our way. We figured it was time to get ready, especially since another system would be affecting us in the days leading up to Ophelia.

Lesson 1. Harvest requires daily attention to catch the grapes at their prime. We missed it and ended up with some raisins, some eaten by birds, and a few choice mini grapes. The red Rondo grapes are very dark skinned and have a strong burgundy-type flavour, with blackberry overtones. The few white grapes had a distinct flavour of a Riesling. There were quite a few flower heads that had not been pollinated amongst the white vines. As grapes are hermaphroditic (have both male and female parts on them), I wonder what held them back. Anyway, we weren't too worried about the crop this year as we didn't even expect one yet and certainly would not have gotten enough for winemaking.

The vines are amazingly robust, and the red vines get beautiful leaf colour in the Fall. We'll have plenty of woody stem to train up into the trellises. Alex has already designed them based on what we currently have and what we are planning for the future. Although the Rondo did well, he wants to try Pinot Noir next. And that makes sense as it is reported to have a similar pattern of cooler weather and short season performance as chardonnay.

Our next task will be to clean up the area, dig up the biggest weeds, cut back the vines after selecting the two strongest in each plant, and work on the next year's progress. So far so good. The vines did much better than the corn. Didn't think silver queen would like it here.

Red vines producing nice fall colour.  

White vines flourishing

And we also picked the corn.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wine country fires

My heart goes out to all the Californians whose lives are completely disrupted by the horrendous fires raging through Napa and Sonoma. Dry conditions and strong winds caused such rapid escalation and devastation. More than 50,000 acres engulfed in Napa. Many injuries, at least ten known dead and the toll is likely to rise.

They said the grape harvest has already been completed for most, but the impact on the wineries and vineyards is inestimable at this time. Growing grapes and making wine is a labor of love. Many livelihoods and lives will have been destroyed by this tragic development.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

From grapes to raisins

Picking some red grapes
The red grapes we had this year were small but very tasty. There were no white grapes on the three year old vines at all. The new vines are all alive and doing reasonably well. The vineyard itself is terribly overgrown, but I plan to go up and dig out the biggest of the weeds and clear around the plants. Then I plan to select out the best main shoots, which have already become woody. I have to wait to prune until the plants go dormant. Next year will be the real test I believe. Meanwhile, the tiny grapes are shriveling into raisins.